Arundhati’s Azadi from Sedition on Kashmir…

Eden Gardens, Kolkata has the most fanatic cricket fans of India. They cheer the loudest, they worship the players and they just love to scare the foreign teams with their numerical mass of 110 thousand lungs’ cumulative vocal capacity. On 25th Nov 2005 it was a different story. Sourav Ganguly, Kolkata’s biggest sporting icon for decades, was not picked for the Indian squad and Rahul Dravid led – Gregg Chappell coached India went down to the South Africans to a humiliating 10-wicket defeat!

What was extraordinary was the crowd reaction. The crowd cheered the fall of each Indian wicket. They danced and sang when Smith butchered the Indian bowling to notch up a violent century. To the naïve, who do not understand the dynamics of the times and are not aware of Kolkata’s relation with the game and Sourav, would hastily conclude that it was an unpatriotic gesture from Kolkata.

Question is, should we consider Eden Garden’s response on Nov 25th as unpatriotic, as un-Indian and most of all as seditious? Well, they openly cheered the South Africans above their own country. Isn’t that a case enough to book the Eden Garden’s capacity crowd for sedition? Since the capacity crowd cannot be booked, should we not book Sourav Ganguly for sedition, for inciting the mob to become seditious by playing pathetic cricket in 2005 and therefore not earning a call for Indian squad?

Obviously, the above argument is ridiculous but what I do not understand is how come we do not find it ridiculous that Arundhati Roy is being booked for sedition then? She is not the first person who has voiced her opinion for Kashmir’s Azadi. She is not the root cause why there is a cry for Azadi in Kashmir at the first place. She did not incite anyone to go and fight the Indian military for seeking Azadi. She just said what she believed – exercising her fundamental right of freedom of speech. Where the hell sedition comes into picture then?

Before I proceed any further, lets set the perimeters for this blog. This blog is not about if Kashmir should get the Azadi or not. This blog is not about is Kashmir an integral part of India or not. This blog is simply about should we support Indian state for booking Arundhati for sedition for speaking for Kashmir’s Azadi. I feel we are grossly misplaced by slapping a sedition charge on Arundhati Roy.

Arundhati Roy

Everyone has a right to their opinion and a right to express that opinion. The Indian constitution recognizes this as your fundamental right to free speech through article 19. Sedition is defined in the Section 124A of Indian Penal Code. Click the links to see the contents of these two immutable bases on which the rest of the blog hinges heavily.

Now, lets examine if Arundhati Roy’s speech at the LTG Auditorium in New Delhi on the Azadi Conference really amounted to sedition? Watch the video of Arundhati speaking in that conference.

When I hear this video log and then I look at sedition’s definition in IPC, I start to feel baffled. I hear Arundhati say “People have to look at more than direct confrontation techniques on the streets”, “There is more to resistance than throwing stones, these things cannot be allowed to happen”, “React politically, tactically, internationally”, “Justice for all”, “Justice is the keystone to integrity and integrity is the keystone to resistance”.  She is not a politician so I would like to believe she meant what she said.

These are not the words of an anti-national delinquent mob inciter either, who is out to spread hatred and animosity among people by urging them to take extreme measures of violence or any anti national activity. She is just echoing the dominant sentiment of the valley of Kashmir, which is clearly Azadi, but urges the movement to do a good introspection so that a just community can be synthesized out of this shipwreck of a situation. What is seditious in that?

Many of the folks have tried to dismiss her as an “attention seeker” and some even labeled her “vying for nobel peace prize” and all such preposterous comments. Arundhati Roy was recognized as one of the 30 most inspiring women worldwide by Forbes. Her erudition and her charismatic writing need no medallions from me. So, tagging a persona like her as an “attention seeker” is pretty juvenile.

Indian government has sent 3 interlocutors to the valley of Kashmir. These people are supposed to meet all voices of Kashmir- separatist, pro-Azadi folks, terrorists included. In other words, the state is in dialogue with the seditious thoughts anyway. One visit to Kasmir will tell anyone that Kashmir wants freedom-Azadi. It is a state with probably the world’s biggest military mobilization. The people strangled with security measures and lockdowns just want to break free. 2010’s summer struggle in Kashmir was different. It was a peaceful non-cooperation movement that shook the Indian government. Most importantly now you see the Kashmiri youth towing a different line. The difference in swing is so much evident that people like Mirwaiz are traveling all over the country trying to tell people what does Azadi mean. It’s a conscious approach to reach out and open roads for reconciliation. In this atmosphere Arundhati’s speech is nothing but another drop in the ocean, why pick on her selectively?

