India takes calm approach to Arundhati Roy’s Kashmir remarks

October 28, 2010

Prize-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy gestures during an interview with Reuters in New Delhi. REUTERS/B Mathur

After initial signs that India’s government might move to censure controversial remarks by novelist and activist Arundhati Roy, it appears New Delhi has sidestepped a potential political minefield with U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the country only a week away.

On Sunday, Roy told a conference in New Delhi that Kashmir has “never been an integral part of India”, sparking a strong backlash.

Opposition politicians called for “the strongest possible action” against her “seditious” remarks and Law Minister Veerappa Moily declared the comments “most unfortunate”.

Responding to the charges against her, Roy countered: “Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds.”

With its recent election to the United Nations Security Council with a view to making it permanent and Obama’s arrival next Saturday, India appears to have concluded — as influential Indian newspaper The Hindu wrote on Tuesday — that the media furore over Roy’s remarks is “essentially much ado about nothing”.

Indeed, after winning the 1997 Booker Prize for The God of Small Things, Roy has become a serial controversy-inciter. Whether it’s stirring the ire of India’s nationalist right with an over-zealous defence of the insurgent left, or standing shoulder-to-shoulder with displaced residents in criticism of the industrialist central government, stirring debate is her current raison d’être.

India appears to have treated her remarks as such.

12 comments

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What horrendous reporting! Exactly which part of this is impartial?

Posted by Akkas | Report as abusive

It is a pity that she is living in India and not in Iran or Saudi Arabia were she would have been punished by lashes and jail term.It is a pity that she is in India that she is still free to speak and not in labour camp as it would have been in China.It is a pity that she is in India and not in Russia were dissidents usually disappear from the world.Seriously speaking ,India is not a role model for the world in many issues concerning human rights.There are many things to be amended.But democratic India is much better than many countries like Iran,Saudi Arabia,Afghanistan,Indonesia,Somalia,Mal aysia,Sudan,China ect. She is lucky to be a citizen of India as she has made a habit of making imbalanced and twisted propaganda against state consistently and yet she is still free to air her warped opinions.Actually she is not taken seriously.She may be good writer,but that does not give her a proper perspective about history or complex nature of issues that she sometimes make distorted opinions of.Her concern for human rights could have been taken seriously if she had a balanced,objective opinion without one sided or prejudiced views.She talks against capitalism,but makes money from her book.She talks about alleged atrocities real or perceived by the state,but is silent about human rights abuses perpetrated by Islamic militants in Kashmir or brutal butchering by Marxist Maoists in some parts of India.She is silent or ignorant about the fact that it was due to insurgency initiated due to infiltration by Islamic militants across border from Pakistan which forced government to sent armed forces to Kashmir.She ignores about the fact that elections are held in Kashmir,and people are given the right to vote and present government of Kashmir came to power through elections,she ignores the fact that Indian constitution gave exclusive privileges to people of Kashmir,she ignores the fact that Indian Govt never tried to alter the demographic patterns in Kashmir or about the fact that any one outside of Kashmir does not have rights to buy land or property in Kashmir,only Kashmiris have the right for their land.She is oblivious or conveniently ignores the fact that Islamic militants killed and plundered minority hindu pandits during late 1980`s and early 1990`s until all Hindu pundits were forced to flee Kashmir.These Pundits were forced to live as refugees in their own country.Why Arundhati Suzanne Roy is not speaking about this?.It is this discrepancy that baffles an impartial observer.At best it is better to ignore her utterances as childish.

Posted by jmena | Report as abusive

I do not know if there is much choice left except to be calm. Usually there’s a hue and cry about nothing all over the country every few days! Arundhati hasn’t said anything new, or incorrect. India has always treated Kashmir as an untouchable step-child, and on botgh sides of the border it is clear that if the issue isn’t kept simmering there wouldn’t be much to ‘ado about’. If only there were an action not towards people’s words but towards the real state of the state in question.

