Indian cartoonist to face lesser charges

Oct. 15, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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NEW INDIA, India, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- An Indian state government has dropped sedition charges against a cartoonist in favor of the lesser offense of insulting "national honor."

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, who is appearing in India's equivalent of "Big Brother," could receive a jail sentence of up to three years if he is found guilty of offending the national flag and Indian constitution under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act 1971, the Press Trust of India reported.

"The controversial cartoonist will now be charged for dishonoring national symbols, emblem and Parliament," a government Home Department official said.

However, the Mumbai High Court directed the Maharashtra state government to file a reply explaining why sedition charges were slapped on the cartoonist in the first place.

The long-haired and bearded Trivedi, 25, is an activist associated with India Against Corruption and founder of anti-corruption campaign Cartoons Against Corruption.

He was locked up in jail for three days last month on charges of sedition for drawing cartoons insulting Indian emblems and the constitution in during anti-corruption campaigns in Mumbai in December 2011.

He posted cartoons lampooning politicians and the political system, including one that depicted the Indian Parliament as a large toilet bowl.

In another cartoon, Trivedi replaced the three lions in India's national emblem with three wolves, their teeth dripping blood and "Long live corruption" written underneath.

Trivedi has been out on bail and earlier this month entered the Bigg Boss house as one of 14 contestants in the reality TV show, equivalent to "Big Brother" in the United States.

He was defiant when he entered the house and before he knew the sedition charges would be dropped, a report by India's Indo-Asian News Service said.

He said the Bigg Boss show will provide a vehicle for his activism and is an example of how politicians should be treated -- with cameras tapping their actions and microphones recording their voice 24-7, IANS reported.

"I am not going to the show for providing any entertainment," Trivedi said.

"I won't have a pen or paper inside, neither will I have books or Facebook, through which I conduct a lot of my activism. But (now) I have such a huge medium, the show and the television, to get support against corruption," he said.

India's cartoonists have been criticized highly also outside the country, in particular by Australia in early 2010.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard called an Indian cartoon suggesting Victoria state police are racist as "deeply offensive."

The cartoon was published in The Mail Today in New Delhi after the killing of Indian student Nitin Garg, 21, in Melbourne, Australia.

The cartoon allegedly showed a hooded person similar to a member of the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan wearing a Victoria Police badge. A caption that "We Are Yet To Ascertain The Nature Of The Crime."

Gillard said she hadn't seen the cartoon, but believed it would be "deeply offensive," a report by The Sydney Morning Herald said.

"Any suggestion of the kind is deeply offensive and I would condemn the making of such comment."

Police Association Secretary Greg Davies said it was highly offensive to suggest police aren't properly investigating the murder.

"To say that our detectives are going slow on this, or for some reason trying to protect somebody, is incredibly offensive and wrong," he said.

"It's based on nothing but obviously a slow news day in Delhi."

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