One problem is our own mindset. Someone told us that in India we would not tolerate any dialogue, however reasonable and peaceful, about Kashmir. It was a part of India, it is a part of India and it will be a part of India come what may. I find this a pretty lame argument. 30 years on this planet, I have seen borders redrawn with a mathematical certainty. Yugoslavia suffered a huge dismemberment, so did Checkoslovakia, Russia broke into god knows how many pieces, Germany became unified… Back home you got states like Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Chattisgarh…. There is no boundary for creating new boundaries. So Kashmir status is surely under the ambits of discussion.

Question is who will decide that? You and me are not important. It is the people of Kashmir who should be deciding. If the dominant sentiment of Kashmir is pro-Azadi, then it is worthwhile to talk about it. Arundhati Roy, did just that.

What I find funny is while in our country we have given free tickets to guys like Thackerays (and all the sons, nephews, grandsons etc), Togadias, Varun Gandhis, Modis etc to create excellent resumes of preaching violence, hatred, intolerance, hate-crimes, we turn on soft targets like Arundhati for speaking for a legitimate cause. Come on, Mumbai did not burn for 3 days after Arundhati was slapped with sedition- try it with Thackerays and see what happens.

Writers, artists and activists of international repute are the beacons of the pathways to a better tomorrow. Silencing them and gagging them with violence is bad and we can denounce the narrow mentality of the violence-mongers. But when the state assumes that duty with its stately repertoire dangling on your throats, it is terrifying- a sure shot sign of deep rots for an intolerant correction resistant monolithic tomorrow.

Lets end where we started. 5 years later the fateful seditious November evening, on Feb 18th 2010, the same Eden Garden roared like crazy when Harbhajan Singh took a late 5-wicket haul to seal the test match against the South Africans. It was the usual Eden Garden where the last few Proteas batsmen lost their nerves and got out to Harbhajan as much to the delirious cacophonic crowd. Just the patriotic sports-loving Kolkata you would expect.

I would like to end on this note for I believe that the higher courts will trash these insane charges and we will again celebrate the compassionate and rational views of the nation’s one of the most prolific daughters. It will be Arundhati’s Azadi from Sedition on Kashmir…..


Sedition Everywhere.....I could be tried for writing this blog, you for reading it.....

-Manasij Ganguli


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23 Responses to “Arundhati’s Azadi from Sedition on Kashmir…”

  1. Ratan Kumar Says:

    OK, government of India was earlier to ignore A Roy completely…….she is publicity seeker…..first take stance on Narmada, then on Naxals and now Kashmir.
    Her stance is not worth a Dekko and I would like the following response the best:

    The sedition thing is by the directive of Supreme Court, towing the line of our constitution.

    The larger issue is Kashmir indeed and I have no sympathy for people towing the Jehadi ideology…..remove the muslim angle and it is just like any other state in India. Why is it a similar sight from palestine (intifada) to Ural(Russian extremists) to Indonesia(all bombings in Bali, rest of the country by and large already having attained Muslim majority)

    • manasij Says:

      @Ratan: Thanks for your comments. This blog was not meant to decide wherther Kashmir should be given Azadi or not. That is a political problem and I hope w find a solution. Simplest would be to let the Kashmiri public decide that through a plebiscite.

      This blog was about my views on protecting the freedom of speech for individuals. Arundhati Roy has her rights for her views just as you and I have and she has the rights to express them just as you and I do. When the Indian state is in dialogue with all seditious elements of Kashmir, I see no point to single out Arundhati.
      That is the only point I had to make.

  2. Debamitro Chakraborti Says:

    Good post, echoing the thoughts of many people who have been silenced by mass media. I think a lot of people showering their hate on people in such circumstances should read the history of India’s freedom struggle. The very fact that British rule was bad for India and it needed to be overthrown took decades to enter into everyone’s head, and in those days I think people trying to talk about alternatives were attacked by the princes and the salaried classes just like they are today!

  3. Rahul Parmar Says:

    Great on language, Poor on content and research…

    Do not have patience and command on language to argue… so i will use facebook tool to react on article 😉

    Dislike, Dislike, Dislike….

    • manasij Says:

      I don’t think this blog required me to do a post doctoral level research on Kashmir. I have still given credible references in the blog (Arundhati’s speech’s video, indian constitutional definition of Freedom of Speech, IPC’s definition of sedition).
      All I was trying to arrive at was the fact that Arundhati Roy’s case is an elucidation of infringement on freedom of speech by the state. Whatever she said was not new and she is not the only one saying it. Why pick on her while we know there is a dominant sentiment which echoes it all the time in the valley?

