The author turned activist Arundhati Roy has been a compelling and contrarian voice with her views going against conventional wisdom on Indian elections and democracy, Maoism, the nuclear bomb, poverty and so on. Even by her yardstick, has the Booker Prize winning writer bitten off more than she can chew on Kashmir?
In the first instance, at a seminar on “Azadi-The Only Way” in Delhi on Friday, Roy said Kashmir should get azadi from “bhookey-nangey Hindustan“. “India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs from India,” she said, sharing airtime with hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
“India needs azadi from Kashmir and Kashmir from India. It is a good debate that has started. We must deepen this conversation and am happy that young people are getting involved for this cause which is their future. Indian Government is a hollow super power and I disassociate with it,” Roy said amid great applause from separatists. “Earlier we used to talk about our head held high and now we lay prostrate to the US. Kashmiris have to decide whether they want to be with or get separated from bhookhey-nangey Hindustan where more than 830 million people live on Rs 20 per day only”.
And on Sunday, in Srinagar, Roy went one step further, stating that Jammu & Kashmir was never a part of India and that India was a colonising power in the State since Independence.
“Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this,” she said.
The comments, testing the limits of liberalism, have drawn criticism. The BJP has slammed the Centre for allowing the azadi meet in Delhi, with the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, saying: “The right to free speech enshrined in the Constitution cannot be used against the country.”
The Union home ministry is said to be considering the charge of “sedition” with legal experts, and the Delhi police is likely to register the charge against the speakers.
Question: Has Arundhati Roy crossed the line with her Kashmir comments? Or is does free speech include the right to offend? By making the comments when the Centre has despatched its “interlocutors” after the recent round of violence, is Roy playing the Hurriyat line? Or should a mature democracy be able to face such criticism?
Arundhati Roy: ‘India is a corporate, Hindu State’