Arundhati Roy Under Attack, Canadian Activists Fight Back

Vancouver and Surrey social-justice activists protest contempt charge against Arundhati Roy

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Arundhati Roy has received a contempt citation for criticizing the arrest of a high-profile Indian human-rights activist. Vikramjit Kakati

The judicial persecution of a prominent Indian author and essayist has riled activists around Vancouver.

Many of them gathered in Surrey to protest a charge of contempt of court filed against Booker Prize-winning Delhi writer Arundhati Roy.

The demonstration included Chinmoy Banerjee, Parminder Swaich, Hardev Singh, Harbhajan Cheema, Harinder Mahil, Jai Birdi, and Avtar Gill, all of whom belong to different progressive groups in the Lower Mainland.Roy, author of The God of Small Things, received a contempt notice from the Bombay High Court in late December.

It came in response to her article in Outlook magazine in May condemning the arrest of Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba for his alleged links to Maoist rebels.

Indian Express has reported that a judge claimed the piece included “scurrilous” remarks about police, the state, and the judiciary.

In an interview with the Georgia Straight in 2014, Roy delivered a blistering denunciation of the impact that large corporations were having on India.

There was an attempt to lay a charge of sedition against her in 2010 after she made controversial comments about the importance of the northern state of Kashmir to India’s overall existence.

“There’s supposed to be some police inquiry, which hasn’t really happened,” Roy said at the time. “That’s how it is in India. They…hope that the idea of it hanging over your head is going to work its magic, and you’re going to be more cautious.”

In a news release in late December, the Vancouver-based South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy described Prof. Saibaba as a “wheelchair-bound paraplegic who suffers 90% physical disability due to post-polio paralysis in childhood”.

“He began his career as an activist by campaigning for the rights of the downtrodden lower-caste people in his native Andhra Pradesh,” the news release stated. “Later he campaigned against the ‘encounter killings’ of Maoists staged by the police in Andhra and the assassination of rights activists by the paid agents of the state. After moving to Delhi in early 2000s he took up the cause of the Adivasis in the tribal belt who were being intimidated, killed, and displaced by the state to access the resources in the forests and lands they inhabited.”

Saibaba been imprisoned after being charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

“G. N. Saibaba is a well-known champion of democratic rights and civil liberties in India and Arundhati Roy is a writer of international renown, but the judicial assault on them is a part of the ongoing and increasing attack on activists, writers, and journalists who criticize governments and the state in India by hired killers or the repressive state apparatus of draconian legislation, police, and the judiciary,” SANSAD maintained. “In another recent example journalists Santosh Yadav and Somaru Naag were arrested in Chhatisgarh in September and July, respectively,  under Chhatisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA), one of the several draconian laws in the arsenal of the Indian state. Such laws are freely used to terrorize citizens into docile subjection. We condemn such laws and their use to silence those who stand up for their rights and those who dare to defend them.”

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