Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BJP's attempt to intimidate a free thinker

A large group of BJP Mahila Morcha activists protesting Arundhati Roy's recent remarks on Kashmir broke into the compound of the writer's residence here on Sunday.

The mob assembled outside Ms. Roy's house in the high-security diplomatic enclave of Chanakyapuri around 11 a.m. and shouted slogans against her for more than half an hour. “Curiously, three news channel vans were stationed outside our house even before the protest began…the mob was abusive and broke through the front gate of the house,” Ms. Roy's husband, Pradip Krishen, said.

Ms. Roy was not in the house at the time of the attack. In a statement, she said the mob numbered as many as a hundred persons. The activists broke a few flower pots kept outside the house and dispersed before the arrival of the police
From The Hindu,Nov 1,2010

We strongly condemn the rising tide of intolerance and hate speech that led to the attack on the residential premises of the writer and social activist Arundhati Roy.

The attack, by elements of the BJP Mahila Morcha on October 31, was reportedly carried out after due advance notice was given to three of India’s leading English news channels, which had their OB vans parked outside Roy’s home. The verbal attacks on Roy began with her participation in a Delhi meeting on October 21 and a subsequent public appearance in Srinagar on October 24, at which she repeated her often quoted and widely publicised views on Kashmir.

We are shocked that responsible media commentators have with few moral qualms brought up the possibility of charging Roy under the law dealing with “sedition”, a discredited legacy of colonial years.

We are shocked, that the media engagement with this issue has stopped short of an unequivocal defence of free speech. The failure to defend the right to dissent will inevitably fuel vigilante attacks. And the old alibi – that nobody can control public reactions to intolerable provocations – will again be advanced by those who should have safeguarded basic rights, but failed colossally to do so.

We remind those who remain silent in the face of this outrage, that this particular alibi has had a long and disgraceful career, including in the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the persecution of other great creative personalities.

In August 2008, a similar attack was carried out on an exhibition mounted by SAHMAT of M.F. Husain’s work. A few months later, vigilantes of the Shri Ram Sene – a freshly minted addition to the Hindutva family – attacked women at a pub in Mangalore, for supposedly immoral behaviour
From Sahmat Press Statement

We may have difference of opinion,but a political party believing in democracy should be in fore front to defend the right of each and every person of the country to have his or her opinion.

Arundathi Roy is one of the foremost free thinker of our Country. She may be classified as an anarchist and do not represent any major political force.It may be easy for India's main opposition party to chase her out of our Country like they did with M.F.Hussein.But her presence in India and her ability to express her opinions freely is very important for Indian democracy.

Today the mob broke flower pots in Arundathi Roy's house. Tomorrow it may burn my house,and the day after it will attack you physically. They will come because you expressed your frank opinion about a subject.That will mean the end of democracy in India. Do we want that?


  1. Political parties believe in democracy and free speech only when it suits them...

  2. I blogged about the same thing today. The interesting part is that her speech was non violent while the protests are violent.

    All she did was express her opinion!

    This also reminds me of these lines,
    They came first for the Communists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.

  3. Bones, true more so if they belong to the Right of political spectrum or extreme Left.

  4. IHM,
    Yes, it was just a speech,but many fear speech and written words than act of violence.In case of the latter a mob always wins.

  5. freedom od expresson is the life breath of the media. when arundhanthi roy's house was attacked 'cos she exercised her right to free speech, it appeared to have been done with the collusion of the media/for the benefit of the media.media shud use its discretion in deciding what it gives coverage to .
    i feel violence in kashmir and the red belt would not have reached this level if the media soft pedalled on these issues.
    but how can we expect these vultures who feed on carrion to show discretion?

    i am still sitting on the fence regarding the statements of geelani and Ms Roy.

    btw, do you think the type of hate speeches of madani which created thadiyadavides in kerala shud be allowed without any restriction?

  6. KPJ,
    Media coverage can have both good and bad effects.When media gets a tip that something newsworthy is going to happen somewhere, they flock there to cover it,not knowing exactly what is going to happen.If there is even a faint suspicion of an unlawful activity is going to be staged media is bound to alert the Police. But it never happens like that. Yes we need a more responsible media.

    You can disapprove or approve or be in between about Geelani and Ms Roy. But we cannot still postpone facing the Kashmir issue. Occupation by Armed forces and lack of Justice are the main issues there. The All Party Delegation helped a little in cooling down the temperatures,but some concrete action from the Govt is needed fast.

