Saturday, April 24, 2010

Civil Society Groups Condemn Proposed Action against Arundhati Roy

Source : Outlook

The Director General of Police, Chhatisgarh is reported to be seriously examining whether writer Arundhati Roy should be prosecuted under the Chhatisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) / Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for having written the article Walking With The Comrades, which was published by Outlook magazine recently.

The article is a journalistic account of what is happening on the other side of the battle lines in this War in Chhatisgarh which is also called Operation Green Hunt. It provides the readers with the story of what the Maoists are doing and thinking and how they are received and perceived by the villagers living in the areas where they operate. It is a detailed, sensitive and honest account of their history, their motivations, their thinking and their methods. Precisely because the account provides the perspective of the Maoists, it is a very valuable account, one that the people of the country need to hear. It is after all a phenomenon which has been described as the most serious security threat to the country. It is important for the people of the country to be as well informed as possible about the phenomenon of Maoism and how it has arisen so that a properly informed decision can be taken about how to deal with its challenges. In our view, the authorities on their own should have elicited inputs on the Maoist activity across the States, from as many diverse sources as possible and formulated its strategy to deal with the problem in a holistic and sensitive manner, essentially keeping the interests of the tribal central to such a strategy. Arundhati Roy’s inputs need to be viewed in this context.

Whether or not one agrees with the writer, a country which prides itself as a democracy must allow the free and honest expression of such views. Any attempt to stifle such expression of views on pain of prosecution would not only be violative of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution, it would seriously undermine the country’s claim that it is a robust working democracy.

Given its disquieting record of persecuting local journalists and activists for daring to stray from the official line, any attempt to book Arundhati Roy for her article would confirm the government’s determination to choke off dissenting voices, especially to prevent any independent information from coming out of this theatre of ‘War’

Signed by:

Admiral R.H. Tahiliani (Former Navy Chief and Chairman Transparency International)
Amit Bhaduri (Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Anoop Saraya (Professor, AIIMS)
Aruna Roy (Founder, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and National Campaign for people’s right to Information)
Arvind Kejriwal (RTI Activist, Magsaysay awardee)
Badri Raina (Former Professor, Delhi University)
C. Rammanohar Reddy (Editor, Economic and Political weekly)
Colin Gonsalves (Director, Human Rights Law Network)
Dr. Banwari Lal Sharma (Convenor, Azadi Bachao Andolan)
Dr. K.S. Subramaniam (I.P.S., Former DGP)
Dr. Mira Shiva (Initiative for Health Equity and Society)
Dr. P.M. Bhargava (Biotechnologist, Founder Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad)
Dr. Walter Fernandes (Director, North East Social Research Centre)
Dunu Roy (Director, Hazard Centre)
E.A.S. Sarma (Former Secy. Government of India)
Harsh Mander (Director, Aman Biradiri)
Himanshu Thakkar (Director, Centre for Water Policy)
Jagdeep Chhokar (Former Prof. IIM Ahmedabad)
Javed Naqvi (Journalist)
Jean Dreze (Economist and Social Scientist)
Kamini Jaiswal (Lawyer)
Karan Thapar (Journalist)
Madhu Bhaduri (IFS, Former Ambassador of India to several countries)
Manoj Mitta (Journalist)
Nikhil De (MKSS and NCPRI)
Prashant Bhushan (Lawyer)
Prof. Yashpal (Scientist and Educationist & Former Chairman UCG)
Ravi Chopra (Director, People’s Science Institute, Dehradun)
S.R. Hiremath (Samaj Parivatan Samuday)
Shabnam Hashmi (Convenor, ANHAD)
Shankar Singh (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan)
Teesta Setalvad (Citizens for Justice and Peace)
Trilochan Shastri (Professor, IIM Bangalore, and Convenor, Association for Democratic Reforms)
Vandana Shiva (Director Navdanya and Research Foundation for Science and Technology)
Vikram Lal (Director, Common Cause)
Yogendra Yadav (Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies)

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