Arundhati Roy Responds to Threat of Arrest for Sedition, Sparking Debate on Free Speech in India
"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."
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.
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
insaf-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.
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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