  4. Ravishankar Says:

    Ms A Roy is a bitch who would go to any extent to gain free publicity . She is not a expert on external affairs and although we have freedom of speech it does not mean that we can utten anything we like . She should not be booked but rather should be hanged .
    And so should you for towing her line aspiring for cheaping publicity. Cheeap.. very Cheep ..

    • manasij Says:

      Apologies that the blog reached you through a medium that should not have been the medium at the first place. I use an alias for content distribution and I may have just missed it when I pushed it out (blame it on my jet lag and airport syndrome).
      The definitions of Freedom of Speech, Sedition and Arundhati’s speech are all covered in the blog. I suggest you see the definitions again and then hear Arundhati and then revisit the opinion.
      She is a public figure and she does not need to attract publicity at the cost of being incoherent. Whatever she has said is a known fact in the valley and the Indian government has sent interlocutors to talk to them- thereby taking cognizance of the sentiments. So, why pick on Arundhati?

  5. Abhishek Says:

    This is written this immediately after the controversy had risen up- only afterwards a PIL was filed which has prompted you to take up her cause.

    “…Ms Roy is an anti-establishment left wing extremist who dreams about a class less, stateless & border-less world. The reason she has conveniently escaped any kind of persecution is because she is a higher middle class, glamorous woman with …the right connections (Prannoy Roy is her cousin) (PS- Brinda Karat would be her sis-in-law, right? But you already know that, don’t you!).

    But still, in a democracy, every thought school serves a purpose- including hers. While they can never be followed on absolute terms, they may make the establishment into making appropriate concessions. E.g. while people cannot be stopped from being displaced for development’s sake (dams, mining et al), the govt can put into place better mechanism to compensate them and properly enforce environmental norms.

    Of course, the Indian state can be repressive and brutal (one mainstream movie that showcased this aspect was Rang De Basanti). Then again, quoting from the same movie, “No nation/state is perfect, it is up to the people like us to make it as perfect as possible”.

    Let’s get back to Cricket- the incidence you have mentioned was every bit as shameful as anything- it simply showed that for people there in Eden Garden, their Bengali identity superseded their Indian identity, stemming from their refusal to acknowledge the wretched form Sourav Ganguli has during those days. And right here, we enter into a new territory again. Would you care acknowledging the fact that if the language card is played wickedly- expertly enough by a charismatic-enough leader, EVERY non Hindi speaking state has the potential to secede. You’re coming to Karnataka, right? Do let me know if you notice the red-yellow flag fluttering around EVERY commercial building in Bangalore- including even MNCs like HP & Accenture! You should get an idea as to why nationalism is such an emotive issue in our country.

    Another casual observation- there are two groups of people I have seen who are the most chauvinistic- one are Bengalis and the other are, well, Muslims. The latter would like Muhammad Rafi JUST because he was a Muslim while the former may well root for Kishore Kumar because…well, I’m feeling ashamed in even mouthing these words. (PS- I’m not sure who a Bengali Muslim will favour!) But let’s just say that a Bengali also thinks that someone is better than others just because they are a Bengali.

    • manasij Says:

      You made a very vital point- that every school of thought has a place. So, as long as that school of thought is non-violent and echoes the sentiment of many, I see no reason to gag it.
      What may seem sedition in Delhi, might well be the dominant thought in Kohima. Same is the case here. On one hand the central government sends interlocutors to talk to all sections of Kashmir and therby acknowledges the fact that a large group of people are in favor to secede, why turn on Arundhati for saying the same thing?
      BTW, I am not sure you meant what you wrote in the last paragraph of your comments. Chauvinism is a proponent of all cultures and I am sure a broad generalization is not a very intelligent thing to do.
      BTW, I hated Eden Garden for its attitude that evening on Nov 25th 2005. But that shows that we have multi-dimensional identities and what may look sedition in Delhi was a pure show of public angst in Kolkata. That is freedom of speech.

      • Abhishek Says:

        By the same token, those who want her behind bars also have a right to express their opinions and take perfectly legal and valid actions like filing a PIL. You may note that the government has shown remarkable restraint and did not directly take any bait from Ms Roy who, in her own words, is a deliberate provocateur.

