Freedom of Speech has existed since at least 1961, when Amnesty International formed to defend two Portuguese students who were sent to prison for toasting liberty. (Is that ironic?) I don't think the Indian government are the only country that has fucked up since then, but this time, in TWENTY TWELVE, I think they’ve gone a bit too far. (They also went a bit far in 2010 with Arundhati Roy, but that didn’t involve pretty pictures).
Indian freelance cartoonist Aseem Trivedi has been imprisoned for two weeks because he did a drawing of an Indian parliament building buzzing with flies and looking like a toilet bowl. His aim was to highlight widespread corruption amongst India’s political elite. He was offered bail but didn’t accept and now he’s going to a hole in the ground to eat nothing but gruel for two weeks.
What’s shocked me the most about this is the cartoon isn’t even that offensive. They say it’s offensive because he "mocked national symbols", but come on guys, they’re just symbols, this is an actual human man who is being sent to prison. Here it is, take a look for yourself:
It’s the sort of cartoon that wouldn’t shock my nan and he’s getting sent to prison. Only three flies even have wings AND the toilet roll is clean!
Going to prison (especially an Indian prison) must suck, but at least Trivedi has been successful in gaining international recognition for India’s problems with freedom of speech and A LOT of publicity for himself. Man, I wish any cartoon I’d ever done could get me some press like this; the best I get is a couple of thousand reblogs on Tumblr (#humblebrag) and a mate in the pub saying it made them “lol” – both of which I appreciate but still, you know what I mean.
I’ve decided, as a show of solidarity with my cartoonist brother from another nation, to go ahead and produce a homage to his offensive masterpiece. (Albeit from my comfortable South London studio with no fear of prison or punishment – I HOPE.) Here it is...
The National Bog! Complete with flies, spillage, waste and, probably most offensively of all, the Indian national flag (I have nothing against Indian people BTW, this cartoon is merely an experiment in point-making). This cartoon will not get me in trouble, it definitely won’t get me thrown in prison and it’s certainly not going to trend on Twitter (sad face). But at least I stuck up for basic human rights, right?!
Trivedi’s official charge is for sedition, which is sort of like treason but doesn’t involve violence or going to war. It’s a stupid law that the British implemented in India, so this is basically our fault anyway – so I feel that this is the least I can do in the struggle to de-lame the world. Good luck on the inside, Trivedi.
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