Monday, April 12, 2010

Chhattisgarh police probing complaint against Arundhati Roy

Aman Sethi

Raipur: The Chhattisgarh police confirmed that they were investigating a complaint filed against award-winning writer Arundhati Roy for violating the provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 (CSPSA). As per the complaint filed by one Viswajit Mitra in Raipur, Ms. Roy's recent essay “Walking with the Comrades,” in which she travelled extensively with a Maoist company, came under the purview of the Act as the essay could be construed as intended to create support for the Maoists.

The essay was published in the March 29 2010 issue of Outlook, a weekly news magazine.

“I have filed the complaint as meeting with or engaging with an outlawed organisation is clearly forbidden by the CSPSA,” said Mitra, who describes himself as “an ordinary citizen.” “In such a sensitive time, the police should investigate.”

“The complaint has been forwarded to the legal department,” said Chhattisgarh Director General of Police Viswa Ranjan. “The matter shall be investigated before taking any further steps.” In a telephonic interview, Mr. Viswa Rajan refused to set any fixed time frame for the enquiry.

“This is clearly an attempt to cordon off the theatre of war and choke the flow of critical information coming out of the forests,” said Ms. Roy in a statement emailed to The Hindu.

“There is very little news and no record of adivasis who have been killed in remote forest villages or of the situation which can be described as a State of Emergency.”

Refuting charges that her article “glorified” the Maoists, she described her essay as “a writer's account of a journey behind the ‘battle lines' of Operation Greenhunt.” “I think it is crucial for the people of the country to know what is going on, on the other side, in order to make informed decisions,” she said.

Broad definition

The CSPSA 2005 has been criticised by some for its broad definition of unlawful activities and the stringent penalties for those convicted. As per the law, anyone who “in any manner contributes or receives or solicits any contribution or aid” for an unlawful organisation can be punished for up to two years.

“The loose and broad language used to define and criminalise support for an unlawful organisation can, and has been misused in the past,” said Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhusan. “Under the Act, even a lawyer representing a Maoist in court or a doctor treating a wounded Maoist can be prosecuted.”

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