Arvind Kejriwal-led India Against Corruption on Monday came out in support of Koodankulam protesters and jailed cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, accusing the government of using charges of sedition to muzzle voices of dissent.
Addressing a press conference, Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav condemned the police action against locals protesting against a nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu's Koodankulam and slapping sedition charges on Trivedi.
"A large number of locals in Koodankulam have been slapped with sedition cases. This shows the intolerant and fascist face of the government. The government is targeting people who are highlighting corruption," Bhushan said.
On the action against Trivedi, he said sedition charges can be invoked only if it involves waging of war against the country and in this case, it was a cartoon that did not target national symbols as alleged.
Kejriwal said, "He was not denigrating Parliament or national symbols but targeting those who were denigrating Parliament or the symbol. Mere use of a symbol in a cartoon does not mean he was disrespecting the national symbol."
Interestingly, Trivedi had in August alleged that some IAC activists had manhandled him and others at Jantar Mantar when they objected to the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare taking a political plunge.
On the Koodankulam issue, Bhushan said the locals were protesting against the plant after witnessing the catastrophic accident in Japan's Fukushima last year.
Bhushan alleged that the plant is being built without safety measures recommended by the government's own expert committee and by absolving the Russian company supplying the nuclear plant of all liability in case of an accident.
"Though the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board informed the Madras high court that they would not allow the plant to start before implementing the safety measures, authorities have decided to load the fuel rods immediately and start the plant soon," he said.
"It is natural for local villages to be agitated over the safety of the plant in which an accident is a matter of life and death for millions of people residing within a radius of at least 50 km," he said.
Kejriwal said the IAC firmly stands for freedom of expression and expresses its anguish against a growing culture of intolerance for creative expression in the public domain.
"There can be two views about the content of some other cartoons put up by him on his website, or indeed about their appropriateness, but these are matters to be judged by the public and not by the police. In particular, the use of sedition law against Aseem Trivedi is blatantly illegal and portrays signs of a paranoid state that does not behove a mature democracy like India," they said.
"We note with regret that his is not an isolated case and of late there have been many instances across regions and regimes of harassment of cartoonists and other artists. His harassment smacks of vendetta against the anti-corruption movement," he said.