Statement condemning the attck on Arundhati Roy’s residence

Press Statement

We strongly condemn the rising tide of intolerance and hate speech that led to the attack on the residential premises of the writer and social activist Arundhati Roy.

The attack, by elements of the BJP Mahila Morcha on October 31, was reportedly carried out after due advance notice was given to three of India’s leading English news channels, which had their OB vans parked outside Roy’s home. The verbal attacks on Roy began with her participation in a Delhi meeting on October 21 and a subsequent public appearance in Srinagar on October 24, at which she repeated her often quoted and widely publicised views on Kashmir.

We are shocked that responsible media commentators have with few moral qualms brought up the possibility of charging Roy under the law dealing with “sedition”, a discredited legacy of colonial years.

We are shocked, that the media engagement with this issue has stopped short of an unequivocal defence of free speech. The failure to defend the right to dissent will inevitably fuel vigilante attacks. And the old alibi – that nobody can control public reactions to

intolerable provocations – will again be advanced by those who should have safeguarded basic rights, but failed colossally to do so.

We remind those who remain silent in the face of this outrage, that this particular alibi has had a long and disgraceful career, including in the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the persecution of other great creative personalities.

In August 2008, a similar attack was carried out on an exhibition mounted by SAHMAT of M.F. Husain’s work. A few months later, vigilantes of the Shri Ram Sene – a freshly minted addition to the Hindutva family – attacked women at a pub in Mangalore, for supposedly immoral behaviour.

What unites all these atrocities is the common element -- that the electronic media was informed well in advance and was present in force to document them.

We appeal to all to tone down the overheated rhetoric and let reason prevail.

Issued by M. K. Raina
Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust