Anshul Chaturvedi in the TOI blogs:
Arundhati seeks justice, too, “for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore.” This is slick if you are writing a column for a foreign audience, the way Aussie ‘experts’ wrote on the caste composition of the Indian cricket team during the Bhajji-Symonds spat, but, hello, “Dalit soldiers” killed in Kashmir die in situations different from upper caste soldiers or Sikh soldiers or Muslim soldiers – or local, Kashmiri Muslim policemen? Don’t insult our intelligence, and the Army’s basic DNA, with this line of argument. You wish to be the defender of the rights of those oppressed in Kashmir, of the Pandits, and of the “Dalit soldiers” from among the troops who die there day in and day out? Sorry, this is just not real, it’s just not genuine, even if it is possibly good homework for global awards coming your way as defender of the rights of all oppressed sections in this part of the world.
Pagal Patrakar writes in his open letter to Arundhati Roy, on the same subject of Dalit soldiers:
(What the fuck is a “Dalit soldier” with a “grave”? I thought Dalits existed only within Hinduism and Sikhism, where there are no graves. Oh okay, next you are writing a 300,000 essay on why Dalits are neither Hindu/Sikh/Christian/Muslim nor Indian, and why the need justice and liberty from the tyrannous Brahminical Indian state?)
Vara Vara Rao who has himself faced several cases of sedition and conspiracy and been acquitted in most of them, and who himself was present at the controversial Seminar where Arundhati allegedly made her 'seditious' remarks, in the New Indian Express:
While endorsing the right to self-determination, Roy also emphasised that freedom alone does not give everything: she wanted to know what kind of justice would be done to the people of Kashmir if and when they are given the freedom to rule themselves. She also referred to slogans she had heard during a visit to Kashmir: “Bhookha nanga Hindustan, nahi rahenge is desh mein” and took serious objection to such an attitude. Roy pointed out that support for the struggle of Kashmiris was coming exactly from the same classes – the poor and the oppressed in other parts of the country apart from a miniscule section of intellectuals. It is the Indian establishment which is opposed to their fight.
Venkatesan Vembu in the DNA:
But whereas the soundbite-savvy Roy’s polemics were once merely infuriatingly dishonest (even when they had half a point), her most recent public articulations on Kashmir, coming on top of her unvarnished defence of Maoist resort to violence, cross the threshold of what any self-respecting, law-bound nation-state can tolerate. Roy may have declared herself an ‘independent mobile republic’, as she did after the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests in order to dissociate herself from the BJP’s nuclear jingoism; but she’s still bound by the sedition laws of the decidedly immobile republic she inhabits.
Apart from being historically inaccurate, Roy’s words also betray an inadequate sensitivity to the enormous gravity of any loose talk of azaadi or self-determination at a time when the separatist campaign in Kashmir finally stands exposed before the world as having been propelled all along by Pakistan-backed jihadis who are playing for much larger stakes: the disintegration of secular India.
Mint, rightly, separates the personality from the issue and makes a case for freespeech in its editorial:
Booking her for sedition will only give her oxygen that such persons badly seek. Geelani, in any case, only repeated what he has been saying for the past many decades.
If anything, those who want to throw the book at Roy and Geelani should read Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s brilliant, if misguided, book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media They argued that unimpeded freedom of the press, a derivative of the freedom of speech, only bolsters the legitimacy of governments in industrial democracies. India is no exception to this. Why should the government of India throw that away for the sake of a few maladjusted individuals. If anything, the government can proudly proclaim that even terrorist sympathizers have a voice in India.
Mail Today editorial has the same common-sensical approach, that it is about the freedom of speech:
As for the writer Ms Roy, she is a public intellectual and has a right to voice her views even if they may appear anti- India in nature. The right of free speech and expression lies at the core of our democracy, and any abrogation of it, diminishes freedom in the country. That is why censorship is the most important weapon in the arsenal of autocrats.
After all, it is not as if Ms Roy has taken up the gun with Naxals or J& K insurgents to overthrow the state. Had this been so, the Indian state would have had all the right to book her and put her in jail. But merely expressing her views on the situation in Kashmir, or saying that all anti- India forces should join hands against it is something she must be allowed to do.
The bottomline here is that the Indian state is not so weak or fragile as to feel threatened by speeches that few will commend for their balance or good sense.
