Writer Arundhati Roy
INDIAN author Arundhati Roy, facing possible sedition charges over remarks she made about disputed Indian Kashmir, said yesterday she had only been calling for “justice” for the region.
Roy’s statement came after police in New Delhi said they were weighing whether to bring sedition charges against the Booker prize-winning author over comments she made about Kashmir in recent days.
The author of the novel The God of Small Things issued a statement yesterday saying her remarks urging “azadi” or freedom for Kashmir were “fundamentally a call for justice.”
The region has been beset by anti-India violence, curfews and strikes since early June, when a 17-year-old student was killed by a police teargas shell. Since then, a total of 111 protesters and bystanders have died.
“What I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians,” she said in an emailed statement.
Arundhati, who has emerged in recent years as a prominent social activist, has spoken out on two occasions in recent days on Kashmir, in one instance sharing a stage with hardline separatist Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has objected strongly to Roy’s remarks, calling them “seditious” and accusing the Congress-led government of “looking the other way” by not taking any legal action against Roy.
Law Minister Veerappa Moily said the comments were “most unfortunate”. While there is freedom of speech, “it can’t violate the patriotic sentiments of the people,” Moily said.
Roy said in her statement that she had read in Indian newspapers that she might be arrested on charges of sedition for her remarks supporting freedom for Kashmir.
“I said what millions of people here (in Kashmir) say every day. I said what I as well as other commentators have written and said for years,” she said.
“Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice,” she said.
Geelani also faces the threat of sedition charges for comments he made while sharing the podium with Roy, according to Indian media.
When told of the possible charges, the elderly separatist leader said 90 such cases had already been filed against him.
“Let this be the 91st,” he declared.
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