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An estimated 3-minute read

Paradise Lost

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If you’ve never experienced the fire of inferno, experience it now. Draw up a cartoon.  And unless your drawing skills are absolutely hopeless, you'll most probably end up in jail. That is exactly what has been happening lately. First the arrest of a Jadavpur University professor over cartoons depicting Mamta Banerjee and now recently the arrest of Aseem Trivedi who has been charged under sedition laws of the country.


The most important issue that the entire affair raises is the need for sedition laws in their present state and their clash with the free speech rights of the citizens. Right to free speech  being a fundamental right enjoyed by the citizens is not guaranteed by the state or the constitution or any other legal document , it is everyone’s right on account of their being human beings and is merely recognized in the legal documents and by the state .

It is the exercise of these rights that makes democracy the most desirable form of government and the denial of these rights in a democracy gives us the feeling of a paradise lost. The state can only restrict these rights in matters of compelling public interest.

Any opinion expressed that is skeptical of any government policy or action or a cartoon showing  the government in a bad light is only a form of political dissent  and is protected under the right to free speech  as after all dissent is the essence of  a democracy.  All opinions in a democracy should be taken as legitimate concerns and therefore the imposition of  a sedition charge for expressing opinions on important issues is wholly unjustified.

Moreover the law of sedition as it exists presently was enacted by the colonial British government to control the actions of the public by stifling any kind of political dissent against its policies . Today we live in the 21st century where India prefers to call itself a liberal democracy and today such kind of archaic laws have lost their relevance .

The recent instances of Binayak Sen , Arundhati Roy and now Aseem Trivedi  and even the Kudankulam protestors points towards the fact that the govt used it to eliminate any kind opposition to its policies irrespective of the objective behind such opposition.

But the more important question that is reignited by this case is the importance of cartoons in a democratic setup. Why do we need cartoons in the first place ? Is it because they are just another mode of entertainment .

The reasons we need to have cartoons is because they convey ideas. And Democracy is all about free flow of ideas and information. Those ideas may be in favour of the government policy and the existing status quo or critical of them. It is this right of the citizens to come up with their own ideas and opinions that makes up a democracy. Agreed cartoons are there to make us smile. But they also convey ideas . They convey these ideas in a pictorial form which leads to a better understanding of these ideas . And  this is all the more a reason why we need cartoons .

In the present case of Aseem Trivedi these cartoons may have been made in bad taste but he still cannot be held guilty of sedition charges because these cartoons are protected by his right to speech and expression . The right to express an opinion or idea also includes an idea or opinion that is wrong or is not acceptable to certain sections of the society. The imposition of sedition charges is clearly unjustified.

The present case clearly points towards a dangerous trend in Indian politics wherein the government itself embroiled in controversies is increasingly turning intolerant of any kind of criticism and is  in favour of smothering  ideas/opinions that are not in line with its credo. It is in the interest of the nation that the government changes the existing sedition laws and its attitude.

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