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Indian novelist Arundhati Roy's home attacked by right-wing protesters

LOCAL ARUNDHATI ROY 1
Indian writer Arundhati Roy speaks to a crowd at the United Universalist Church in Buffalo in 2004. Photo by Sharon Cantillon / The Buffalo News.

The private residence of Booker Prize winning Indian writer and novelist Arundhati Roy was besieged and attacked by a mob of right-wing protesters and supporters of India's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday, following the announcement Friday that officials appointed by the nation's ruling Indian National Congress Party would not prosecute the author of "The God Of Small Things" for remarks she made at a seminar in New Delhi last month.

The author was not at home at the time of the incident, though her husband Pradip Krishen was, and reported that television crews and journalists for India's right-wing media anticipated the attack and preceded the arrival of the protestors at the residence by several minutes.

The Hindustan Times first reported on Thursday the Indian government would not arrest Roy, contradicting several media sources, including The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, and the Hindustan Times itself, which had reported earlier in the week that the Indian law ministry was considering sedition charges against the 48 year old author for comments viewed as sympathetic to the cause of the predominantly Muslim Kashmir separatist movement at the seminar called "Azadi – The only way" [Adazi is a Persian word, meaning "freedom" or "liberation"] on Thursday, October 21st in New Delhi.

Kashmir is a disputed territory that occupies the northwest region of the Indian subcontinent.  Its sovereignty has been contested for over 650 years, most recently in the post World War Two era, between India, Pakistan, and China, all which have sought to dominate the region, militarily and otherwise.
 
Ms. Roy restated the specific remark that some considered seditious ("Kashmir has never been an integral part of India - it is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this.") in an IBNLive interview on Sunday, October 24th. The Indian Home Minister reportedly sought and received a legal opinion from the law ministry that Roy's comments were in violation of section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code, which states: 
Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine."
Political observers of the world's largest democracy have suggested, however, that the nation's ruling Indian National Congress Party -- which occupies the political center -- views Roy as a literary and intellectual figure voicing her personal opinion rather than a leader of or spokesperson for a political insurgency, and perceives no political advantage in incurring the wrath of much of the international human rights community by prosecuting her.  The investigation undertaken by the Minister for Home Affairs P. Chidambaram was largely intended to blunt criticism of the government in the increasingly nationalistic Indian popular media.   

India's second largest party, the right-of-center Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, views Roy as traitor and spokesperson for a variety of left-wing causes, and has long sought her arrest or deportation. A contingent of BJP women reportedly organized and carried out the attack on Sunday, just as a spokesperson for the party claimed responsibility for an attack in which men on motorbikes pelted Roy's Kautilya Marg residence with stones and smashed some windows of the house in June.
Western New York readers may recall that Ms. Roy was a guest of Just Buffalo Literary Center and her novel "The God of Small Things" was the focus of the organization's popular "If All Buffalo Read The Same Book" residency for several days in September of 2004. The success of Ms. Roy's visit to various locations in the community helped establish a precedent for what later would become the organization's popular Babel Series of lectures and discussions with major figures in world literature.
 
--R.D. Pohl                                                                   

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