The Hindu rightly points out in its editorial how the whole kerfuffle was essentially much ado about nothing, after making a clear case for free speech:
In his classic defence of free speech, On Liberty, John Stuart Mill laid down what is known as the ‘harm principle.' It postulates that the only justification for silencing a person against his will is to prevent him from causing harm to others. It is to this powerful libertarian mid-19th century principle that we owe the idea that free speech cannot be proscribed merely because we find it disagreeable, and that curbs may be imposed only if such expression constitutes a direct, explicit, and unequivocal incitement to violence. There is no such nexus in Ms Roy's statements on Kashmir, which are shaped around the theme of gross human rights violations and (as she points out in a statement: "Pity the Nation that has to silence its writers" ) “fundamentally a call for justice.” It is tragi-comic that there is talk of ‘sedition' at a time when it is regarded as obsolete in many countries
Jug Suraiya in the Times of India:
The demand for azadi provided it is not accompanied by a call for armed insurrection is not a law and order or security problem but a political problem that has to be addressed politically. But this political process cannot even begin if the very word azadi is banned from the debate as being seditious, a threat to India's security and ultra vires the Constitution. If the Indian state was to lock up everyone who voiced or was at least willing to listen to the call for azadi it would have to lock up not just a sizeable portion of Kashmir's population but also that of India's as a whole. Is anyone Kashmiri or otherwise who is willing to at least discuss azadi necessarily a subversive? If that is the case, then it is not Kashmiri azadi that we have to worry about. What we have to worry about is the loss of azadi, the loss of freedom, of India's democracy.
English PEN too has expressed its solidatrity with Arundhati Roy. Lisa Appignanesi, President of English PEN, said:
"Since June, Kashmiri journalists and broadcasters attempting to report on unrest in Indian-administered Kashmir have been subject to violence and gagging.
Booker Prize winning novelist Arundhati Roy has now stepped forward to draw the world's attention to the plight of Kashmiris. The truth of what is happening in Kashmir needs to be told. Brutality by the state, and the silencing of reporters, is no option for a modern India."
The author Hari Kunzru said:
"I'm concerned to hear that Arundhati Roy may face sedition charges. India trumpets its status as the world's largest democracy, but the Indian establishment is notoriously unwilling to listen to dissident voices. Whether or not one agrees with Roy's positions on Kashmir or the Maoist insurgency in Central India, the issues she raises are important and deserve to be debated. The willingness by elements of the Indian establishment to use the legal system to intimidate critics is lamentable. India's writers are an important part of the nation's identity on the international stage. Supporting their right to free speech goes hand in hand with applauding them when they win the Booker prize. One is meaningless without the other."
Laws of 'sedition' (criticising the state) are routinely used by governments all around the world to threaten critics of official policy and state actions. In former British colonies, these are based on archaic English laws. Last year, English PEN campaigned successfully to ensure the remnants of such laws were removed from the English statute books, but elsewhere in the Commonwealth they remain law.
Robert Sharp, Campaigns Manager at English PEN, said:
We urge the Indian government and the police to make a public statement, withdrawing the threat of charges against Arundhati Roy.
The laws of sedition are a sinister part of Britain's colonial legacy. India should not be using such laws to silence debate. We ask the Indian parliament to protect free speech by abolishing laws of sedition, as their colleagues elsewhere in the Commonwealth have done in recent years.
Incidentally, today's papers also had two senior editors writing on the J&K history
Manoj Joshi in Mail Today:
...at no stage has the UN raised doubts about the legality of Indian sovereignty over the state. That is why it is somewhat misleading to talk of an India- Pakistan “ dispute” over Kashmir.
... There may be no “ dispute” with Pakistan, but there is an “ issue” relating to the legitimisation of the status of Gilgit- Baltistan, Azad Kashmir and the Line of Control. This is the third- party role that India sees for Pakistan, and to see anything more in this is to seriously misunderstand the Indian perspective.
...[I]t is surprising to discover people who are so sensitive to alleged slights to the nation’s honour and who see seditious beasts lurking everywhere. Even while claiming to speak for the Indian identity, they adopt a mean- spirited approach towards our regional identities.
Gautam Adhikari in the Times of India:
...Historically, Kashmir was very much a part of that wider civilisation. Roy needs to read up that bit of Indian history...
...So if Kashmir is not a legitimate part of India, and we should accordingly give it up to Pakistan, then much of India including, say, Baroda or Mysore, is illegitimate. We hope that is not what Roy implied when she said Kashmir was not an integral part of India. Fortunately, she has the right to say what she wants, even when she knows less than she ought to about a subject, because India's democratic Constitution allows her that freedom. She must not be prosecuted for sedition or for being naive.