India

Sedition charge still hangs over Arundhati Roy's head

Loker

The hearing of Booker Prize-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy was deferred Thursday. Roy is facing trial for sedition for comments she made about Kashmir in a speech last month. She said that the disputed Muslim-majority region had "never been an integral part of India".

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Roy is a critic of India's tactics in Kashmir, where protests against New Delhi have claimed more than 100 lives since June.

“I said what millions of people here say every day,” Roy said in a statement when she heard she faced arrest. “I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years.”

On Sunday, an angry mob surrounded Roy’s house. “They broke through the gate and vandalized property,” she says. “They shouted slogans against me for my views on Kashmir, and threatened to teach me a lesson.”

They were reportedly members of the BJP (the Indian main opposition party) women's wing. Roy criticised several television companies, who already had crews in place to cover the event.

"What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle?" she asked.

If she is convicted of sedition, the minimum sentence is 10 years, though in wartime it is execution.

“The judge could be swayed by various editorials that appeared today in certain newspapers that say that she being an intellectual does not insulate her from the process of law,” says correspondent Vikram Roy in New Delhi.

Arundhati Roy attracted public attention for a 20-page article she wrote on the Maoist insurgency in Kashmir where she mocked the Indian state, but authorities at first avoided taking her on.

"That article has not gone down very well with the prime minister Manmohan Singh," says Vikram Roy. "He had commented in a public press conference that he didn't want to get into a verbal duel with her considering she knows English so well and is very articulate."

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