The editorial “‘Sedition' versus free speech” (Oct. 27) is a classic defence of free speech, which only a steadfast defender of freedom of speech like The Hindu can make. The noisy clamour made by the BJP is a damp squib, as shown by the strong support extended to this cause by none other than the BJP's own fellow traveller, Ram Jethmalani. Why can't a writer, a painter, an educationist or a creative artist express his or her views freely in a liberal democratic country like ours? Why has one to constantly look over one's shoulder for expressing one's opinion and for not being termed a seditionist or one who has hurt somebody's religious or other kind of feelings? Should not our civil society draw upon the lead provided by such bold media initiatives as that of The Hindu and struggle to build a movement to usher in a really sincere liberal society, rather than the one dictated by the whims of extremist elements in society?
It is difficult to understand why the BJP is crying foul and finding fault with what writer Arundhati Roy said on Kashmir. If what she said is a crime, the words of L.K. Advani and others on the day the Babri Masjid was demolished were criminal too. So were the abetting words of Narendra Modi after the Godhra incident that set Gujarat on fire.
M. Somasekhar Prasad,
Ms Roy is a soft target, a focal point for extremist forces. Vandals destroy a place of worship and we reward them by granting them the land on which it stood. For each stone thrown in Kashmir, we retaliate with bullets. What a tolerant society we are! Right or wrong, Ms Roy has every right to say what she wants. Most of those opposing her might not have read even a word of what she said, not to mention the context in which it was said.
Ms Roy was just expressing her opinion. It may or may not be liked by the government or certain groups. But then, this is what freedom of speech is all about. If you don't like someone's comment, ignore it, express your opinion through word, or think about it. It is the right of Kashmiris to express their wish. Only they, not New Delhi, can decide what they want.
Over the years, Ms Roy has become the voice of the voiceless, the true conscience of our nation. She speaks the truth at a time when the media, by and large, have abdicated the responsibility. Her courage is admirable, and it is a matter of pride that she is among us.
It is unfortunate that we as a nation — the government, the media, the judiciary and civil society — want to silence dissent. We advocate the use of colonial and archaic laws. Do we want a militarised, authoritarian nation with passive and subdued people or a more equitable, just and sustainable democracy with an active and vibrant civil society? Arundhati clearly stands for the latter.
It is disheartening that in a democratic country like India, freedom of speech is restricted, even termed sedition. Why is such a hue and cry being raised over a small issue when so many other relevant issues are crying for attention? Rather than argue whether Kashmir is an integral part of India or not, let us urge the government to take necessary action for the people of Kashmir to live peacefully, like others of any integral State.
I believe that all progressive minded people should take part in the democratic process and no one should be silenced just because his or her ideas go against the common understanding. Ms Roy and Syed Ali Shah Geelani's comment on Kashmir should be interpreted in this context. Amartya Sen says in The Idea of Justice: “The role of democracy in preventing community-based violence depends on the ability of inclusive and interactive political processes to subdue the poisonous fanaticism of divisive communal thinking.”
I want to share only what I have seen in the Kashmir of then and now. I visited Kashmir as a landscape artist during the 1950s and painted every part of beautiful Srinagar. I visited Srinagar again in 2008. I was shocked to find the beautiful Dal Lake polluted with algae, the Jhelum dirty with garbage floating freely, and the attractive houses on either side that were majestic with Kashmiri architecture in ruins. Most shocking was the presence of handsome graduates among the crowd of labourers. The inhabitants of Srinagar I saw in the 1950s were pink. In 2008, they were pale with an expression of frustration and depression.
I learnt from the Kashmiris I met that they hate Pakistan and India alike. Pakistan for infiltrating the jihadis and India for its misrule.
Agha Mohamed Hussain,
If we must imprison writers and intellectuals who are courageous enough to air their views, we are no different from the tin-pot dictatorships that still bedevil our world. What moral right do we have to call for the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi, if our thinking is like that of the Myanmar junta?
Instead of creating a more conducive atmosphere to find a lasting solution to the Kashmir issue, the electronic media have been whipping up a patriotic frenzy over the not-so-new remarks of Mr. Geelani and Ms Roy. Kashmir is not an issue to play around with. The main Opposition party should realise that its stance on the issue is not in the interests of the nation. Nor does it contribute to an amicable resolution of the issue.
Gnana. Surabhi Mani,