“If telling the truth makes one a traitor, then I am happy,” the award-winning cartoonist Aseem Trivedi yelled to television cameras as he was taken to a court hearing yesterday.
The authorities in India have triggered an outcry after the anti-corruption campaigner was arrested and accused of sedition after publishing a series of his satirical artworks.
In one of his cartoons, the three lions that appear in India's national symbol had been replaced by wolves dripping with blood – while another showed the country's parliament as a large lavatory.
In a move that activists said damaged India's claim as a refuge for freedom of expression, Mr Trivedi was remanded in custody at the weekend. If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail. And in an act of protest, he has refused to seek bail. The cartoonist was summoned after a complaint was filed in the courts by a Mumbai lawyer who claimed the cartoons mocked India's national symbols. The lawyer, Amit Katarnavea, is said to have no links with the government.
India is proud of its tradition of protecting an independent media. But some observers believe the country may be becoming less tolerant. In its 2011-12 media freedom index, Reporters without Borders placed India in 131st position. Markandey Katju, head of the Press Council of India, wrote on his blog that Mr Trivedi had done nothing wrong. The former judge said the Nuremberg trials had shown that for someone to claim they had just followed orders was no defence. "In a democracy many things are said, some truthful and others false," added Mr Katju. "Politicians, like judges, must learn to put up with them."