Aseem Trivedi is a 25-year-old freelance cartoonist and a founder member of Save Your Voice, which is a movement against Internet Censorship in India. In his career he has worked in several newspapers and magazines as a cartoonist. He was recently awarded the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award by Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI). In 2011 during a national wide anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, he started a cartoon-based campaign with the name Cartoons Against Corruption to support the movement with the help of his art. But soon his website was banned due to posting of, what authorities feel, objectionable cartoons.
His arrest has triggered widespread condemnation from media and other activists who believe it is evidence of a lack of respect for Freedom of Expression. Several media agencies are supporting him by pointing fingers towards censorship and bans imposed by Communications Department of India recently.
My point of concern is whether it is correct to defame country's respect and national symbols in order to fight against corruption and raise voice against injustice? I would like to quote an example from a famous cartoon named Batman, we all must have watched it once in our lifetime. In the cartoon, Batman is portrayed as the savior, the hero who tries to protect the Gotham city. But what happens if everybody in Gotham tries to become Batman? Who would take care of law then? What about the people who get crushed in the midst of the fight between Batman and Joker?
In general, in superhero stories, we look away from such facts but the truth is we need to sacrifice for greater benefits. We ignore the fact that in order to achieve big targets many small and big sacrifices are made. And now in real life should we start doing the same? Can we afford to do the same? Is it feasible to implement strategies shown in cartoons in the real life while running a country?
I get hurt when somebody defames my country, points finger on my patriotism and I am hurt by the actions done by the cartoonist. It hits me badly when somebody speaks or portrays bad about my country, generalizes his opinion and without bother includes me as well in the process of calling names. I have grown up with pride in my eyes at seeing my National Flag, every year on 26th January while the awards are being given to the fighters my eyes get wet. I regret that I didn’t get a chance to meet our freedom fighters, didn’t get to participate in the freedom struggle. Everytime I sing Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon I see myself going in trance, crying and feeling the pain and respect for the sacrifices made.
And I would want the current and future generations to grow up respecting the Indian Flag, National Emblem, stand up when National Anthem is played and look with pride whenever they cross the Parliament. I understand that the current political leaders have taken things too far in matter of blackening the face of all these but does that mean we start drawing the Indian Parliament as a toilet seat? Does that mean we start defacing the National Emblem of Satyamev Jayate? Or does that mean we start teaching our kids that all politicians are thieves, thereby, inferring Sardar Patel, Sarojini Naidu, Rajendra Prasad, Subhash Chandra Bose everyone as a thief?
There are always some stupid religious fanatics who will kill in name of God, do you start defacing the God? In order to stop smoking or drugs does one has to start blaming Lord Shiva for promoting it? Assem's playing around with National symbols look very similar to me. Politicians today are corrupt; say that straight and in that case I am with you. I know where he is coming from and I read about the scams and ghotalas every day and my blood boils. But please don't tell me that India is corrupt, that is very personal. It is very brainless comment and very hurtful to my personal national sentiments and when I say that "I am hurt" and don't support Aseem's heroism, don't mistake it as my support to corruption.
What I am trying to highlight is, we end up seeing the side of a coin which is majorly favored and tend to ignore the other side. For argument sake I agree our politicians are corrupt, even then that would be like generalizing the entire clan for a handful few's fault. The way they hurl chairs at each other in the parliament does not reflect any dignity on their part, the way many of them put my tax into their Swiss accounts hurts too. And that has been the ill fate of India since ages; we have been plundered by the Mughals, tortured by the Dutch and exploited by the British.
I am not a pessimist. I take heart from the fact that we have won the wars against each one of them - some by using the might of sword, some by using the might of democratic tools. And so I believe I will win this war against corruption and corrupt politicians too. But for the crusaders of this fight against corruption, I have one request - fight the battle without burning your own house, because your actions today will actually set the path for next generation. Freedom of expression has been used as a tool in the past too. Go and have a look in the museum to see a few copies of those revolutionary artifacts that make your blood boil even today. You won’t find the India's parliament depicted as toilet seat or a national emblem turned into mockery among them - not today and I don’t want to see it tomorrow. Sorry Aseem, your intent was right but I can’t support the poor taste.