Posted by Anuja.J | Report as abusive

We have the democracy that doesn’t mean that she has the power to say such a comment. Is she is an Indian? Shame to her! We are Indian and Kasmir is our integral part..

Posted by 12qwas | Report as abusive

It is really strange how the blatantly school girlish leftism of Arundhati Roy is heard, unquestioned by the world with undue attention.
She only harps on selectively with out going in to wider issues involved. Her latest irresponsible statement is on same line, with out accepting and telling full facts. The instrument of accessions was signed by the than King of Kashmir was a legally valid document. The trouble was started by invasion of Pakistani solders dressed as tribal to loot, plunder and intimidate. Again from eighties terrorist from across the border have created fear and intimidation along with miscreants and others vested interested.

True a democratic country must not silence it writer and artists, but they also have huge responsibility to tell the truth and not dramatize selectively for personal benefits alone.

Her distasteful expression of terming Maoists as “Gandhians with Guns” was insanely outrageous.

It is the peculiar and reprehensible mindset of some one, who could be so intellectually arrogant, aloof and unaffected enough to justify Mumbai killing of 166 innocent civilians in a gruesome attacks by terrorists from across the country, with supporting structure and state role.

The exotica scourging media has no other option but to curiously air her weird and outrageous pop psycho-socio witchcraft.

Now she is going to be hugely disappointed by not being arrested, as that would have given her a further publicity.

The fake Indian democracy is perhaps willing and ready to bear many more like her to become a real democracy.

Posted by vision2tunnel | Report as abusive

unless we admit Kashmir is problem, we will never be able to resolve it. Our old policy has utterly failed. all 3 parties india, Pak & Kasmiris should sit down and try to sort this. This is the best time for India to talk to Pak, as Pak is in a very weak position. Future Pak governments r bound to be better then present one and it will be difficult to deal with them. Once America leaves Afghanistan, Pak will become more bolder. How will we deal with them then??

Posted by Rahul333 | Report as abusive

The question really is, has she broken the law? Is her statement seditious? According to most lawyers I have heard on TV it not. So the question of trying her is out of the question.

I don’t think it is fear of the fall out or Obama’s visit that is the criteria here. I think it is legal opinion. The BJP did its job, played politics by trying to put the govt in a spot and that is all well and part of the game. The govt in turn sought legal opinion and there is no case of sedition. So let that matter rest.

Arundhati Roy needs to be countered not by calling her names but by proving her wrong. It is also necessary to let her know that she cannot go on and on insulting this nation irresponsibly and expect to be treated well by the people. This time hopefully the message has gone through.

When she says Kashmir has never been an integral part of India, she has shown her ignorance and needs to be laughed at. She has shown just how much or how small an intellectual she really is. Kashmir is and has always been an integral and legal part of India. Even the UN has accepted that, it is also an issue to be sorted out between Indians, Kashmiris and Pakistanis – no one can deny that.

When she talks of pitying a nation that has silenced its writers she is again wrong. If she has been silenced how has she been able to spout her non sense and make her defense heard? She also seems to be under the delusion that writers have special powers to talk and write whatever they want under freedom of expression. They do not. All of us have the same right. One doesnt have to be an author or painter or actor to be allowed to say what they want. Why should they? We all have the same right. But we have to take responsibility for our words. Not try to hide behind being writers etc.

As for her supporters who question democracy in India, the very fact that they can raise these questions without fears is a certificate to India’s democracy.

Posted by DaraIndia | Report as abusive

well if we go by arundhati’s rule book, however human they appear, then provincial states like hyderabad, mysore to name a few, should start their own revolutions. If they kinda agreed to the principle, then so should kashmir. Actually they would be better off being with India. yes they have their cultural identity, so does other parts of India. They should get on with their lives.

