Indian political cartoonist and activist, Aseem Trivedi, who played a leading role in India’s 2011 anti-corruption movement with his ‘Cartoons Against Corruption’ series, gave a talk at the University of Limerick yesterday.
The event, organised by the School of Journalism, School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics and Front Line Defenders, took place in the Millstream Common Room at the University of Limerick.
The cartoonist reflected on his experiences in India and displayed some of his cartoons to the audience.
He spoke passionately about freedom of expression, regarding regulations in India that saw him jailed in 2012 on charges of sedition, breaching the IT act and “insulting” national symbols.
“There should be no limits to freedom of expression, because there can be no limits to freedom. Fear should not control our lives or our society,” Mr Trivedi said.
Cartoons, such as one where the activist has altered India’s three-lion national emblem in a satirical depiction to highlight corruption, attracted the sedition charge.
The 29-year-old’s arrest sparked outrage on media platforms worldwide, which he felt put pressure on the Indian government to release him five days after his arrest.
“I think most of the media groups supported me. Even the press council of India, their chairman issued a statement in my support. It proved to be very beneficial for my case,” Mr Trivedi said.
As one of his cartoons was displayed to the audience with the caption, ‘If the pen is mightier than the sword, then Facebook is mightier than the gun’, Mr Trivedi highlighted the importance of social media in modern society.
NDTV news report of the arrest of Aseems Trivedi in 2012.
“We used to have a right to express, but we didn’t have a medium. Social media has given us a medium. This is not a very good thing for the governments, as they don’t want their people to be so vocal,” he said.
In 2015, following his peaceful activism, India’s Supreme Court abolished the IT rules Aseem was previously imprisoned under.
One of Mr Trivedi’s latest projects is ‘Black and White’, an online cartoon magazine for the defence of human rights.
The activist said that the project aims to support human right defenders through cartoons, “when the times are darker, the role of the cartoons become more powerful.”
“Cartooning is a way where you have some sort of creative freedom to do your journalistic work. I think it is one of the few forms of journalism that gives you creative freedom, you can always add your opinion. It’s a part of journalism that can be used very strongly,” he said.
While Mr Trivedi champions the importance of free speech, he also notes that there must be reasoning behind the things we say.
“We always know what is good and what is bad. This a basic logic we make since our childhood and we should always follow that instinct,” Mr Trivedi added.
Today, while the sedition and IT charges have been dropped, Aseem Trivedi still faces up to three years in prison for “insulting” the government through his art.