Our special series on people who have been victimized for saying what they think. Between legal action, violence and harassment, they have paid a heavy price for the right to freedom of expression.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Section 66 A of the Information and Technology Act, which allowed police to arrest people for posting “offensive content” on the internet.
However, Section 69, which allows the government to block websites if their content has the potential to create communal disturbance, social disorder or affect India’s relationship with other countries, has been upheld despite various issues with it.
In this special series, BOOM documents the experiences of people who have been at the receiving end of both legitimate and illegitimate action for saying what they think.
Aseem Trivedi, Cartoonist
The 27-year-old cartoonist was arrested by the Mumbai police in September 2012. His cartoons, that used the house of parliament and national emblems like the Ashoka Pillar to comment on corruption in Indian politics at the height of the India Against Corruption movement’s agitation in Delhi, got him four days in jail and court cases on the grounds of sedition, insulting and dishonouring the nation and spreading criminal content online.
While the charge of sedition has been dropped, Trivedi continues to battle the other charges in two different court cases that are ongoing. His original website that had published the ‘offensive’ cartoons, www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.
Trivedi is undaunted by the experience and is currently running a campaign to protest against the imprisonment and flogging of the blogger and activist Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia. It’s called ‘A Cartoon against Every Lash’ and started in January this year. Though Trivedi has found that the controversy has made people wary of hiring him, he believes it has helped him both as an artist and an activist.
Anand Patwardhan, Documentary Fimmaker
65-year-old filmmaker Anand Patwardhan’s entire career has been about testing the limits. The documentary filmmaker, known for his unflinching gaze on issues that lie at the crux of modern India, has made 12 films over the past 40 years. A fiercely independent point of view that questions the established socio-political narrative, Patwardhan has waged several long legal battles to get his films to be seen.
While Patwardhan’s battles have been with the CBFC, right wing groups have also protested and rallied against the screening of his films. Censorship comes in unofficial forms as well if you look up his website www.patwardhan.com you won’t be able to access it except via proxy servers.
Patwardhan continues to be an indefatigable fighter for the right to the freedom of expression and he claims that while all governments, including the Congress-led governments, are guilty of attacking the right to freedom and the Emergency is the ultimate proof of that, censorship in the times of BJP-led governments is worse.
Tarakant Dwivedi, Crime Reporter
45-year-old Tarakant Dwivedi has been reporting on the crime beat in Mumbai for the past 20 years under the pen name Akela. He was arrested by the government railway police (GRP) in May 2011.
His report about the weapons lying in a Railway Protection Force armoury with a leaking roof at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was published in June, 2010 when he was working at Mumbai Mirror. He was arrested under the stringent Official Secrets Act, 1923 and Section 447 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 on charges of trespassing that sparked an outrage in the media and drew strong condemnation from the Editors Guild of India.
While the charges of trespassing have been dropped, Dwivedi continues to report stories and is undaunted by the experience. He currently writes for his own online news portal called Akela Bureau of Investigation (ABI). You can read his articles on crime and investigation on www.abinet.org.