Arundhati Roy: Kashmir K(C)alling!

I'm no Arundhati Roy loyalist. She's a good author and I've read her stuff. Yes, she's good. And opinionated. That too is fine. Most writers are. Myself included. So when she went ahead to comment on the current political strife and tense situation in Kashmir, I'm not sure why it has gone on to become so heated. It actually took a lot of reading to understand what exactly she said that caused the Indian government to go up in flames regarding her comment. After experiencing some time in Kashmir and mingling with the locals, she gained first hand experience of the living conditions of Kashmir, which is controlled primarily by the military. Somehow her observations led her to believer that, "Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this." Naturally, this comment of hers has upset the Indian government who have not only called her comment "misleading","irresponsible" and has threatened to arrest her if she doesn't retract her comment. She has been charged with Sedition which is defined by "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India." If arrested and convicted, Roy could be face a sentence as harsh as imprisonment.

And that isn't even the worst part of what she is facing. The author has been threatened by a number of politicians and Hindu loyalists who have claimed to exile her from India. The exact words by one such group was, "not to adopt the path of M. F. Husain misinterpreting the right to freedom of expression…our country has already taught a lesson to Mr. Husain." Apparently, Roy has challenged the Indian democracy too many times now so much so that it was "bordering treason." After dealing with all the hoopla surrounding her one sentence, Roy went on to write a statement explaining her stand on the issue (look here).

I understand that we live in a democracy in which freedom of speech is a given right. But when is taking advantage of this right seen as taking it too far? I honestly, for the first time am 50-50 on the Arundhati Roy issue simply because my understanding of Kashmir during the partition is so limited. So Roy went on a public platform and expressed her feelings after experiencing Kashmir in 2010. Really, the strife that has been occurring in Kashmir has been going on for ages, but it is only now that she feels the need to speak out. Clearly that needs to be questioned. But is the government right to go out on a hate Roy stance and call her out for one comment? Their understanding is that it is sending out wrong messages internationally. But that too doesn't make sense when the entire world knows that Kashmir is one piece of land that India is constantly fighting over with neighbor Pakistan.

So what is this entire ordeal really about? Is it about her comment? Or the fact that someone has felt the need to speak out? The Indian government needs to explain their outburst a little more honestly while Roy needs to find a more subtle way of speaking mind because clearly her intent fell through. Now instead of creating awareness, she is fighting a possible sedition case. And everyone knows the Indian government (and public) finds it hard to forgive...and forget.

10/30/2010 update: Mid-Day publishes full transcript of Roy's speech - Sedition or not?

1 comment:

Vivek Nanda said...

Sometimes I feel Arundhati Roy tries to gain attention doing such things. I guess, there is a lot of similarities between Shobha de and Arundhati Roy. Though, I seriously feel she outspoken with the speech with Geelani.


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