Almost a radical chic

Rijo Jacob Abraham

Arunadhti Roy’s remark that “Kashmir is not an integral part of India” drew various reactions – flak, endorsement and, worst of all, exhortations to ignore it. The government of India chose the latter, out of fear of international attention of imprisoning a Booker Price winner on charges of sedition. Though the official reason given was, of course, that jailing Roy would give her undue publicity.

One reason may also have been commonsense and rationality, however.

It need not be said that punishing a writer for speaking her mind-out regresses our democracy by more almost four decades to the days of Emergency. In fact, the essence of writing in a democracy is to offend. It must prick and, when needed, should draw blood too. Charges should be made against the writer when it is malicious and intended to harm someone; not for hurting commonsense of the masses and shaking them out of their slumber.

And if it wasn’t for the above, none of India’s progressive writers would have been free.

Roy explained her remarks in a leading newspaper:

“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.”

Discussions on television channels on the issue, at certain times, wandered into the suggestion that those who raise objections to her remarks put in black and white their opinion as to why it constitutes sedition. The idea was that this would bring about some clarity on what constitutes sedition. (And why not, may be a good point of starting Kashmir dialogue near in future.)

More than anything else, what spooks me is the fact that Roy, in defending her remarks, is playing with a fire that can consume the entire forest.

“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.” she said in the newspaper.

Strong and moving words indeed. Strong enough to pull people even from the North-East into the ‘Kashmiri cause’. She is high on “love and pride” but low on concrete facts. I am yet to understand how emotional-polemics, writing and activism are linked.