I fight for the love and pride of my people–Arundhati Roy

Dawn.com, October 26, 2010

New Delhi: Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy who has been canvassing for freedom of Jammu and Kashmir from years of military occupation said on Tuesday that far from seeking a break up of India, as alleged by her rightwing detractors, she fights for the love and pride of the people of India.

Amid reports that the Indian government had given permission for her arrest for alleged sedition following her recent call for justice for all Kashmiris, Ms Roy, who is currently on a visit to the Valley said in a statement to the Indian media that it would be a sad day for her country if its writers were jailed for expressing their ideas while “communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters” roamed free.

Some rightwing newspapers and TV channels close to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been campaigning for her arrest after she addressed a meeting on Kashmir in New Delhi last week at which Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani reiterated his call for azadi.

Ms Roy reminded the Kashmiris at the meeting that she was hurt by their slogan – bhooka nanga Hindustan, jaan se pyara Pakistan – saying that the slogan insulted the poor masses of India. But some reports distorted this, and the headlines screamed that she had asked for secession from poverty-stricken India.

Analysts recalled that senior Indian leader Jaiprakash Narayan had once called for the Indian army to revolt against the autocratic government of then prime minister Indira Gandhi. The BJP had supported him then. Mr Narayan was subsequently celebrated as Lok Nayak, or people’s leader.

“There is nothing rigid about the law on sedition. It is always a political choice on who you want to target,” said a senior lawyer. “Right now Arundhati Roy is in everyone’s crosshairs. She has dared to take on powerful corporate interests and has even exposed their link with the powerful home minister.”

Following is the text of the statement emailed by Ms Roy to Indian newspapers and TV channels.

“I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

“Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother.  We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaaf’ —justice — from India, and now believed that Azadi — freedom — was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

“In the papers some have accused me of giving ‘hate-speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free”.

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