  6. Mukund Says:

    Manasij, that was either a remarkably under-researched article, or else it is just ill-thought out or of course, completely biased.

    I tend to think of this article as biased. Why, when you mention people inciting violence, is there no space for the Shahi Imam? Or for the assorted other fatwa-issuers?

    Now, coming to this case, Roy referred to India as “bhooke nange (hungry, naked) India” and has pretty clearly asked for secession. Under Indian law, it is an offence to “bring into hatred or contempt, or excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India.”

    How, then, is Roy not in violation of the law?

    Finally, on self-determination, a huge number of Bombayites have always wanted the city to be a separate state and would love for it to be a separate nation as well. All the money, hardly any of the issues. Does this mean the city should secede?

    Democracy is all well and good, but perspective should be maintained. Have you checked the views of all the Kashmiri Pandits who were slaughtered or chased out of J&K? Do they want “Azadi”? Sure, they do, but they don’t want it from India, but the separatists!

    Did you check how many people in Jammu (not Muslim-dominated) want “Azadi”?

    Don’t pontificate. Step out of the ivory tower. Reality bites…

    • manasij Says:

      Loved your comment. Yes Shahi Imam, Jamat-ud-dawa, indian mujahideen etc are surely seditious enough just as Thackerays, Indresh Kumar, Modi ilks are. But we did not move any sedition charges against them as they are pretty tough nuts. Arundhati is, on the other had, quite a soft target. No one did a violent protest on her getting booked!
      What Arundhati said is in the video, what sedition is, is in the blog (IPC’s definition). So I welcome you to revisit them and then rethink your footings. This blog was not about should Kashmir be given Azadi so I will not get into that.
      However, I can say that the best way to determine the best cause would be to do the plebiscite and see what the dominant voice is. Till that time all voices need to be heard and therefore silencing Arundhati is an attack on freedom of expression.

  7. Mukund Says:

    Oh and yes, please do tell me how in God’s name you had the brainwave of comparing a crowd’s hatred for a PERSON (Chappell) to a person’s urging secession. Oh and by the way, the Indian cricket team is NOT the country. It’s a bunch of pampered, overpaid professional superstars. The argument was indeed ridiculous as you pointed out.

    But, more importantly, your analogy was even more ridiculous.

    • manasij Says:

      It is an interesting analogy BTW.
      Is Kolkata as much patriotic as say Delhi? I think so.
      So it might seem seditious to Delhites that Kolkata favored SA that night than India. They were just showing their support for Sourav. I think it was a very shameful act and it is a bad thing. But the fact is, all expressions need not be seditious. They can just be a manifestation of your freedom of speech and thats all. This was a brilliant case in point for this.

  8. Vivek Bhat Says:

    I really read you blogs with much admiration… and your blogs are one of the things that enthuse me to cycle when ever I can. But when I got the mail to read article on Kashmir because I am one of the members of google cycle groups you post your mails to, I was disappointed and angry…

    If you would have been in Kashmir in 1989-90, You would not even have asked this questions. I heard sometime a Brit came to Kashmir before 1947 and said that he couldn’t distinguish between a Kashmiri Muslim and Kashmiri Pandit(Hindu). So what changed in 1989! Nothing, but the fact that we had got a lot of Arundhati’s yelling from the roof tops that Kashmir is Muslim and can only be lived in by the Muslims. If the Indian Govt, instead of ignoring those publicity seekers would have jailed them, we would not have been facing the problem of Kashmir today.

    And when you think about Kashmir… do not only think it is 100% Muslim fanatics hating India day in and day out. There are Five Lakh Kashmiri Hindus who were thrown out of Kashmir and many of whom still living in one room shanties since the last 20 years hoping India and Indians will stand for them. Every day there are reports of heads severed, nosed and ears cut off of Muslims living in different parts of J&K, Muslims killed by terrorists because these unfortunate people were not ready to go against India. But till now India has only stood for freedom of the likes of Arundhati, and not for Indians living in a hell created by those Arundhati’s. The very independence and free speech which allows these filthy creatures to spew their venom was not extended to Indians in Kashmir. You can not live a life of dignity and pride if you are a Hindu or consider yourself Indian first by Geelanis and Maliks… who find their support from people like Arundhati.

    Every time the like of Arundhati speaks, it is the a on the face of Indians in J&K… every time you support the free speech of the likes of Arundhati, it is a kick in the stomach of every uniformed men who died fighting these in-humans in Kashmir.

