Press Statement on the FIR against SAS Geelani, Arundhati Roy and Others
The Campaign Against War on People (CAWP) strongly condemns the registering of a FIR by the Delhi Police on 29 November 2010, under orders from a Metropolitan Magistrate, charging writer Arundhati Roy, Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, poet Varavara Rao, Delhi University professor SAR Geelani and others with sedition and with delivering “anti-India” speeches.
The speeches in question were delivered at a convention on the Kashmir issue, where, expectedly and inevitably, the possibility and ramifications of ‘Azadi’ or freedom, were repeatedly raised and addressed. It is ridiculous to propose that the Kashmir issue must or even can be discussed without engaging with this very serious question. Yet, by attempting to label such discussion ‘seditious’, ‘anti-national’ and ‘inflammatory’, the Indian state, through its arms of the judiciary and the police, is proposing to take precisely this ridiculous stand. It is seeking to enforce silence on the question of ‘Azadi’ through such drastic measures, as if by doing so it can erase the possibility of ‘Azadi’. This version of the ostrich syndrome is both dangerous and ill-conceived.
It is deeply disturbing that, from a convention reportedly attended by hundreds of people, who all participated actively in the discussion on ‘Azadi’, a few individuals have been selectively targeted for penalisation. The cry for ‘Azadi’ is being raised by lakhs of people across the Kashmir valley: does this mean that the government proposes to charge them all with sedition, as a means to arrive at a resolution? Or are these individuals being chosen for punishment because they are also well-known critics of various other questionable policies and actions by the Indian state?
This step is yet another in a series of attempts at various levels to quell the voices of dissent and difference that are inevitable in any heterogeneously constituted society such as ours. The presence and audibility of such voices is fundamental to any true democratic polity. The fact that the case has also been registered under, among others, Section 13 of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is particularly troubling, and is an indication of the increasing intolerance of the state towards criticism. The sedition laws are an antiquated legacy of the British Raj, and ironically, were repealed decades ago in their country of origin. They are completely out of synch with the realities of today’s India, and evidently remain in place only as a tool to repress any questioning of the government.
We therefore demand the immediate quashing of the FIR against the said individuals, and call for the repeal of Section 124, dealing with sedition.
Campaign Against War on People