Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi
, who is in jail in Mumbai, may get what he wants. The state government is preparing to drop sedition charges against him. Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil is likely to announce this today.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has said that no decision has been taken yet on dropping sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, but the state's Home department was looking into the matter.
Mr Trivedi's arrest has provoked criticism at home and attention abroad with many using his case to accuse the government of increasing intolerance of dissent.
The 25-year-old cartoonist has refused to apply for bail till the sedition charges against him are deleted. He met at the Arthur Road jail this morning with activist Arvind Kejriwal and other members of the India Against Corruption movement.
Mr Kejriwal warned that if charges of sedition are not dropped against Mr Trivedi
, activists will begin a demonstration outside the Arthur Road jail starting Saturday. "MPs who disrespect the national emblem... official papers have national emblems printed on them ... they commit corruption and should be booked for sedition," said Mr Kejriwal, who is also the right-hand aide of Gandhian activist Anna Hazare.
Mr Trivedi's supporters allege that he is being targeted by the government for supporting the anti-corruption movement championed by Anna and Mr Kejriwal.
The long-haired and bearded cartooist has gone from little known to trending in a matter of days. His arrest is based on the complaint of a Mumbai lawyer who took umbrage at Mr Trivedi's
anti-corruption cartoons, especially one that re-interpreted the Ashok Chakra national emblem - wolves replaced the three lions to show ravenous corruption. He has said, "If telling the truth makes me a traitor then I am one."
The Mumbai police tried to reverse out of the controversy on Monday, telling a local court that they were done with questioning him and were surrendering custody. Mr Trivedi has been charged with allegedly uploading "ugly and obscene" matter on his web portal and putting up objectionable banners insulting the Indian Constitution during an Anna Hazare protest in Mumbai last year.
The government, on the back foot, has said people cannot be allowed to "cross the line." Minister for Information and Broadcasting Ambika Soni said, "We are not against democratic rights, we are all for free speech... people have made cartoons of Nehru, Indira earlier. But there is a thin line you draw between free speech and what can be termed as offensive especially against national symbols."