“Section 124 A, under which I am happily charged, is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen…”
“Some of the most loved of India’s patriots have been convicted under it. I consider it a privilege, therefore, to be charged under that section…”
M.K. Gandhi, during his sedition trial in 1922
Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy is in the news again and as always her views have drawn some serious criticism from the “nationalists” in our country. I was a bit surprised when Arundhati Roy claimed that she is espousing the cause of all Kashmiri’s because I doubt if she has ever stepped out of the jungles of Bengal and has ever looked into the problems Kashmiri’s face including the much neglected Pandit Community. Many believe it’s a publicity stunt by the aging writer but I seriously disagree. I don’t think an internationally acclaimed and celebrated author needs any publicity. Writer and social activist Arundhati Roy has strong views on the strife-torn and troubled Valley, which many may disagree with, or regard as extremely contentious but does that mean she should be jailed for putting forward her opinion on a certain issue. What Arundhati said is not something new. Millions of separatists in Kashmir shout the same daily. So many people have written about it earlier. J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently said that the State had only acceded to, and not merged with, the Indian Union. And it is now we “sense” sedition? The Bhartiya Janata Party [BJP] strongly feels that what Arundhati said is a culpable crime and she needs to be punished for the same but such arguments look funny when they come from a party that demolished the Babri Masjid and thereby brutally murdered the Constitution and Law & Order in the country. Where were the so-called nationalists when Syed Ali Shah Geelani was shouting Azadi slogans in Lutyens Delhi and Delhi Police provided him security? Where were the nationalists when Kashmiri Pandits holding Indian Flags were mishandled by the Delhi Police? Suppressing Arundhati’s voice and putting her behind the bars does not make sense to me. This somewhere re-confirms the fact that what Arundhati said is true (We have failed in Kashmir). Are we that weak a nation that we can’t handle criticism? I think it’s preposterous to file sedition charges against these people, it’s better to confront them with arguments justifying the need for Kashmir to remain in India.
I AGREE WITH ROY WHEN SHE QUESTIONS “freedom of speech” IN INDIA:
We can boast of having a Constitution which is the longest written for any sovereign country in the world and contains 444 articles in 22 parts and 12 schedules, for a total of 117,369 words in the English language version, but, we have time and again made a mockery of the Constitution. The constitution gives us the right to freedom of speech but we have grossly amended it according to our needs. Freedom of Speech in India is like a mutual fund investment which comes with an offer document saying *terms & conditions* apply. I am sorry but I don’t buy the argument that one should know where to draw a line because everyone draws the line according to his/her convenience. I know many people who approve of the anti-muslim speech that Varun Gandhi made in Pilibhit last year but the same people raise eyebrows when Arundhati says something on the Kashmir issue. If it suits you then it is freedom of speech otherwise not?
World famous painter M.F. Hussein had to flee India because our government couldn’t provide enough security from the Hindutva Goons when he painted naked Hindu Goddesses. Rohan Mistry’s book was pulled out of Mumbai University because a 20-year-old Thackeray felt it is not apt for the students? A professor loses his hand because he used the word “Muhammad” in the question paper? The web page “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” was removed from the social networking site because it annoyed a few muslims in India. It is here in India where there is “restricted” access to constitutional rights. Freedom of Thought/Expression is something which our Constitution provides but may I know why were films like Fire, Water, Kissa Kursi Ka, Parzania etc. banned? People give the argument that it is our “duty” to see that sentiments of the countrymen are not hurt. What sentiments if I may ask? How many people were hurt by Mistry’s book? How many Hindus were hurt because a film like Water, based on the life of Hindu widows was being shot on the ghats of Benares? How many Hindus were hurt when the two lesbians in the movie FIRE were named Sita & Radha respectively. How does it matter if Hussein draws a nude Durga or if someone draws Mohammad’s cartoon? Does it matter to Allah or Durga? Then why such hue & cry is made about sentiments getting hurt. offensive, and outrageous.Of late many people have adapted a new mantra from the SPIDER MAN film that “With great power comes great responsibility” . I just want to say that life is not a Spider man film. The whole point of freedom of expression is that the right is not restricted even when the person exercising the right says things that are utterly unpalatable, offensive, and outrageous.
I AGREE WITH ROY WHEN SHE TALKS ABOUT “Human Rights Violation” IN THE VALLEY
She talked about the Human Right Violations in Kashmir where 8-year-old kids have been victims of the ongoing struggle for Azadi. She talks about the Kashmiri woman who are raped by police & jawans employed there. Is she wrong? Or are we afraid to accept the stark reality? According to the dominant narrative, the present ‘disorders’ or, as the separatists like to style them, commenced abruptly as a reaction to the death of Tufail Ahmad Mattoo, who was fatally hit by a tear gas shell on June 11, 2010. Have we forgotten the controversial Shopian case where a pregnant Neelofar Jan & Aasiya Jan were raped & murdered. Here are a few figures I found on the internet:
- “In its 1996-1997 report, the National Human Rights Commission, (NHRC), stated that 1,375 armed forces personnel had been killed and 2,237 injured in Jammu and Kashmir between January 1, 1988 and April 30, 1997.
