By S. Arshad, NewAgeIslam.com
October 25, 2010
Should Arundhati Roy be booked under the UAPA for supporting Kashmiri separatists and endorsing their war for ‘Azadi’ from India? The debate is raging in the political circles of India following her statements allegedly inciting people to fight for a separate Kashmir in the Kashmir conference in Delhi on Oct 21, 2010.
The conference on the Kashmir issue titled 'Azadi: the only way' on October 21 in New Delhi has posed some serious questions before the country. The conference had no hidden agenda. The title of the conference was 'Azadi; the only way' and was organised by the Committee for the release of Political Prisoners. The conference was supported and attended by Naxal organisations and some rights activists and journalists. The prominent figures among the participants and speakers were: Chairman, Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani, writer and activist, Arundhati Roy, Prof. S A R Geelani (Professor , DU and working President of CRPP), Dr Aparna, CPI-ML- New Democracy, Revolutionary poet Varvara Rao and Sujata Bhadra among others.
According to reports, Syed Ali Shah Geelani openly spoke against India and gave a call for secession, demanding Azadi from India while Arundhati Roy reportedly endorsed the demand for Azadi for Kashmir. At the same time she advised the Kashmiris not to be selective about justice and think about the travails of the Kashmiri pundits. According to a report she even gave an open call to the Kashmiris to secede from 'bhookey nange Hindustan' and exhorted the students of Aligarh Muslim University, JNU and Delhi University to 'fight for the cause of a separate Kashmir'.
Najeeb Mubaraki, the Assistant Editor of the Economic Times termed the situation in the Kashmir as a moral victory for the Kashmiri youth and lambasted the media for delegitimizing the struggle for Kashmir and blaming Pakistan for fomenting trouble in Kashmir.
"The Kashmiris have achieved a moral victory due to the ongoing movement...After 9/11, there has been a tendency to link everything in Islamic context. Indian media sometimes states that there are militants among the protesters and blame Pakistan for fomenting trouble in the Valley. This is done to delegitimize the struggle of Kashmiris,"” he said.
The statements made by the Naxal leaders, writer Arundhati Roy and other human rights activists have created uproar in the political circles and has kicked off a debate on whether the statements come under sedition and the participants should be booked under the law for giving a call for revolting against the country.
The BJP was quick to react. Its senior leader Arun Jaitley launched a scathing attack on the government alleging it of allowing the secessionists to hold the conference in Delhi and speak against India openly. According to the party, the act was high treason and should be dealt with an iron hand. The English daily Pioneer published from Delhi demanded that Arundhati Roy should be prosecuted under the UAPA for inciting the students of Universities and Kashmiris to revolt against India.
""Why Arundhati Roy has not yet been charged with anti-national activities and prosecuted under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act). The same law has been used for arresting and prosecuting individuals who are guilty of far less? Are we then to presume that she enjoys immunity for the law?, asks the editorial in the Daily Pioneer.
Arnab Goswami, the news anchor of the programme News Hour on Times Now, even wondered why the participants were not immediately imprisoned under Section 124 of IPC because, according to him, ‘no State permitted the advocacy of secession and self determination’.
But the former Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah had a different opinion. He said that if the Kashmiris were demanding greater autonomy or 'greater azadi' within the framework of the constitution, we should not be afraid of the term 'azadi'. However, if they demand separation from India, we should engage in a debate with them rather than putting them behind bars. He said that taking draconian action against Geelani or Arundhati Roy would further aggravate the situation rather than solving the issue.
Civil liberties advocate Prashant Bhushan had similar views, ""There is no question of Roy and Gilani being liable to criminal proceedings for their speeches as a constitution bench of the Supreme Court clarified in 1962 in Kedar Nath vs State of Punjab that nothing would be sedition unless there was a call for armed revolt or for use of violence," he said.
Shuddhabrata Sengupta, artist and writer, who was one of the speakers in the conference is of the view that the holding of the conference or the statements made in it did not tantamount to sedition or treason in international law.
"Under the US Law it is perfectly legal to advocate self-determination and secession, if done peacefully, even to the extent of burning or destroying or desecrating symbols of state authority like the national flag. Furthermore, several constitutions, such as the constitutions of Canada, Ethiopia, Austria and France, implicitly or explicitly, provide for a legal expression of right to self determination, provided it is exercised in a peaceful and democratic manner, as part of the freedom of expression principle." he said.
However, the Home Minister has said that the entire programme had been videotaped and if it was found prima facie that the laws had been violated, appropriate action would be taken.
Irrespective of whether they are booked for treason or sedition or not at the moment, the Kashmiri separatists achieved one thing. They succeeded in taking their ‘war for azadi’ out of Kashmir and roping in the support of other disgruntled sections like the Naxals and of course, of beti Arundhati as called fondly by the ‘Qaide Inquilab’ Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
How this ‘unholy’ alliance is going to benefit the Kashmiri separatists and the Naxals is anybody’s guess .Political analysts are baffled by the bizarre bonhomie between the two movements that do not recognise the state of India. While the Naxals believe in bringing about a violent coup to establish the rule of the proletariat based on Marxist-Leninist ideology that believes that religion is the opium of the masses, the Kashmiri separatists want to get independence from India to establish nizam-e-Mustafa (Islamic system) in Kashmir.
Another disturbing report says that the ISI has advised some Kashmiri separatist leaders to make inroads into Naxal ranks. Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s conference in Delhi clearly seems to be a concerted effort by Geelani along the ISI directives. And he seems to have achieved some success in it. If this is true then the government should take this development very seriously and nip this unholy alliance in the bud.
With all its might the ISI could not achieve much success by pushing terrorists into India and organising attacks in the country. It, has therefore, changed its strategy and has planned to get the services of Naxals who have a powerful presence in about 150 districts of the country. By doing a conference with the Naxals, Geelani has given the indication that he can go to any extent to achieve his goal. So far as Geelani’s promise that his Nizam-e-Mustafa will treat the minorities equally and will give them all the rights they are entitled to, one should be reminded that Jinnah had also promised Hindus that Pakistan would be a secular state. But what actually happened later is there for everyone to see. Even if Kashmir wins freedom, and minorities were to take his promise seriously, Syed Geelani who has seen more than 80 springs of his life is not going to live forever. After him, surely, Kashmir too will go the Pakistan way.
In the light of the reports that are coming in, the likes of Arundhati should take a second look at their stance and take some lessons from history.
Copyright 2010: New Age Islam Foundation