India to Prosecute Novelist Over 14-Year-Old Remark

Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy argued for Kashmir independence in 2010
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2024 7:03 AM CDT
India to Prosecute Modi Critic Over 14-Year-Old Remark
In this June 12, 2017 file photo, Indian novelist Arundhati Roy presents her book "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" at the Parco della Musica Auditorium in Rome.   (Giorgio OnoratiANSA via AP, File)

A top Indian official has approved the prosecution of Arundhati Roy, one of India's most celebrated writers, over a comment she made 14 years ago. Roy, winner of the 1997 Booker Prize, gave a speech in 2010 in which she said the disputed territory of Kashmir, claimed by India and Pakistan and then home to massive protests against Indian rule, had "never been an integral part of India." Critics accused her of being a traitor and the federal government, led by the Congress Party, threatened to arrest her on charges of sedition. She was never charged. Last week, however, Delhi's lieutenant governor, Vinai Kumar Saxena of President Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, gave permission for Roy to be prosecuted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a counterterrorism law.

The move came days after Modi was sworn in for a third presidential term. Roy has been critical of his government. Among other things, Modi is accused of using the UAPA to target activists and journalists and stifle free speech. The law allows authorities to hold suspects without charge for up to 180 days and label them as terrorists even without a link to a designated terror group, the Independent reports. In a statement, the Communist Party of India said Roy's prosecution "under the draconian UAPA ... defies logic except the fascist kind," per the Guardian. "If by prosecuting Arundhati Roy under UAPA the BJP are trying to prove they're back, well they're not," added MP Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress Party. "This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against."

Roy is to be charged alongside Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a former professor at the Central University of Kashmir, who appeared with her at the 2010 conference. They argued for Kashmir's independence from India almost a decade before Modi's government revoked the region's semi-autonomous status in 2019. They were originally accused of sedition after an activist from Kashmir filed a complaint. However, India's Supreme Court suspended the colonial-era sedition law in May 2022, citing rampant misuse against activists and writers. "Invoking UAPA charges allows the state to bypass the statute of limitations and proceed with the case," per the BBC. The Communist Party noted the "timing is suspect since courts are on vacation, as are lawyers." (More India stories.)

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