Immunity from Sedition – why special treatment ?

Some privileged sections of the society think that they have permanent immunity – because of their status, wealth, political connections, influence on civil society, political status, or as we recently learnt, their status as the unquestionable media or authors who have won international prizes.

I had recently written about the TV Channels in India and the corruption that they are causing in our society. But, this aspect of prize-winning authors who do not think that they can be arrested for violating the laws of the land puzzles me. A government cannot claim to be running a country in a democratic and lawful manner, if the country’s laws are violated with impunity by people in power, or in this case, by people who have attained a certain status in society. For that matter, no one resident in the country can violate the rules, regulations and laws of the land. An author cannot claim immunity in the name of “freedom of expression and thoughts” – then he or she should form a political party, register the party, stand for elections, canvass the public, win a parliamentary seat and state what they wish to state against the laws of the land – then they would have some immunity.

I am referring here to the seditious speech, purportedly made by the Booker-prize winning author Arundhati Roy (“The God of Small Things, 1997 Booker Prize), about the Indian State of Kashmir. I would let readers surf the net for Ms Roy and find out what exactly she said. If the statement made by her is attributable to the whole of India, then there is no meaning for India to exist – what she said about Kashmir is completely untenable, and she cannot hide behind writer’s freedom of expression and the freedom of not being prosecuted by the Indian State just because of her status. Ms Roy is now more of a political activist than an author, and she should be prosecuted. Ofcourse, this is what the Delhi High Court ordered the Delhi Police to do last week.

Entire India is watching to see whether the Police will arrest her on the orders of the High Court, or it is going to be another mockery of the judicial system, when influential people are allowed to escape in one way or the other, while the common man generally gets taken for a ride.

Kashmir is an integral part of India, and all of Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union legally at the time of independence. It is our fault that we allowed Pakistan and China to seize parts of Kashmir. Ms Roy is not an arbiter to mediate in the row over the status of Kashmir, she does not have the political or judicial credentials anyway. Just making a statement to incite the Kashmir people is surely not a good idea at all, in the current situation in the Kashmir Valley. Joining hands with separatists from Kashmir at Delhi and making seditious statements does not show maturity or responsibility.

She needs to provide answers in the Court of Law, and let us see whether the Delhi Police supported by the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India takes her to task next week.


Vijay Srinivasan
28th November 2010


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