    Manasij, if you can not come out and support people dying for India in Kashmir… do not at least come out in support of free speech by those who are hell bent on taking away that very free speech in Kashmir.

    • manasij Says:

      this blog was not about shpuld Kashmir be given Azadi or not.
      It was about should we support Arundhati’s booking for sedition or not. Freedom of speech that is non violent and is not inciting law and order crisis- cannot be called sedition.
      BTW, the blog mail went to the cycling group by mistake (blame it on my timezone crisscrossing flights and airline meals and the fact that I hastily pushed the blog from the airport)

      • Vivek Bhat Says:


        My comment was not with regards to should Kashmir be given aazadi or not. My comment was with regards to freedom of speech you are talking about here. Just go and ask any Indian soldier guarding our borders in Drass.. ask this question to CRPF constable standing in the middle of Lal Chowk in Srinagar who does not know when a grenade will come and blow him up into pieces… just because he is guarding the free speech of Indians… just ask him how does he feel when the publicity seekers like Arundhati seek to disintegrate India.
        Just go into some refugee camps of Kashmiri Hindus in Nagrota, Muthi, Camp (J&K) or any Kashmiri Hindu refugee camp in Delhi and ask them how do they feel about when India let’s free speech of the likes of Geelanis, Maliks and Arundhatis prevail. Just go and meet these people who have left their homes, land and even clothes in the cold nights of 1989 so that the world should know that there are Kashmiris who are more proud of being Indians than being alive, and then let us know how they feel about the free speech that cries for tearing India apart.

    • Mike Says:

      Nice post, Vivek. My wife, a KP herself who left in 1989, would be pleased to read your post.

  9. Mukund Says:

    Manasij, I note that you have carefully avoided commenting at all on the point of those Kashmiris who were forcibly ejected from Kashmir by the terrorists. This point is mentioned on numerous posts and yet you take no note of it.

    It may be the Leftist way to favour terrorists and jihadists and brush away their sins, but if you claim to not be a Leftist and merely a rationalist (rationalism and Leftism rarely if ever go together) surely you should address this point as well!

    1. The cricket match was not a valid analogy as I mentioned. I am not bound to support a team playing for the BCCI.

    2. Plebiscite. I love this. So, howcome the terrorists didn’t want one before 1989? What changed then? Did it have anything to do with the forcibly changed demographics, I wonder?

    3. It’s easy to harp on about freedom of speech. I too often talk about freedom, but it’s important to realise that with freedom and rights, should also come responsibility. How can you say that there were no violent protests? Do you believe that the video of a supposed “Indian” bashing and hating on India had no effect on little Muslim boys and girls being showed hate propaganda in an effort to make them take to arms?

    It’s a powerful weapon – speech – and it’s effects in the digital age last far longer than the speech itself. A public figure must be cognizant of how his or her words may be used and should diligently maintain a sensible stand.

    Would you feel the same way if the bomber who just killed an infant in Benaras took the final step to hate by convincing himself that if even a so-called Indian like Arundhati Roy was convinced that India was wrong, then he was definitely in the right? Would that change your view?

    Or are you just too Leftist to admit that Arundhati was just plain wrong?

  10. ruhail Says:

    Read fundamental duties also and then write

  11. kajjinai Says:

    So you are basically saying that Suzane A Roy has the right to free speech, but the people who have lodged police complaints and court cases against her have no rights to do so?
    The govt is going after her as a result of specific complaints.

    You are right that she has the right to free speech. But whether it is sedition or not, let the courts decide. And if the courts decide that it is sedition, I am not sure why action should not be taken against her.

  12. suresh Says:

    I think going after her for sedition is a big mistake. In fact its the kinda attention she would die for. She is probably calling her left wing liberal freinds in America and Europe asking them to publish stories about her and her great moral magnificence.

    It also clearly demostrates the lack of creativitiy or political wisdom by filing for something as ridicuous as “sedition”. For heavens sake the word itself conjures up images of mangal pandey and jhansi ki rani from the 19th century. She would milk this situation for her benefit more than anything else. As an Indian I believe everybody has the right to say whatever they want. By nature she is a downer and a She is a disloyal miscreant, a renedate and a downer who can never be happy no matter whichever nation she belongs to. She needs therapy not a court case to so she can self glorify her importance.

    She is drawn to anti-establishment scenarios because of perhaps some scorn she and her mom suffered fighting the system. Watch her talk she rambles a lot and spews random negative facts one after the other stitching them together with her pre-prepared kitty of convent school words she memorizes everyday from roget’s thesaurus.

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