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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Deny Arundhati claim to fame

By Swapan Dasgupta

If the aim of those who organised the convention of secessionists in Delhi on October 21 was to court both notoriety and publicity, they can look back with satisfaction on a very successful venture. Middle India may have been absolutely appalled and horrified at the spectacle of pro-Pakistan Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani preaching his divisive message in the heart of the Capital, flanked by the intellectual cheer-leader of the anything-to-offend brigade, Arundhati Roy. However, the organisers weren't interested in winning over Indian opinion. Their objective was propagandist.

First, the convention on azadi organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners—which seems a Maoist front—was meant to signal a grand unity of those seeking the vivisection of the Indian Union. They included the Kasmiri secessionists, the rump of the Khalistani movement, the separatists from the North-eastern states and, of course, the Maoists who are trying to create the conditions which will allow the secessionists to succeed. The event was a gathering of political rogues and was meant to be that way.

Secondly, it came as no surprise to the organisers that a convention of this nature organised in Delhi attracted vocal opposition. I can fully sympathise with those Kashmiri Hindus who were agitated by the presence of someone who created the conditions for the horrible ethnic cleansing of Hindus from the Kashmir Valley in 1990. However, it is also a fact that the organisers were banking on spirited protests against Geelani to elevate a vicious message into a debate over free speech and democracy. The ease with which some TV channels fell into the trap was indicative of the larger gullibility of India's liberal establishment.

In a lucid intervention on the subject, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley has argued that the freedom of speech is not absolute but also governed by other laws. The Indian Penal Code, for example, does not extend the principle of free speech to utterances calculated to provoke enmity between castes and religion and undermine the integrity of the state. In the past, the latter offence used to be called sedition but in the contemporary world that usage is rare but in essence the secessionists and their supporters seem to be guilty of that horrible offence—if prosecuted and convicted by a court of law.

Following Jaitley's intervention, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that the authorities are examining the speeches to see they violated the law. In principle this is right. If Varun Gandhi can first be jailed and prosecuted for his alleged hate speech during the 2009 election campaign, there are grounds to press for charges against Geelani and Arundhati Roy. According to the report in Pioneer, the Booker Prize winner told the gathering: "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." It is a different matter that the "conversation" consisted mainly of treacherous elements shouting slogans, including "Azadi ka matlab kya? Lal ilaha il illah".

Actually, the speech of Arundhati Roy was more incendiary than Geelani who repeated the hoary line about "self-determination" and tripartite talks to hammer out a solution. In fact, Geelani stressed he wasn't against India but wanted a "free" Kashmir where—and he was at pains to spell this out— Islamic strictures against consuming alcohol would not apply to the minorities.

Whether the policemen who examine the transcripts of the convention will also feel that Arundhati crossed the Lakshman rekha between the acceptable and unacceptable is unknown. The irony is that a publicity-conscious pamphleteer would love to be prosecuted for sedition and, preferably, even arrested. The spectacle of a small, innocent-looking, soft-spoken woman who is a celebrity in the Noam Chomsky-loving classes in the West being led away by burly, pot-bellied policemen will make for wonderful TV and is calculated to whet the appetites of all who believe that India's democracy is counterfeit. It will have a global impact and may even bring forth a petition calling for her release signed by the who's who of the Manhattan establishment. Maybe President Obama will also chip in.

An Arundhati Roy charged with sedition for daring to question India's 'occupation' of Kashmir will be the best thing to have happened to a movement that never quite succeeded in putting the stone throwers on par with the Palestinian intifada. The attempts to transform the disturbances in Kashmir into an international human rights issue has failed mainly because India has too many better things to offer. The last thing we now need is to make Arundhati Roy into India's Liu Xiaobo and Geelani into the Taliban-loving Amnesty International's "prisoner of conscience."

Jaitley is right about the law and the Constitution but he is wrong about the political wisdom of prosecuting secessionists for non-violent offences. Geelani routinely makes speeches in Srinagar that are far more provocative than the one he made last Thursday in Delhi. The fact that he made it in Delhi doesn't worsen the offence. Both Srinagar and Delhi are, after all, in India.

Secessionism has to be countered both militarily and through arguments. An argumentative environment is India's best advertisement against intolerant Maoism and Islamism.

Sunday Pioneer, October 24, 2010





satyam said...

right said.....
sir i have never read a more INTELLECTUALLY bankrupt book than roy's collection of essays where umpteen number of times she quoted chomsky.... i went to the library the next day and read chomsky's own work... atleast he did make some sense:)

Pijush said...

The state should never arrest her, as she will wear this as a badge of honor, and God forbid, may even cure her of her writer's menopause! What is needed is a citizen's arrest. I would recommend readers who might encounter her spewing her garbage in some public forum to be aware of their rights according to IPC.

"According to article 43, of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 "Any private person may arrest or cause to be arrested any person who in his presence commits a non-bailable and cognizable offence, or any proclaimed offender, and, without unnecessary delay, shall make over or cause to be made over any person so arrested to a police officer, or, in the absence of a police officer, take such person or cause him to be taken in custody to the nearest police station."

So who's going to hold the microphone and proclaim her arrest? Even if she does not comply, the point will be made. Mockery and levity is the perfect antidote for clowns like her. She is not worth being discussed by respected columnists, let alone our parliamentarians.

Govind Raj said...

Arundhati Roy is a pest. I was relieved when she seceded from India some time back. How come she is back ?

In the '3 Idiots' mood, all we can say is... "Ignore kar" !

No Mist said...

there is a saying in hindi --

haathi chale bazaar, kutta bhooke hazar.

she is not fit for being dignified by giving space in blogs and newspapers ... why do you sully yourself by talking about her ?

rishigajria said...

Wouldnt arresting Arundhati Roy serve her purposes. Not like she is going to be put away for a while. It will be like her last jail sentence. 24 hours in prison and a lot of publicity in the west.

bookz said...

You ruined a perfectly good article by suggesting that the enforcement of Indian rule of law is subject to geopolitical calculations.

International support for A. Roy is far less than you imagine. Here is an choice quote from The New Republic.

"She has chosen to trade in the wildest forms of anti-Americanism and the crudest critiques of capitalism. Her activism has led her into a kind of mental atrophy."


"But this book(God of Small Things) is not a plea for a more humane capitalism (something we urgently need). Instead, it is an attack on many of the good and democratic aspects of modern Indian life. Even worse, it is an assault on democracy itself. Roy’s status as a famous woman of the far left has obscured the fact that she is an outright reactionary."

Meghana said...

On the other hand, the pamphleteer got well exposed in the eyes of the gullible, English-media reading, Indian middle classes.

Deepak said...

Sir.. This lady and the people around the so called movements she supports use her "Pseudo" celebrity status.. She clearly is being projected much bigger than she actually is. She does not deserve the publicity she is getting, which is allowing her to paint a "gory" picture of India.. Once people stop noticing her, she would fade out of the scene and the people she supports would show her, her true worth.. I totally agree with you on denying her the claim to fame..

Puzzled said...

Dear Mr. Swapan Dasgupta,
I have been an avid reader of all your articles.
I have a special request for you. There is a huge young literate population in India who appear indifferent to Kashmir problem. Basic reson - they read only some fragments. It would be excellent if you could write an article, with these readers in mind, giving the full gen on Kashmir problem. It should cover the genesis, developments and present status. This would serve as a backgrounder and make them take an interest.
Puzzled Critic

Rajeev Dubey said...

Well, Arundhati gets the 'name' in any case when Arun Jaitely needs to remind the home minister that he had a duty to protect law and order in India.

So the argument does not stand scrutiny, it is at best ducking the bouncer in the hope that it will not repeat. But repeat it will...!

If you do not capture an abuser it is understood. However, here was a person accompanying the political leadership of the separatists with deep undercurrents of motive and strategy to propagate a point of view. And we just feel happy - "Ah!...for now we can ignore her and hope she would forget and forgive us."

It is better to take reasonable action against her rather than let her be scot free.

Anonymous said...

Real problem is not Arundhati Roy and her pathetic views. Real issue is the left-bias of our media. I have seen an entire issue of Outlook devoted to her essay. This is beyond comprehension as 1)She is not writing in the area she has earned her fame: fiction writing; 2)Her writings on any topic are rarely balanced, analytical or nuanced. Basically one gets a hysterical and shrill outpouring of emotions. All of us should commit never to purchase Outlook and advise our friends for it too. If free speech is her fundamental right, freedom from pollution is ours.

Nirguna said...

"However, it is also a fact that the organisers were banking on spirited protests against Geelani to elevate a vicious message into a debate over free speech and democracy. The ease with which some TV channels fell into the trap was indicative of the larger gullibility of India's liberal establishment."

Dear Mr. Dasgupta,
Hats off to you. Never once in your article you have tread beyond the issue and your opinion about it, which can be summarized in a nutshell in the two sentences from your article that I have quoted above.
Your article vindicates me of the feeling of pity for those, who resort to taking personal jibes and potshots at her at every other opportunity (like a few readers in this forum and Ram Guha to cite an illustrious example). I find that in extremely poor taste. It’s not fair to extrapolate your disagreement to the guarded realm of personal attacks.
People reacting at her with great spite (mostly without even caring to read or listen to what she has actually said and in what context, Arnab Goswami-one good example), is becoming boring day after day.

I admire Ms Roy because there is less pretension and more consistency in what she writes and has been writing about. Her politics is clear. And most times even her most extreme rhetorics are deeply rooted in facts. And that she talks for a bunch of people about whom most mainstream celebrities/journalist donot talk about, is another thing that I admire. Her only fault is that she uses the language of the scum bags of our society, to undermine them. That media choses to carry her front page ( I was surprised to see a Hindu front page top story on her over the sedition charges) is not her fault. As you rightly said in your article, we are the ones who steer her into the throes of public domain, mostly through mindless personal attacks at her. We are the ones who deserve the blame, not her.

Indian Home Maker said...

I agree.
"The irony is that a publicity-conscious pamphleteer would love to be prosecuted for sedition and, preferably, even is also a fact that the organisers were banking on spirited protests against Geelani to elevate a vicious message into a debate over free speech and democracy."