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Fight the Corporates: Defend Arundhati Roy!


"When George Bush says "you’re either with us, or you are with the terrorists" we can say "No thank you." We can let him know that the people of the world do not need to choose between a Malevolent Mickey Mouse and the Mad Mullahs. Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness — and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe. The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling — their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them. Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, if you very listen carefully, you can hear her breathing."

– Arundhati Roy, "Confronting Empire", Speech at the World Social Forum, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 27 January 2003

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Who is Arundhati Roy?

Arundhati Roy is an extremely talented Indian novelist, essayist, and social justice activist. She has received numerous awards, including the Booker Prize, for her works such as the God of Small Things, as well as for her social justice advocacy. Her most recent work, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshopers, is available from U.S. socialist publisher Haymarket Books.

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What is Arundhati accused of?

Arundhati Roy is being charged under an anti-democratic 1948 Indian law known as the Sedition Act (Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code). The code reads:

“Sedition. Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine”. Explanation 3 reads: “Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section”.

So what precisely is she accused of doing? Basically, she is accused of "anti-India speech". In particular, she is accused of saying that Kashmir is "not an integral part of India". Kashmir is an autonomous region in the northwest Indian subcontinent, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan (with parts also claimed by China). As a result, the region is one of the most heavily armed areas in the world.

You can watch videos from the speech in question here:

 

On the 27th of November 2010, Arundhati Roy responded to these ridiculous and anti-democratic allegations of "seditious" activity by the Indian Government. Her response was posted on the website of U.S. publisher Haymarket Books:

My reaction to today's court order directing the Delhi Police to file an FIR against me for waging war against the state: Perhaps they should posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru too:

Here's what he said about Kashmir

Indian Pledges

1. In his telegram to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, "I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the state to accede to India. Our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people and we adhere to this view". (Telegram 402 Primin-2227 dated 27 October 1947 to PM of Pakistan repeating telegram addressed to PM of UK).

2. In other telegram to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, "Kashmir's accession to India was accepted by us at the request of the Maharaja's government and the most numerously representative popular organization in the state which is predominantly Muslim. Even then it was accepted on condition that as soon as law and order had been restored, the people of Kashmir would decide the question of accession. It is open to them to accede to either Dominion then". (Telegram No. 255, dated 31 October 1947).

3. In his broadcast to the nation over All India Radio on 2 November 1947, Pandit Nehru said, "We are anxious not to finalise anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It is for them ultimately to decide —— And let me make it clear that it has been our policy that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion, the accession must be made by the people of that state. It is in accordance with this policy that we have added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir".

4. In another broadcast to the nation on 3 November 1947, Pandit Nehru said, "We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir and to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it".

5. In his letter No. 368 Primin dated 21 November 1947 addressed to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, "I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by Plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of United Nations".

6. In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 25 November 1947, Pandit Nehru said, "In order to establish our bonafide, we have suggested that when the people are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations Organisation. The issue in Kashmir is whether violence and naked force should decide the future or the will of the people".

7. In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 5 March 1948, Pandit Nehru said, "Even at the moment of accession, we went out of our way to make a unilateral declaration that we would abide by the will of the people of Kashmir as declared in a plebiscite or referendum. We insisted further that the Government of Kashmir must immediately become a popular government. We have adhered to that position throughout and we are prepared to have a Plebiscite with every protection of fair voting and to abide by the decision of the people of Kashmir".

8. In his press-conference in London on 16 January 1951, as reported by the daily "Statesman" on 18 January 1951, Pandit Nehru stated, "India has repeatedly offered to work with the United Nations reasonable safeguards to enable the people of Kashmir to express their will and is always ready to do so. We have always right from the beginning accepted the idea of the Kashmir people deciding their fate by referendum or plebiscite. In fact, this was our proposal long before the United Nations came into the picture. Ultimately the final decision of the settlement, which must come, has first of all to be made basically by the people of Kashmir and secondly, as between Pakistan and India directly. Of course it must be remembered that we (India and Pakistan) have reached a great deal of agreement already. What I mean is that many basic features have been thrashed out. We all agreed that it is the people of Kashmir who must decide for themselves about their future externally or internally. It is an obvious fact that even without our agreement no country is going to hold on to Kashmir against the will of the Kashmiris".

