India’s new government accused of ‘fascism’ for reviving prosecution of Booker Prize winner over Kashmir comments

Arundhati Roy charged with sedition for advocating disputed territory’s secession from India

Arundhati Roy at a journalists' protest at a press club in New Delhi, India, last year. Photograph: Harish Tyagi/EPA

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s newly elected federal coalition has been accused of “fascism” for taking prosecution proceedings against Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy over comments she made about the disputed Himalayan province of Kashmir 14 years ago.

Opposition MPs and activists claim the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), headed by Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is using draconian tactics to silence dissent against the new government.

Last week, Delhi’s lieutenant governor, V K Saxena, closely linked to the BJP, granted permission to prosecute Roy (62), and former Kashmir University professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for declaring at a human rights conference in October 2010 that Kashmir was never an “integral part” of India.

Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947, is claimed in its entirety by both countries and is a sensitive and emotive issue for the neighbours, who have fought three wars over it in the past 77 years.


Soon after making the comments, Roy – whose novel The God of Small Things won the 1997 Booker Prize – Hussain and two others were charged by the then Congress Party-led federal coalition government with sedition for advocating Kashmir’s secession from India.

India charges novelist Arundhati Roy over a 2010 speechOpens in new window ]

The supreme court later rescinded the colonial-era law under which they were prosecuted and the case languished in India’s notoriously sluggish judicial system.

However, it has now been resurrected by Mr Modi’s administration under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

According to opposition parties and political commentators, the act has been routinely employed by Mr Modi since the BJP came to power in 2014 to try to silence its critics, including journalists, rights activists, writers, lawyers, cartoonists, academics and civil society members.

“If by prosecuting Arundhati Roy under UAPA, the BJP is trying to prove they’re back, they are not,” the newly elected opposition MP Mahua Mitra from eastern Bengal state wrote on X. “This kind of fascism is exactly what Indians have voted against.”

Ms Mitra was referring to the BJP’s electoral setback in the recently concluded elections, in which it failed to secure a majority in the 545-member parliament to form a government by itself, despite Mr Modi’s boasts to the contrary.

Congress Party leader BK Hariprasad posted on X that such an assault on free expression by arresting Roy was unacceptable. Fascism, he added, thrived on crushing dissent, particularly from intellectuals and writers.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) also condemned the move to prosecute Roy on the grounds that it “defied logic, except of the fascist kind”.

Roy has declined to comment on the matter.