Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi shouts slogans as he is escorted by police outside a court in Mumbai on Monday. His arrest has revived a national debate on freedom of speech in the world’s largest democracy, just weeks after Twitter became more restricted.

STRINGER/INDIA/Reuters

An Indian cartoonist detained on sedition charges for his satirical drawings highlighting widespread corruption among India's political elite has been jailed for two weeks, rekindling a fierce debate on freedom of speech in the world's largest democracy.

Aseem Trivedi, 25, turned himself in to police in the Indian commercial capital of Mumbai on the weekend. His arrest followed the publication of a series of cartoons, including one drawing that depicts the parliament building as a lavatory buzzing with flies.

Mr. Trivedi is being held in judicial custody after refusing bail. If found guilty, the satirist could face a lengthy prison sentence.

Story continues below advertisement

News of the case immediately sparked widespread protests among free speech and anti-graft activists who complain that India's government, hit by a series of corruption scandals, is increasingly intolerant of criticism.

"Politicians must learn to be tolerant. This is not a dictatorship," Markandey Katju, the head of the Press Council of India, told local TV channel CNN-IBN.

Last month, the beleaguered government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh temporarily blocked a number of Twitter accounts. Ministers have also responded angrily to articles by foreign media criticizing Mr. Singh's record and have clashed with major social-media providers, including Facebook, over material deemed insulting to major political figures.

Ambika Soni, the Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister, told reporters that government cartoonists "should stay within constitutional parameters," saying "they cannot make national symbols the object of their cartoon."

Although Mr. Trivedi's arrest was prompted by a complaint from a private individual with no known political ties, campaigners point to a raft of recent cases in which political figures have used the law to muzzle criticism in the country. In April, police arrested an academic in the eastern city of Kolkata for allegedly sharing by e-mail cartoons that ridiculed Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal state.

A statement from campaign group India Against Corruption, for which Mr. Trivedi was an activist, said "there have been many instances of harassment of cartoonists and other artists."

"The appropriateness of the cartoons should be judged by the public, and not by the police," the group said.

Story continues below advertisement

There are broader fears of censorship and intimidation. A new cinematic adaptation of Mumbai-born Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which charts the life of a boy with magical powers in post-independence India and includes unflattering portrayals of major Indian historic political figures, has struggled to find a distributor in the controversial author's native land. //end optional trim//

Indian television showed images of a bearded Mr. Trivedi shouting slogans as he was bundled by police into a patrol car outside the court. The cartoonist refused the services of a lawyer and welcomed his own arrest. "If telling the truth makes one a traitor, then I am happy," he said.

The case against him was filed in a Mumbai court by a local advocate, who said the pictures mocked national symbols. Also charged with posting seditious and obscene content on his website, which is now blocked, Mr. Trivedi declined to apply for bail in a sign of protest.

The sedition laws in India date back to the country's colonial days. Nationalist heroes such as Mahatma Gandhi were frequently charged with sedition during their struggle for independence.

The cartoonist's father, Ashok Trivedi, told CNN-IBN his son was being targeted because he was actively involved in a campaign to mobilize Indians for mass protests against corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies