Arundhati Roy faces prosecution 14 years after original complaint

Last week, 14 years after the original complaint, Delhi’s most senior official granted permission for the Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy to be prosecuted under India’s stringent anti-terror laws, per But the big question is, will one of India’s most celebrated writers really face prosecution for things she said more than a decade ago?

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) is notorious for making it exceptionally challenging to get bail, often resulting in years of detention until the completion of the trial.

The Modi government has been accused of using the law to silence critics, including activists, journalists and civil society members.

Ms. Roy, 62, an outspoken writer and activist, is in the dock for comments on Kashmir, a perennial lightning rod in India. “Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this,” she said at a stormy, day-long conference in Delhi, organised by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners, in October 2010.

At the time, Indian-administered Kashmir was in turmoil, with locals describing it as a fierce uprising against India. Ms. Roy’s remarks had followed the deaths of dozens of protesters since fresh pro-freedom demonstrations broke out earlier that year. India and neighbouring Pakistan, nuclear-armed rivals, claim the disputed region in full and have fought two wars over it.

Ms. Roy’s remarks predictably set off a firestorm of protest, with many critics questioning her loyalty to India, and the federal government, then led by the Congress party, threatening to arrest her on charges of sedition. A senior minister said while India enjoyed freedom of speech, “it can’t violate the patriotic sentiments of the people.”

Lawyers are puzzled by the decision to prosecute Ms. Roy more than a decade after her speech. She was originally accused of sedition, but the Supreme Court suspended the colonial-era sedition law in May 2022; invoking UAPA charges allows the state to bypass the statute of limitations and proceed with the case.

Ms. Roy has been a trenchant critic of Mr. Modi’s government, which rights groups accuse of targeting activists and muzzling free speech. The permission for her prosecution comes just after Mr. Modi’s re-election for a third term.

Ms. Roy has declined to comment on the latest development. It is unclear if the police have investigated the allegations or have evidence against her and the other accused. Two individuals named in the original complaint have passed away. But one thing is certain. If one of India’s most feted writers faces imprisonment under a draconian anti-terror law, it will ignite global condemnation and outrage.


  • Featured image: Arundhati Roy/AFP
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