- In 1997, the totals were 918 civilians, 189 security forces personnel and 1,114 militants, according to reliable press reports.”
- From an Amnesty International press release, October 15, 1996 “The [Indian] government’s disregard for human rights in Jammu and Kashmir means in practice that some 200 people reportedly died in custody in Jammu and Kashmir last year and that the whereabouts of some 500 to 600 “disappeared ” persons continue to be unknown. The arbitrary arrests of people suspected to sympathize with armed opposition groups also continues to be reported.”
- According to the Kashmiri-Canadian Council, 6,300 Kashmiri women have been raped. “Rape is used by the Indian security forces to attack Kashmiri women suspected of sympathizing with “militants.” Through rape, the security forces are aiming to punish and humiliate the entire community.”
- “Since 1990, some 700 to 800 people have “disappeared” after being arrested by police or armed or paramilitary forces. The victims have included boys and men of all ages and all professions, including businessmen, lawyers, laborers and many teachers. Almost all of them appear to be ordinary citizens picked up at random, without any connection to the armed struggle.”
An excerpt from the Amnesty International report: “India: the impunity must end in Jammu and Kashmir,” 23/04/2001:
- On 27 March 1996, the dead body of human rights lawyer Jalil Andrabi was found in the river Jhelum, 19 days after he had been seen taken away by military personnel. His killers remain free.
- On 30 March 1996, 23 members of the faction of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front led by Amanullah Khan were killed when police fired mortar shells at their office in Srinagar. Their killers remain free.
- On 18 September 1997, 11 people, including women and children, were killed by mortar shelling at Arin Bandipora. The killers remain free.
- In January 1998, nine people, including a woman and child, were killed in Kadrana village, Doda district, when army soldiers opened fire on people protesting an earlier arrest. The killers are free.
- In July 1998, 40 people, including women and children were killed in and near Surankote. The killers remain free.
- On 28 June 1999, fifteen members of two Muslim families, including women and children, were shot dead at Surankote, Poonch district, by unidentified gunmen wearing army uniforms who shot two more women as they fled. The killers remain free.
- On 20 March 2000, 36 Sikhs were shot dead in Chittisinghpora; on 25 March 2000, five men were unlawfully killed who were implicated in the earlier killings. On 3 April 2000, seven people demonstrating against the earlier two incidents were shot dead by police. The killers of these 48 people remain free.
- On the night of 1 August 2000, at least 105 people were shot dead in several different incidents. The killers remain free.
- On 15 February 2001, six people were shot dead in Haigam during protests at an earlier death in custody when security forces and/or police opened fire on them. The killers remain free.
I don’t sense sedition when Arundhati Roy talks about the gross Human Rights Violation in the valley. Even I condemn the deaths in the valley and I think every sane voice in the country will agree with me. I have huge respect for the army in our country and I say it with full pride and respect that it is because of them we live peacefully but as every coin has two sides, so has the army. And I see no problems in seeing the dark side!! Arrest me for this.
NOTE: I have had numerous discussions on kids getting killed in the valley. I absolutely believe that parents of the kids are EQUALLY responsible for their deaths. I call them “evil” parents who send their kids for protests risking their lives. But I still give the kids benefit of doubt; army should take care while firing bullets. Kids should never become a victim of bullets.
I DISAGREE WHEN SHE TALKS ABOUT “Dalit Soldiers getting killed in Kashmir”
I was rather amused when I read this statement because I don’t understand what kind of justice Ms. Roy talks of where sacrifice by soldiers is measured by their caste. This was in fact an insensitive and immature statement on Arundhati’s part. I don’t really need to write anything more about this because I believe every person with head & heart at right place will agree with me.
She is one of the worst critics of the Indian state and you can hate her for that but you surely can’t ignore the lady because the issues she raised are very important. India has completely failed in Kashmir. Lacs of pandits had to flee the valley because of radical islam and the government did NOTHING. The valley is burning now also. The people are against India. Somewhere something is not correct. And it’s better we all realize our mistakes before it is too late. Kashmir issue needs a solution and it has to be NOW!! In Britain, the last completed trial in a sedition case dates back to 1947. In the United States, Supreme Court rulings have rendered toothless the most recent sedition law, the Smith Act enacted in 1940. The controversy over Ms Roy’s remarks is essentially much ado about nothing. She has EVERY RIGHT TO EXPRESS HER VIEWS !!
*HER COMMENTS ON KASHMIRI PANDITS SHAMEFUL. I REQUEST HER TO STAY IN THE REFUGEE CAMPS IN THE CHILLING WINTERS.*