Posted by utopianish | Report as abusive

I innocently wonder why there is a hue and cry about this lady’s remark on Kashmir or any other controversial matter. True, she has made a name for herself by winning a couple of international prizes for her writings but does this qualify her to provide expert opinion on anything and everything. People would be giving unwarranted validity and credence to her words by making this a big issue. Some people need to revel on controversy to remain in the public eye and to earn their bread and butter, to which category I think she belongs. In a democracy, anybody is permitted to shout out from their rooftops about anything, unless they do not make a nuisance of themselves. Unless she has been found to be involved in any activity against the State, she should be largely ignored. The only way to respond is to expose her lack of integrity in such matters.

Posted by Shysun | Report as abusive

Roy has the right to express her opinions. I believe that she is completely wrong. The part of Kashmir controlled by India is as much an integral part of India as any other Indian state.

Roy’s mother is from Kerala and her dad from Bengal. The state of Kerala came into existence only in 1956 (nine years after Kashmir became part of India). West Bengal as we know today came into existence only in 1955.

All the major empires that ruled India including the British empire also controlled Kashmir. So I am not sure what criteria she is using to indicate that Kashmir was never a part of India.

This so-called independence movement is predominantly lead by Sunni Muslims and has very little support among the Shia and Sufi Muslim community in Kashmir (there is no independence movement in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or the Chinese Occupied Kashmir).

Basically Pakistan is using the Sunni Muslims in the Indian controlled part of Kashmir to bleed India. This strategy has failed. India’s economy is 10 times bigger than what it was in 1988 when this “independence” movement was initiated.

http://www.indiafirsthand.com

Posted by IndiaFirstHand | Report as abusive

The Kashmir issue remained alive and will remain alive until the demand to secede of the people of Kashmir is accepted. It is on record that once a local of a particular territory raises the demand to secede ultimately it somehow gets its freedom. So long, the inhabitants of the locality peacefully live in the area, the area is an integral part of that Country.

However, the moment it starts the movement to secede it becomes a land of dispute. In addition, when it become a dispute it hardly be call an integral part of the country until the dispute is solved.

Therefore, attacking Roy virulently and thrashing her for writing so with unbridled examples of the countries if she would have been citizen of such countries, she would have been subjected to such and such punishment.

It seems to be an illogical and immature approach not to only demean a fellow citizen but a mean way to please the political circle to become a hero.

Most of the Indian citizens’ approach with regard to Kashmir problem is, Pakistan, Sunni Muslim, Mujaheddin, Muslim terrorist activities so kill Kashmir Muslims. The world has noted how the Indian armed forces killed the unarmed innocent protesters even after the Prime Minister asked them to stop using bullets, but they did not obey. Genocide case is hanging in Indian Supreme court and for information India is the worst human right violator in the world.

Just to remind my friends the Kashmir would have seceded had they been like Maoist like. What Maoist have done is to throw a challenge to the Indian Government. I would ask my commenter friend to write against the Maoists the sentences they wrote against ROY.

The condition of India is such that in another 40/50 years it will break up like Russia to day stands opined the Political Analysts. Maoists have expanded its base far and wide in India that the government is in perplexed condition.

To fight the insurgents India has asked for transit facilities to its neighboring country Bangladesh which if they give will invite Maoists attack on them too.

Kashmir dispute now has put India in the lap of China and Pakistan. USA will come to talk on the matter and other matters which may or may not be pallet-able for India.

China the quiet dragon only Swallows it does not chew to encircle it and keep it on the north will need if not more 10 time the strength India now has. So friends think on that and forget Kashmir.

Kashmir will get its freedom in good time any way as per the Political analyst’s opinion. India needs to think of China. Roy’s version would ultimately come true.

Posted by KINGFISHER | Report as abusive

Roya has simply reminded the chauvanist Indean leaders of the truth. She is perfectly correct, Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. She could have also qualified by stating that India has never been a single country.
It was under the british that India became a single unit and a colony. Before any one you try to deny this reality please read fully the history, before and after the muslim conquerers.
Rex Minor

Ps I must say the lady is very smart, nothing unusual in India!

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

[...] of India. It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this.” A senior Congress leader on Monday asked noted to withdraw her statement on [...]