INDIA: PUCL against repression against Arundhati Roy and Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain

Hereby we share a statement published here. Arundhati Roy and Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, former professor at the Central University of Kashmir, both progressive intellectuals which suffered a case under the UAPA, filed in 2010, accusing them of delivering provocative speeches at a conference. Arundhati Roy in this speech pointed out how Kashmir is a militarily occupied area, which does not belong to the old Indian State – as it was admitted by it on 1947 before the UN. She criticized also the plunder of natural resources, corporatization and militarization in Central India, the dependency of the Indian economy towards Yankee imperialism, and the fascism which was developing in India, and how there should be deep solidarity between the struggles in Nagaland, Kashmir, Manipur, in Central India and between all the poor people. She also criticized the old Indian State for its ‘anti-Naxal’ operations, defining them as war against the poor people, which is paving the way for the corporate looting.

Withdraw the prosecution against Arundhati Roy & Dr. Sheikh Showkat Hussain under the UAPA

The PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties) condemns the decision of the Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Vinay Kumar Saxena to grant Delhi Police sanction to prosecute writer Arundhati Roy and Sheikh Showkat Hussain, (former Professor of International Law at Central University of Kashmir), in a 2010 case for offences under Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. This decision of the LG follows the earlier decision to grant sanction to prosecute Roy and Husain for offence under sections 153A, 153B and 505 of the Indian Penal Code in October of 2023.

It bears noting that the sanction given by the LG for prosecuting Roy and Husain for offences u/s 153A, 153B and 505 IPC is hit by Sec. 468 CrPC which bars courts taking cognisance of cases after a delay of 3 years when the offences carry a maximum sentence of 3 years. It seems plausible that the LG’s sanction to prosecute for offences under section 13 UAPA (which carries a sentence of 7 years), after a gap of fourteen years is to get over this legal hurdle.

The invocation of the UAPA by the LG, is politically motivated, patently unconscionable and vindictive. Prima facie, it does not flow out of any concern for national security or national interest, but seeks to deploy the UAPA as a tool to serve one’s political masters. This is obvious from the fact that it is not even the LG’s case that the speeches made by Arundhati Roy and others at a convention on Kashmir, ‘Azadi: The Only Way’, organised in New Delhi in October 2010 has provoked violent disturbance in 2024, thereby necessitating urgent legal action under the UAPA!

A mature constitutional democracy ought not to prosecute speech, which by itself has no direct causal connection to violence or disorder. It is shameful that an FIR was even registered for speech which by all accounts did not incite or provoke any form of violence and even more reprehensible that the LG has granted sanction to prosecute, that too in 2024!

We condemn this knee jerk reaction to grant sanction to prosecute an alleged offence committed almost fourteen years ago as nothing other than an attempt by the administration to intimidate and browbeat courageous writer and thinkers who dare to speak truth to power.

To persist in prosecuting these authors and writers under this old FIR, casts a long shadow on India as the worlds largest democracy. A country which persecutes its writers and truth tellers, for words which it deems unpalatable, forfeits the claim to be the ‘mother of democracy’.

We demand that the prosecution be withdrawn with immediate effect against both Arundhati Roy and Sheikh Showkat Hussain under both the UAPA as well as the IPC provisions for a speech made almost fourteen years ago.

We also demand that the UAPA, a law rife with unconstitutional implications be repealed.

Kavita Srivastava, President, PUCL

Dr. V. Suresh, Gen. Secretary, PUCL

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