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Editorial

Prosecuting Arundhati Roy

While addressing the G-7 gathering in Italy Modi pitched India as Global South’s voice, ‘bringing its priorities and concerns to the world’. The reality is completely otherwise. He has earned enormous notoriety in silencing democratic voice in his own country. He is a classic example of how an autocrat can present himself as a democrat. He sees his victory as the victory of the entire democratic world. Maybe, it is the joke of the year! As he was selling Indian brand of democracy abroad Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena sanctioned the prosecution of author-activist Arundhati Roy and Dr Sheikh ShowkatHussain, former professor at the Central University under section 45(1) of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in connection with a 2010 FIR over ‘provocative speeches in public’ at a New Delhi auditorium. But the very invocation of UAPA after 14 years is technically problematic as experts say in this case UAPA bypasses statute of limitations and ‘top court stay on sedition law’. For one thing in 2010 P Chidambaram of Congress was Union Home minister. And Rahul Gandhi’s Congress Party that is now spearheading anti-Modi crusade through their ‘INDIA’ bloc is silent about the Delhi Governor’s action against Roy and Hussain.

For one thing Roy has been a vocal critic of Modi’s authoritarianism for long while Mr Saxena is allegedly close to Modi’sBharatiyaJanata Party (BJP). This is horrifying and a clear case of political persecution by the Government at the centre. Seven Stories Press, which publishes Roy’s work, wrote on social media in response to the news:’This kind of fascism is what Indians have voted against’. The UAPA allows the authorities to detain suspects for up to 180 days without any charges. It was made more draconian in 2019 by the Modi administration so that individuals could be classified as terrorists without necessarily being linked to a designated terror group. A total of 1,948 were arrested in 2019 after the change came into force, marking an uptick of almost 37 percent from the previous year. This is what they call the biggest showpiece of democracy. In truth India is the biggest prison house in the world--almost all jails and sub-jails are overcrowded with Undertrials.” If by prosecuting Arundhati Roy under UAPA the BJP are trying to prove they’re back, well, they’re not. And they’ll never be back the same way they were,” said MohuaMoitra, member of parliament from opposition Trinamool Congress. Then CPI-M said the move was ‘condemnable’ and that prosecuting Roy for a speech made 14 years ago ‘defies logic except the fascist kind’. CPI leader D Raja said that the “timing is highly questionable” as courts were on vacation, as were lawyers.” Kashmir-based parties–National Conference and People’s Democratic Party also protested against applying UAPA to imprison Arundhati Roy.

Several authors and activists with international repute condemned the Delhi Governor’s action and expressed solidarity with the 62-year-old Roy, who won the Booker Prize in 1977 for her novel The God of Small Things.

Noted author Amitav Ghosh said: “The hounding of Arundhati Roy is absolutely unconscionable. She is a great writer and has a right to her opinion.” There should be international outcry about this fascistic action of the Indian Government. The saffron brigade has been out to get her since the days she spoke about the Modi government’s complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Rumour was there for quite some time that Arundhati Roy

might be Modi’s next political prisoner. It became true after his oath taking as prime minister for the third time.

Despite the set-back in the 2024 general elections Modi is unlikely to change his authoritarian style of governance because his coalition partners are too opportunist to oppose Modi’s onslaught to curtail whatever remains of democratic space and silence voice of dissent.

17-06-2024

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Vol 57, No. 1, Jun 30 - Jul 6, 2024