Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is Arundhati Roy Guilty of Sedition?

In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interests of sedition. (From Wikipedia).

Let me confess, I am a fan of Arundhati Roy, but I wish to express my unbiased views on her writings and statements. Arundhati Roy's claim to fame and name was initially derived from her excellent fiction book " The God of small things". From an unknown entity, she became an intellectual and her fine book became best-seller and earned her fame and money beyond her wildest imagination. At this point, it was easy for her to use her skills to write more fiction and continue making money and live a comfortable life, maybe become part of the glitterati and page 3 society. She could choose to ignore her surroundings and conscience and like most of us lead a selfish self centered existence. She chose otherwise and used her undoubted skills and freedom of expression to become the voice of those who had and have the least stake in our far from perfect democracy. Far from being an arm chair critic, all the causes she has espoused and supported have been done after actually experiencing and interacting with the poorest and the most victimized sections of society. Her writings have been forthright, fearless and come from a deep inner conviction which may sometimes reflect some bias against the state and establishment, but are by no means deliberate attempts to provoke or incite disaffection (insurrection) against the state.
Taking her present statement on the status of Kashmir valley as a disputed territory and not being an integral part of India, there are a large number of people including the democratically elected CM of Jammu and Kashmir who have challenged or contested the act of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir signed by Maharaja Hari Singh without the consent of his people. Besides, although technically and legally India had entered the valley only after the signing of the Instrument of accession, both India and Pakistan had agreed to allow plebiscite and allow the people of Kashmir to decide their fate and future. A secular democratic state had to prove that a Muslim majority state can be a part of India, while theocratic, fundamentalist, Islamist Pakistan state could not explain its reason to exist by allowing that to happen. India has held on to Kashmir since 1948, but the price paid in terms of concessions, special status, military occupancy, tragic loss of life has been huge. We may legally own Kashmir but the people of Kashmir are not wholeheartedly and willingly integrated with India. Does stating this amount to sedition? Do the people of the valley require Arundhati Roy to revolt or are our armed forces and elected state and central governments by their acts of omission and commission providing enough reason to revolt. I do not deny that the role of ISI and Pakistan is not responsible for this insurrection, but we must point the mirror and reflect on our mistakes. Persons like Arundhati Roy, are showing the people the ugly face of our imperfect democracy and while one may say that the fact she is allowed to do so is a triumph of the very democracy she condemns, by jailing her on charges of sedition, we will lose every bit of our claim to be a secular, socialist democratic state.
Communal corrupt leaders and mass murderers roam around freely spewing venom and hatred in the name of freedom, a state sold to the interests of corporate India displaces and kills its own citizens, all these things are perfectly all right and get rewarded by the media and the voters, but Arundhati Roy's statements and essays on behalf of the people displaced in the Narmada valley, the tribals in the Naxal regions, opposition to nuclear deal, criticism of the open communal policies of the right wing parties are all undemocratic and unpatriotic acts.
I urge all of you to reflect and follow the inner voice of your conscience before condemning and labeling Arundhati Roy as Guilty.