It was a call for justice, says Arundhati

Sedition or free speech? Writer-activist defends comments on Kashmir azadi

''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,'' Arundhati Roy said in a statement in Srinagar on Tuesday. PTI

The controversy was over Arundhati’s comments on Kashmir at a recent seminar here where she said, “Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this.” She had also alleged that India had become a “colonising power soon after its Independence from British rule.”

Defending her speech, Arundhati said in a statement on Tuesday, “This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on a charge 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.”
She said she had spoken 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”.

The noted writer said she travelled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir that had remained closed for 47 days last year to protest 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, 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 stonepelters who had been shot through their eyes. I travelled 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,” she said.

Arundhati said she was accused of giving “hate-speeches” in the newspapers, and of wanting a break-up with India. “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 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,” she said.

Social and political activist Aruna Roy backed Arundathi saying she has just talked and she has a right to her opinion just as much as anybody else.

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