Activists demand withdrawal of India’s plan to prosecute award-winning author

Rights activists, academics and authors have condemned the Indian government's decision sanctioning the prosecution of Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy under a controversial and stringent anti-terrorism law.
Award-winning author:- Rights activists, academics and authors have condemned the Indian government's decision sanctioning the prosecution of Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy under a controversial and stringent anti-terrorism law. [VOA]
Award-winning author:- Rights activists, academics and authors have condemned the Indian government's decision sanctioning the prosecution of Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy under a controversial and stringent anti-terrorism law. [VOA]

Award-winning author:- Rights activists, academics and authors have condemned the Indian government's decision sanctioning the prosecution of Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy under a controversial and stringent anti-terrorism law.

More than 200 people have written a joint letter to the government seeking revocation of the decision to prosecute the author for saying at a conference 14 years ago that Kashmir had never been "an integral part of India."

On June 14, Vinai Kumar Saxena, Delhi's senior-most administrative official from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), authorized prosecution of the 62-year-old author, along with Kashmiri academic Sheikh Showkat Hussain.

The two are accused under an anti-terrorism law known as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), for remarks they made about Kashmir at a seminar in Delhi in 2010.

In their letter to the government, the activists and others said that Roy's remarks at a seminar cannot be considered as an incitement to violence.

"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 office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights added its own concerns on Thursday over the planned prosecution of Roy and Hussain under the anti-terrorism law.

"We are concerned by use of #UAPA anti-terror law to silence critics," the office posted on X. "Urge authorities to drop cases against Arundhati Roy & Sheikh Showkat Hussain over comments on India-admin Kashmir."

Saxena's office has not responded to email from VOA requesting comment on the issue.

Roy is best known for her debut novel, The God of Small Things, which won the Booker prize in 1997. Over the past two decades, she has written many fiction and non-fiction books and essays on topics such as the Indian administration of Kashmir, nuclear weapons, building of big dams, contemporary politics and human rights.

Outspoken political, rights activist

Roy was named Thursday by English PEN as the winner of the 2024 PEN Pinter prize, awarded annually to a writer who shows “a fierce, intellectual determination … to define the real truth of our lives and our societies."

She has long been known as an outspoken political and rights activist, often criticizing the government on various issues and speaking in support of Dalits and minorities.

Since Modi came to office in 2014, she has been a sharp critic of his government, which is accused by rights groups of targeting activists and stifling free speech.

To her supporters, Roy is an advocate for the rights of the oppressed and one of the most outspoken public figures on issues concerning the marginalized. But her critics, mostly supporters of BJP and other Hindu nationalist organizations, view her as an anti-national figure, attacking her on social media and burning her effigies.

The remark on Kashmir for which Roy is facing prosecution was made at a conference titled "Freedom — the Only Way," and organized by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, in New Delhi in 2010. At the conference, she said Kashmir had never been "an integral part of India."

"It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted in the U.N. that it's not an integral part of India," Roy said at the conference.

The remark sparked protests at the time. Sushil Pandit, a Kashmiri Hindu activist, filed a criminal complaint against Roy, Hussain and two others — a Kashmiri separatist leader and a former professor — charging that they had "jeopardized public peace and security" with their speeches and had promoted "separation of Kashmir from India."

The police are now reviving the case 14 years later, pursuing Pandit's complaint.

A ‘witch hunt’

Last week some lawyers told local media that they were perplexed as to why Roy was being prosecuted so many years after her speech.

New Delhi-based human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves said Roy has been a victim of a "witch hunt" and that the case will most likely collapse in court.

"What Ms. Roy said [in the conference] was nothing illegal at all. Her speech, for which she is being prosecuted, comes nowhere near the anti-terrorism statute of the UAPA," Gonsalves, a Supreme Court lawyer, told the VOA.

"For that act to apply, a person must engage in warfare against the state, and that extreme kind of violence must be to overawe the state. That certainly is not the case here. I don't think any judge or court will permit such a frivolous prosecution to take place. The case is all likely to collapse as soon as it is instituted."

Rebecca John, Roy's lawyer, said that Roy is well known around the world for her "unfailing commitment to human rights" and that the case against her is "politically motivated."

"Clearly her words and speeches were not to the liking of the government, and she has therefore been a target of those who called her 'anti national,' a term widely associated with those who oppose the present regime," John told VOA. VOA/SP

logo
NewsGram
www.newsgram.com