Indian author Arundhati Roy to be prosecuted over 2010 Kashmir comments [Updated]

Arundhati Roy. Photo: jeanbaptisteparis. Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

Indian authorities have sanctioned the prosecution of author Arundhati Roy and former Central University of Kashmir professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain. They will be prosecuted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for making provocative speeches.

Arundhati Roy, who is perhaps best-known for her 1997 novel The God of Small Things that won the Booker Prize in the same year, is being prosecuted over remarks that she made at a panel discussion in 2010 over Kashmir, in which she suggests the region was not an ‘integral’ part of India. A criminal complaint accusing her of sedition was filed shortly after the event. The case had largely languished for more than a decade until last October, when VK Saxena, a top official in the Delhi administration, dug it up and gave approval for it to be legally examined.

Kashmir is one of the most sensitive topics of public discussion in India. Narendra Modi’s government claims full authority over Kashmir, as does Pakistan. Writing of Kashmir in her 2020 book Azadi, whose title derives from the Urdu word for ‘freedom’ that is chanted by those opposing the Indian rule of Kashmir, Roy points out that the region is ‘where only fiction can be true because the truth cannot be told’.

The permissions to prosecute Roy and Hussain could lead to their immediate arrest.

21 June: More than 200 Indian academics, activists and journalists have signed an open letter demanding the withdrawal of the Indian government’s permission to prosecute Arundhati Roy and Sheikh Showkat Hussain.

‘We the concerned citizens of India deplore this action and appeal to the government and the democratic forces in the country to ensure that no infringement of the fundamental right to freely and fearlessly express views on any subject takes place in our nation,’ the letter writes.

The letter argues that the government cannot charge Roy’s comment at the panel as sedition as it ‘cannot be considered as an incitement to violence. Nor did any violence result from her statement.’

Several other groups also expressed support for Roy, including the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, a coalition of farmer unions. Protests by civil rights groups, activists, and students have also taken place in Delhi and Bengaluru, the Guardian reports.

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