EDITORIAL: Narendra Modi government’s decision to prosecute famous author and rights activist Arundhati Roy along with a former professor of Central University of Kashmir, Dr Shaukat Hussain, on terrorism charges — a familiar strategy employed by certain other governments as well to silence dissenting voices — has drawn strong reaction from concerned citizens.

An open letter signed by over 200 academics, journalists and other civil society members, notes with dismay that the Delhi lieutenant governor has given the go-ahead to framing of sedition charges against Roy and Hussain under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act — UAPA — for the statements they made in 2010 at a seminar on Kashmir, demanding that the case be revoked.

The letter has also appealed to democratic forces across political parties to “take forward the constitutional struggle for freedom of speech and expression by asking for withdrawal of such draconian acts as the UAPA.”

Roy has been a thorn in the side of the BJP government for her unwavering advocacy of political and social justice for all oppressed peoples. She is now being hauled up for supporting, in her speech at the said seminar, the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination and also stating the historical fact that Kashmir has never been “an integral part of India”.

The case has no leg to stand on. As pointed out by a prominent lawyer Sanjay Hegde, it will be challenged in courts at a very early stage on two accounts: First, the police will have to explain the 14-year delay in the arraignment; and second, they will have to justify why should Roy be charged under UAPA when her words have not resulted in any violence or criminal acts during all these years.

As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court of India has already declared that sedition charges cannot be brought against an individual if there is no incitement to violence. The government, of course, is well aware of all these legal flaws in its case and yet has chosen to pursue it.

Some have termed it a crazy decision, but there is a method to this madness. By targeting an eminent dissident the government wants to intimidate all others who dare to criticise its policies.

Since Modi returned to power in the recent general election with a significantly reduced mandate, depending on the support of two regional parties, it was expected to have a sobering effect making him less intolerant of unfavourable opinion.

That though has not changed anything. He remains insistent on interdicting dissension, labelling his critics as terrorists and criminals.

The obvious motivation behind the case against Roy is to send a message to all others to think carefully before questioning the BJP-led government’s actions and policies.

The ‘world’s largest democracy’ ruled by a Hindu fundamentalist party is not prepared to permit the basic democratic right to freedom of expression.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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KU Jul 01, 2024 11:15am
''terrorism charges - a familiar strategy employed by certain other governments as well to silence dissenting voices'' is very much our government, n telling truth is a problem by our media. Sad.
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Re=== Jul 01, 2024 08:46pm
This editorial team roars like a lion when it comes to Modi and India's blemishes and hides like a mouse when it comes to questioning its own handlers.
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