UN body urges dropping UAPA cases against Roy, Hussain

Writer Arundhati Roy and former professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain are charged with making "anti-national" remarks at a 2010 seminar

Arundhati Roy (file photo)
Arundhati Roy (file photo)

NH Political Bureau

Following the Delhi lieutenant-governor's sanction to prosecute writer Arundhati Roy, the United Nations Human Rights Office has urged Indian authorities to dismiss the charges against Roy and former Central University of Kashmir professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

Roy and Hussain face charges for allegedly making "anti-national" remarks on Kashmir at a 2010 seminar in New Delhi.

The UNHRO, led by high commissioner Volker Türk, expressed its concern in a post on X, stating, "We are concerned by the use of UAPA anti-terror law to silence critics. Repeat call for review of law and release of human rights defenders detained under it. Urge authorities to drop cases against Arundhati Roy and Sheikh Showkat Hussain over comments on India-admin Kashmir."

The charges stem from a complaint filed on 28 October 2010 by Sushil Pandit, a social activist from Kashmir who alleged that speakers at a 21 October conference organised by the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners under the banner 'Azadi: The Only Way', made provocative statements. He claimed the discussions, which included the notion of Kashmir's separation from India, threatened public peace and harmony.

Roy was quoted as saying, "Kashmir was never part of India and was forcibly occupied by the armed forces of India, and every possible effort should be made for the independence of the state of Jammu and Kashmir from India."

In addition to the UN's stance, over 200 Indian academics, activists, and journalists have jointly written an open letter urging the government to withdraw the cases. The letter decries the action and calls for the protection of the fundamental right to freely express views.

Opposition leaders have also criticised the prosecution decision. Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra remarked, “If by prosecuting Arundhati Roy under UAPA, BJP is trying to prove they’re back, well they’re not. And they’ll never be back the same way they were. This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against.”

Meanwhile, Roy was honoured with the 2024 PEN Pinter Prize, awarded to writers who exhibit a "fierce intellectual determination to define the real truth of our lives and our societies," as articulated by renowned British playwright Harold Pinter. The prize ceremony is scheduled for 10 October 2024 at the British Library.

On 14 June, Delhi LG V.K. Saxena sanctioned the prosecution of Roy and Hussain under section 13 of the anti-terrorism law, which addresses punishment for advocating, abetting, or inciting any “unlawful activity.” This offence carries a penalty of up to seven years' imprisonment.

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