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EDITORIAL: The BJP-appointed Lt-Governor of New Delhi administration has activated a 2010 complaint filed against internationally celebrated writer and activist Arundhati Roy along with Showkat Hussein, a former professor of international law at the Central University of Kashmir, and two others (who have since died) accusing them of sedition for giving speeches advocating secession of the Indian occupied Kashmir at a conference in the capital.

Roy with firsthand experience of the prevailing sentiments in that troubled region had attended the conference organised by a committee for release of political prisoners.

The complaint failed to gain traction because there was nothing new about it. Several other prominent Indians, including a former senior BJP leader and external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, have also been expressing grave concern over the ‘unprecedented alienation’ of the Kashmir people, advising the government to end use of force and resolve the situation through talks with the Kashmiri leaders and Pakistan.

It is hardly surprising that the ruling BJP has decided to resurrect a 13-year-old case to incriminate Roy. She not only brings moral clarity to the Kashmir issue and the plight of the poor and dispossessed of India, but is a vociferous opponent of the ruling BJP’s toxic Hindutva policies.

A more immediate cause of annoyance with her, nonetheless, seems to be her scathing criticism of crackdown on the independent media. During the recent days, the police raided homes and offices of several journalists, igniting countrywide demonstrations and a protest meeting at the Press Club of India in New Delhi, where true to her calling Roy sat in the front row wearing the sign ‘Free the Press’ around her neck.

That little sign said it all. Since the ultra-right nationalist Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, India has fallen to 160th place in the media freedom rankings by Reporters Without Borders. Earlier this month, Roy honoured with the 2023 European Lifetime Achievement Award for her Essay ‘Azadi’ (freedom), translated into French, also used that opportunity to expose the unraveling of Indian democracy in her acceptance speech at a ceremony in Switzerland.

“It is unthinkable”, she averred, “that any mainstream media house in India, all of whom live on corporate advertisements, would publish essays like these. In the last 20 years, the free market and fascism and the so-called free press, have waltzed together to bring India to a place where it can by no means be called a democracy.”

Clearly, the present move to implicate her in a sedition case by a BJP minion comes not because of what Roy said 13 years ago at a conference on Kashmir, but what she has been writing and doing to defend the rights of all oppressed sections of Indian society.

In over three decades since her seminal essay “The End of Imagination” Roy has never flinched from speaking truth to power. She is not going to stop it now.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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TidBit Oct 17, 2023 07:25pm
Can we focus on Pakistan. We do we have to keep poking our nose everytime into our neighbours house?
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