9. In his report to All Indian Congress Committee on 6 July 1951 as published in the Statesman, New Delhi on 9 July 1951, Pandit Nehru said, "Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon as a prize for India or Pakistan. People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future. It is here today that a struggle is bearing fruit, not in the battlefield but in the minds of men".

10. In a letter dated 11 September 1951, to the U.N. representative, Pandit Nehru wrote, "The Government of India not only reaffirms its acceptance of the principle that the question of the continuing accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations but is anxious that the conditions necessary for such a plebiscite should be created as quickly as possible".

11. As reported by Amrita Bazar Patrika Calcutta, on 2 January 1952, while replying to Dr. Mookerji's question in the Indian Legislature as to what the Congress Government going to do about one third of territory still held by Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, " is not the property of either India or Pakistan. It belongs to the Kashmiri people. When Kashmir acceded to India, we made it clear to the leaders of the Kashmiri people that we would ultimately abide by the verdict of their Plebiscite. If they tell us to walk out, I would have no hesitation in quitting. We have taken the issue to United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision".

12. In his statement in the Indian Parliament on 7 August 1952, Pandit Nehru said, "Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds. Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir, it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. Though these five years have meant a lot of trouble and expense and in spite of all we have done, we would willingly leave if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go. However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet".

13. In his statement in the Lok Sabha on 31 March 1955, as published in Hindustan Times New Delhi on 1 April 1955, Pandit Nehru said, " Kashmir is perhaps the most difficult of all these problems between India and Pakistan. We should also remember that Kashmir is not a thing to be bandied between India and Pakistan but it has a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Nothing can be done without the goodwill and consent of the people of Kashmir".

14. In his statement in the Security Council while taking part in debate on Kashmir in the 765th meeting of the Security Council on 24 January 1957, the Indian representative Mr. Krishna Menon said, "So far as we are concerned, there is not one word in the statements that I have made in this council which can be interpreted to mean that we will not honour international obligations. I want to say for the purpose of the record that there is nothing that has been said on behalf of the Government of India which in the slightest degree indicates that the Government of India or the Union of India will dishonour any international obligations it has undertaken". – Arundhati Roy, 27 November 2010

 

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Why is Arundhati under attack?

All capitalist governments are terrified of resistance and the "threat of the good example", especially from inspiring writers like Arundhati Roy. Nation-states control territories that are inhabited by people of multiple religions, ethnicities, cultures, and communities, and the process of "integrating" and "assimilating" different groups into a "unified national state" is never a pretty one. Instead of intercommunalist and pluriculturalist relations, capitalist governments exploit cultural differences in order to divide populations and keep them from rising up against the ruling classes which dominate entire populations through control of wealth and resources.

Arundhati Roy is being attacked precisely because she is a long-time advocate of nonviolent social movements aimed at taking power back from the corporates, and because she does not moralise against the various forms of resistance taking place across the Indian subcontinent, from nonviolent social movements to the armed movements such as the Naxalites (see Arundhati Roy's brilliant "Walking with the Comrades", PDF file pamphlet formatted by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization / Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad (FRSO/OSCL).). In short, Arundhati Roy is a hero of the people and an enemy of the corporates and the state.

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Articles & Updates on Arundhati's Case, Including Context about Kashmir (note: not all of these are from progressive/independent media sources)

(Al Jazeera English's show Fault Lines with Arundhati Roy, 5 May 2010)

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Find Your Local Indian Government Embassy or Consulate, and Take Action! (Consider organising a demonstration or action. If you will be writing to the Indian Government, consider writing to all these diplomats!):

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Some Works by Arundhati Roy:

The God of Small Things.

Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to GrasshopersNEW!, published by Haymarket Books.

"Come September" (video).

"Confronting Empire" (video), or PDF file.

"Walking with the Comrades" (PDF file pamphlet formatted by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization / Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad (FRSO/OSCL)).

 

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