A Kanpur-based cartoonist, Aseem Trivedi, was remanded to police custody till September 16 by a Mumbai court today for allegedly posting seditious content on his website. The police had arrested Mr Trivedi on Saturday on the basis of a private complaint filed in December last year. His website has also been blocked.
The complainant, Amit Katarnavea, a lawyer and a member of the Republican Party of India, had alleged that Mr Trivedi had put up banners, mocking the Indian constitution, during Anna Hazare's anti-graft rally held last year at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai and also posted obscene content on his website.
Last month, the court had issued a non-bailable warrant against the cartoonist. A police team was sent to his residence in Kanpur but he wasn't traceable; so his parents were informed and the warrant was served.
The police insist that the arrest is a procedural formality, saying they have acted on a complaint. The First Information Report states that the accused had put 'ugly and obscene content' on his website.
"He has shown disrespect to the National flag and therefore he has been arrested under section 124 A," said Chandrakant Bhosale, Senior Inspector, Mumbai Police.
The arrest comes at a time when Mr Trivedi was scheduled to visit Syria to collect the 2012 Courage in Editorial cartooning award. He was scheduled to fly on September 12.
"If telling the truth makes one a traitor, then I am happy. Likewise even Gandhi, Bhagat Singh are traitors. If while doing service to the nation I am booked under sedition, I will continue to do so and get arrested," Mr Trivedi said today.
AK Khan, a friend of Mr Trivedi, alleged that the cartoonist is being repeatedly manhandled since his arrest. India Against Corruption or IAC, which has been attacking the government over a series of alleged scams, has lent support to Mr Trivedi, saying the arrest is politically-motivated.
"If anyone is talking against corruption, proclaiming it as anti-national and slamming charges of sedition, one needs to understand that this (drawing cartoons) is against the government and not against the country," said Mayank Gandhi, a member of IAC.
"He is not a member of IAC but is fighting against corruption and we are here to lend him moral support," Mr Gandhi added.
"Whoever raises their voice against corruption is termed as a seditionist, anti-nationalist and a Naxalite," said Preeti Menon, member IAC.
Press Council of India Chairman Justice Markandey Katju also criticised Mr Trivedi's arrest, saying the cartoonist "had done nothing illegal."