India Approves Prosecution of Award-Winning Novelist Under Terrorism Law

Published: 19 June 2024

Arundhati Roy IndiaArundhati Roy (Photo: jeanbaptisteparis, Flickr, License)

By Haroon Janjua

India will be prosecuting award-winning novelist Arundhati Roy for saying 14 years ago that Kashmir has never been part of India. The move is being criticized by the opposition as an “atrocity” and an “abuse of power” by the government of recently re-elected right-wing leader Narendra Modi.

Vinai Kumar Saxena, a senior official in the administration of Delhi and member of Modi’s BJP party, has granted permission to prosecute the author of the 1997 novel The God of Small Things under the country’s strict anti-terrorism laws.

Roy commented about the disputed territory at an event in 2010. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, an academic from Kashmir who organized the event the event in Delhi and was present on stage when Roy said it, is also to be put on trial.

Right after the event, Roy’s residence in Delhi was besieged by violent protesters, and 150 members of the BJP women's organization demanded that she renounce her remarks or leave the country.

The 62-year-old novelist is one of India's most renowned authors and a recipient of the Booker Prize, the leading literary award in the English-speaking world. She is also a staunch critic of Modi’s government and his policies, as well as laws targeting minorities.

Roy does not write very often, but due to her distinguished status in India and global fame, her views often receive extensive attention.

Modi’s opposition slammed the decision to prosecute her. Sharad Pawar, a member of the Nationalist Congress Party, called it an “abuse of power.”

“If there was an expectation from Modi 3.0 (third term) that they would learn something from the election results, then he dashed this hope. This series of atrocities and atrocities will continue,” Asaduddin Owaisi, leader of the opposition AIMIM party, wrote on X.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act from 1967 is the country's most notorious and controversial law, and it is extremely difficult for anyone arrested under this law to get out on bail.

Modi’s critics accused him of using this controversial law to silence criticism of his government and curb free speech.

Mahua Moitra, an MP from the All India Trinamool Congress party, also a critic of Modi, wrote that “if by prosecuting Arundhati Roy under UAPA BJP trying to prove they’re back, well they’re not. And they’ll never be back the same way they were. This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against.”