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Friday, October 29, 2010
Serenading the secessionists by Chandan Mitra
Serenading the secessionists by Chandan Mitra
October 29, 2010 9:04:52 PM
Those who spewed venom and espoused secession at a seminar on azadi in Delhi last week are criminals who must pay for their treasonable act
It can no longer be ignored as self-seeking antics of a publicity hound. Social celebrity and political busybody Arundhati Roy has truly crossed the line this time. Encouraged by the prominent publication of a despicable article that claimed India too needed azadi from Kashmir some months ago, she went overboard at a secessionist gathering in Delhi last Thursday, saying Kashmir ought to get azadi from “bhookhey-nangey (starving and naked)” India. She went on to repeat her earlier disparaging remarks on the country of her birth, calling India a “hollow superpower” from which “I dissociate”.
If so, Ms Roy, the only honourable course left for you is to renounce Indian citizenship and migrate to whichever country will take you. I doubt if too many would enthusiastically lap up someone who is an avowed traitor. If she can do this to India, they would think, it must speak volumes for her moral fabric (if she has any in the first place). And nobody loves traitors and spies; they remain suspect, often despised, even if given shelter in another country for reasons of political expediency.
Despite her celebrity status, I have repeatedly taken up cudgels against Roy and her ilk for their brazenly seditious activities — be it over the 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament House which she alleged was a plot hatched by the Vajpayee Government to build up hysteria for going to war with Pakistan, or her championship of bloodthirsty Maoist insurgents, or Pakistan-sponsored, pro-Taliban secessionists in Jammu & Kashmir. As side-shows, her coterie also supports sundry separatists in the North-East. Anybody who seeks to dismember India or promote a civil war in this country, receives full-throated moral (and probably also material) encouragement from motley groups that go into orgasms at the thought of India being ravished by AK-47 wielding insurgents.
I have a serious issue in this regard with my friend and predecessor as Pioneer Editor, Vinod Mehta, who has been Roy’s principal sponsor through the columns of Outlook magazine. I know Vinod loves iconoclasts and, contrary to his amiable persona, has an anarchist streak, but he has done great disservice to the country by allowing her to spew venom against India by repeatedly publishing her voluminous, rambling essays oozing hate. This is not the first time I am saying this; nor is this behind Vinod’s back as I have conveyed my feelings upfront on occasion. Criminals do not deserve a respectable platform; denying traitors the ‘oxygen of publicity’ is the only way to snuff out their diabolical machinations.
Arundhati Roy was not the only hardline India-basher and secessionist at Thursday’s Delhi seminar. A man who is proud to say he wants Kashmir to merge with Pakistan was the main draw at the gathering, presided over by SAR Geelani, acquitted by the Supreme Court in the Parliament House attack case after being initially sentenced to death. Incidentally, the acquittal order specifically noted the Court’s regret at not finding clinching evidence against him. They also collected an assortment of other secessionists, including a few ageing but vitriolic wannabes from Punjab, Nagaland and Manipur.
Arguably in a democracy everyone has the right to express his or her view, but is this right absolute and without reasonable restraints? If so, why are sections relating to sedition, creating communal disharmony, making inflammatory speeches and so on still in the statute books? The Constitution, not only in India but all mature democracies, guarantees free speech “within reasonable limits”. But what happens when these limits are crossed?
A pusillanimous Indian state has watched helplessly as determined separatists repeatedly violated the Laxman-rekha and got away with it. Nobody, not even the otherwise stentorian judiciary, is prepared to enforce the law when it comes to these rabble-rousers. Arundhati Roy plunged into the Narmada Bachao Andolan once she realised the huge publicity potential it had. She deviously attempted to steal the limelight from Medha Patkar, who may be misguided, but is not a self-seeker of Roy’s calibre. When the Supreme Court, in which they repeatedly professed full faith, gave its verdict against them, the entire lot turned rebellious. They demonstrated outside the court premises, hurled abusive slogans at judges and indulged in rampant contempt of court. But they were let off with a mild censure by their lordships for offences for which lesser people would have been sentenced to jail for at least six months.
I doubt if our namby-pamby Government will have the guts even to lodge FIRs against the criminals who blasphemed India sitting in the heart of the national capital. I am even more distressed that Friday’s newspapers largely ignored Roy’s and Geelani’s outrageous sermonising and reported only that a shoe was thrown at Geelani and that Kashmiri Pandits tried unsuccessfully to disrupt the seminar. A strident critic of vandalism by goonda groups in newspaper/television channel offices, for once I regret the demonstrators failed in their mission on Thursday.
Attempts at forcible disruption would not have been necessary had the Government acted in time and denied permission to these traitors to hold a public meeting to promote India’s dismemberment. Could the Government have been unaware that Syed Ali Shah Geelani, billed as the star of the show, had flown in from Srinagar with the express intent of fomenting sedition? Even in the Valley, where limits of the law are often stretched to allow separatists space, local authorities are compelled to put him under house arrest almost every other day. Thus, his views are no secret. So, should the Government have allowed him to mock the authority of the state and outrage the sentiment of Indians by holding court on Copernicus Marg?
Was the Government unaware that a coalition of secessionists was being cobbled together with Arundhati Roy providing the glamour component? I am really waiting for the day when she renounces Indian citizenship and, hopefully, migrates to Taliban-held parts of Afghanistan, dons a burqa and is compelled not to step out of her house except in the company of a male relative! From the way she has been gunning for India while embracing secessionists that is probably the only way she can redeem herself in her own eyes.
Wishful desires apart, enough is now enough. The Government and civil society cannot take this open espousal of secession any longer. Unless action is taken against the organisers and speakers at Thursday’s treasonable gathering we will never manage to stem the torrent of seditious ideas. With what face can the Government invoke laws like waging war against the state or promoting sedition against small-fry in the North-East if it can’t act against the big fish?
Civil society too has a role in isolating, boycotting and eventually excising these rabid elements and their promoters from our midst. I appeal to Editors like Vinod Mehta and those of various English language news channels (on many of which I appear regularly) to please introspect the impact of providing secessionists a platform to launch diatribes against the country. I know nationalism is not in fashion with our elite nowadays, but must we make secession and sedition fashionable instead?
Posted by Free Thinker at 8:36 AM
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