    In general Hate speeches should be fought with speeches of Love and Reason than with bans and arrests. But that policy should not stop the law from dealing with speeches openly inciting violence especially in a tense situation. My belief is more than public speeches of Hate it is the long term private indoctrination of hate that creates terrorists.I am not sure Madani is guilty of that. Even if he is,he had already spend 10 yrs in Jail,while Togadias and Thakhares are freely continuing their hate speeches.This sense of injustice is, I think much more potent in creating terrorists

  7. Sense of injustice. Yeah right. Is that not the pet phrase of liberal right when they justify terrorism.

    I wonder how the freedom of expression fans always - ALWAYS - mention freedom of expression of MF Hussain and forget Taslima, freedom to publish the Danish cartoons or even Prof. Joseph. One of your blog says Prof. Joseph should be 'pardoned'. What happened to his freedom of expression. Why should he be 'pardoned'? And you talk about sense of injustice. Dude, Madani is in jail because he allegedly plotted a bomb attack. He should have been set free, according to you?

    Try defending freedom of speech of Vaiko, Togadia before you claim to be a secular 'free thinker'. And you may not (or pretend not to) know the speeches Delhi Shahi imam makes. He is still roaming free. No mention of that too in the blog. oh yeah, I almost forgot, you are a secular person after all.

  8. Abhilash,
    Welcome to this blog.
    I did not justify terrorism, but only pointed out that injustice can be a potent stimulus for it. So to prevent terrorism justice is better than tougher laws.

    All communalists,
    hate freedom of expression. Every one's right for expression should be defended, whether it is Tasleema or Hussein.
    Historically Semitic religions [Christianity/Islam] are well known for targeting free thinkers, but not Indian [Hindu] culture. But with the arrival Hindutva revivalists Hinduism is being turned into another Semitic religion. That is a great tragedy. That is why Indian secular voices are raised more against Hindutva forces.
    Prof Joseph was not expressing his views on a subject, but setting a question paper in a University affiliated College for a class of students. Here some restrictions are acceptable as the student has no choice but to answer the question and the Professor is answerable to higher authorities as per University norms. The College authorities punished him and my post was opposing the punishment, saying he deserved pardon.
    As you may know Madani was in jail for 10yrs as an under trial for another alleged plot of bombing but had to be released as the prosecution failed to find any evidence. Now he is again in jail as an under trial for another allegation. Let the court decide, but my educated guess is prosecution will once again fail.

    Speeches openly inciting violence should be prevented, whatever the religion of the speaker. That is my view being a secular person

  9. Oh wow, you oppose hindutva forces because you think that Hinduism is better than other religion? Thanks, but no thanks.

    My response to that is a quote from the blog of a well known secular liberal (From http://www.virsanghvi.com/CounterPoint-ArticleDetail.aspx?ID=391). Here we go...
    Liberal Hindus will condemn Hindu militancy and fundamentalism. But we will tread softly when it comes to Muslim extremism. We think we are doing a Muslim community a favour by being gentle. In fact, we are doing exactly the opposite. By insisting on genuine secularism within the Hindu community and by turning a blind eye to religious fundamentalism among Muslims, we are implicitly accepting that Muslims are a fanatical people who must be allowed to enjoy a degree of religious extremism.

    In the process, we are weakening Indian secularism.

    You were also doing exactly that; implying that Christians and Muslims should be allowed to do fundamentalism because they were doing that throughout their history, but not Hindus. This is where the 'secular' rhetoric turn ridiculous from biased. Talk about 'sense of injustice'.

    I disagree with your view on Prof. Joseph, but that is a different discussion. And about Madani, if you criticize some only if that person is convicted by the court, you may have to pull down half of your blogs.

  10. Abhilash,
    Thank you for your continued interest in my views.
    Is Hinduism a better religion? Or is Hinduism a religion? These are questions that need to be discussed elsewhere.
    One thing is sure. In India freedom of expression and freedom for practising a religion of your choice was comparatively better than most other countries. The Hindutva forces are trying to change that. Being the majority religion they have the capability to do that. That is why secular forces are more vocal against Hindutva communalists. At the same time I agree with you that minority fundamentalism/communalism should also be strongly opposed.

    You are welcome to criticise whom you want using your logic and I feel I have the same right too. That is what we call freedom of expression for which I have always stood.


Comments are welcome especially if you do not think like me. But anonymous comments behind masks and those not relevant to the post are not encouraged.