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India: author Arundhati Roy to be prosecuted over 2010 Kashmir remarks


Indian authorities have granted permission for the prosecution of the Booker prize-winning Indian novelist Arundhati Roy over comments she made about Kashmir at an event in 2010.

The top official in the Delhi administration, VK Saxena, gave the go-ahead for legal action against Roy, whose novel The God of Small Things won the Booker prize in 1997, under anti-terrorism legislation, alongside a former university professor, Sheikh Showkat Hussain.

The action against Roy and Hussain, a former professor at the Central University of Kashmir, is over allegedly making provocative speeches, the Press Trust of India reports, citing officials from Saxena’s office.

Saxena, who is serving as the lieutenant governor, is a politician from prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP.

While Roy, 62, is one of India’s most famous living authors, her activism and outspoken criticism of Modi’s government, including over laws targeting minorities, have made her a polarising figure in India.

Friday’s development follows the news that Saxena had last October given approval for the case to proceed before the courts – more than a decade on from when a criminal complaint against Roy and several others was originally filed. The complaint concerned Roy’s comment that the disputed territory of Kashmir was not an “integral” part of India, and accused her and others of giving speeches advocating the secession of Kashmir from India.

Roy’s home in Delhi was besieged by protesters in 2010 when her comments from the panel discussion were published, when about 150 members of the BJP women’s organisation demanded that she retract her statement or leave the country.

The decision to prosecute was denounced by the Communist party of India (Marxist), which said in a statement: “Condemnable. The Delhi LG has granted permission to prosecute Arundhati Roy under the draconian UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] for a speech reportedly made 14 years ago – in 2010. Defies logic except the fascist kind. Timing is suspect since courts are on vacation, as are lawyers.”

The UAPA – under which the prosecution has been granted – is unconstitutional and undemocratic, say critics. UAPA, ostensibly a terrorism prevention law, has been routinely used by the Modi government to try to silence government critics, including lawyers, activists, journalists, priests, poets, academics, civil society members, and Kashmiri civilians.

In recent years, Roy has stood out as one of the most high-profile critics of Modi’s government, which has been accused by rights groups and others of targeting activists and the suppression of free speech.

Roy was contacted for comment through her agency.

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