Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize–winning author of The God of Small Things is facing calls for her arrest on charges of sedition resulting from remarks the author made in New Delhi last week that were deemed “anti-India.” According to Daily India.com: “The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday demanded from the Government the arrest of Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and writer Arundhati Roy for their recent objectionable remarks over Kashmir’s integration with India.” According to the Times of India, there is a “fit case” for bringing charges of sedition against Roy, but the police are unlikely to move quickly on the matter:
Sources said that Delhi Police’s legal wing has, after examining the contents of the anti-India speeches of Geelani and Roy, recommended that cases under section 124(A) of the Indian Penal Code can be registered against the duo.
The opinion presents the Centre with a dilemma. It has been taunted by the BJP for not taking action against Geelani and Roy for their anti-India rhetoric. At the same time, it also has to reckon with the consequences of action against Geelani and Roy since it is sure to be painted as persecution and milked for putting the country in the dock at a time when secessionists and sympathisers have been shrewdly trying to put J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] on the global frontburner.
And the Sify News reports that the Indian Congress is placing little importance on Roy’s recent remarks:
Congress today refused to attach much importance to the views of author Arundhati Roy on Kashmir, saying it was “erroneous” to do so as she was not in the political mainstream but maintained that police would take action if she had violated the law.
“I do not understand why exaggerated importance is given to her who is not in the political mainstream. It is erroneous and uncalled for. Is she an MP? Is she a political leader. She is an author,” party spokesman Manish Tewari told reporters here.
Nevertheless, the idea that Roy could face charges for expressing a political opinion is highly troublesome. The author, who has been outspoken on matters dealing with India and Kashmir in the past, responded to the possibility of charges being laid in an open statement reprinted on the novelist Hari Kunzru’s blog. TSR contacted Kunzru’s publisher, who granted permission to reprint Roy’s statement here. The full statement reads as follows:
STATEMENT BY ARUNDHATI ROY
I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.
Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother. We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaf’– justice – from India, and now believed that Azadi – freedom – was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.
In the papers some have accused me of giving “hate-speeches,” of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.
October 26 2010
Whatever your own views on Kashmir may be, I hope that you will join me in voicing an objection to the notion of a writer being charged with sedition for the crime of exercising free speech.