Attack on Arundhati Roy’s house condemned


New Delhi: Social activists’ group Sahmat (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust) Monday condemned an “attack” on author Arundhati Roy’s residence by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) women wing.

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The group, which has among its members social activists like Romila Thapar, K.M. Shrimali, D.N. Jha, K.N. Panikkar, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, M.K. Raina, Iqtidar Alam Khan, Shireen Moosvi and Irfan Habib, in an official statement alleged that some news channels had prior intimation on the incident.

“The attack, by elements of the BJP Mahila Morcha on Oct 31, was reportedly carried out after due advance notice was given to three of India’s leading English news channels, which had their (broadcast) vans parked outside Roy’s home,” theatre artist and social activist M.K. Raina said on behalf of Sahmat.

“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,” he said.

The BJP’s women wing activists Sunday marched to Roy’s Delhi residence, protesting her remarks over Kashmir.

About 150 women workers of the BJP, led by Delhi unit chief Sikha Roy, demonstrated outside Roy’s Kautilya Marg residence in Chanakyapuri around 10.30 a.m. and shouted slogans “Take back your statement, else leave India”.

Roy along with Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani advocated azadi for Kashmir at a seminar here over a week ago.

“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,” Raina said.

He added that similar attacks were carried out in an exhibition of M.F. Hussain’s paintings organised by Sahmat in 2008. Shortly after that incident, the Shri Ram Sene, a Hindu radical group, attacked women at a pub in Mangalore, for supposedly immoral behaviour.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he said.

“We appeal to all to tone down the overheated rhetoric and let reason prevail,” he said.