Supporting Maoists will invite 10 year jail
The site is refusing to let me post my response in one go so I'm splitting this up. here is Part 1/2

Ajita I am going to cut out the embellishments and list out points here taking it right from the top, from where you started this thread.

Excerpt from the press release
‘Any person who commits the offence of supporting such a terrorist rganization (like Communist Party of India (CPI)-Maoist) with inter alia intention to further the activities of such terrorist organizations would be liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or with fine or with both,” a home ministry statement said.

It said such action would be taken under Section 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967’.

Ajita’s comment
Quote:There is little doubt that anyone who resorts to terrorism against India and our people must be contained and brought to justice. But restricting the right of people to support and argue against whichever ideology they choose to is a terrible precedent to set. I fear India is moving in the direction fascism, even more so than it was during all those years under socialist rule.

My source of knowledge about the ideology of the CPI (Maoist) comes from a study I read on the following link - Security in South Asia: Conventional and Unconventional
Factors of Destabilization
. One of their objectives is to establish,
‘A united front of all revolutionary classes under the leadership of the proletariat based on the worker-peasant alliance and on the general programme of the people's democratic revolution. This united front will be built in the course of advancing the armed struggle and for the seizure of political power through armed struggle’.

You cannot support an organization whose ideology is to create a front that is ‘built in the course of advancing the armed struggle and for the seizure of political power through armed struggle’. I definitely don’t support this ideology and I would view anyone who does as trying to destabilize India as we know it. Therefore I don’t agree that we would be fascist if we decide to protect ourselves against forces that try to dismantle us. The excerpt you point out from the press release is clearly that. If you support the organization to further its activities you will be persecuted. Here I agree with Sajith’s thoughts. The press release was an announcement to educate the ignorant. The press release stating that the sole aim is armed overthrow of the Indian State and that they have no place in India’s parliamentary democracy, is not at all unfounded when you understand the CPI(Maoist) ideology. Despite this warning, verbal support continue to pour in for the Maoists through activists like Arundhathi Roy. She was being very careful to stress that she does not support the violence however. This is an important point, for anyone of us may protest against the government and sympathize with the grievances of the individuals who comprise the Maoists but no one may support the method they use to communicate this. You may not kill people and you may not support people who kill. Sundari need not worry and neither does egotwist. I saw a comment that egotwist had made
Quote:……..about the 'whingers'... errr that is precisely the answer. The GOVERNMENT is STOPPING whingers/whiners from whinging/whining. No, not just stopping... It is threatening a jail term of 10 years.

That is completely off the mark. I have spent the last one hour talking to my lawyer so as to be doubly sure I am not interpreting this wrong. I assure you egotwist that no one is being restricted from voicing opinions and there is no mention of the same in the quoted press release with which Ajita has a problem. Siddharth is a wonderful example of this sort of opposition/whining. I would like to state that parts of what Siddharth stated is in complete support of Maoist thought but he will not be persecuted for saying that because not for once has he suggested that the ideology (in terms of armed struggle) is correct nor did he extend support to further their terrorist activities.

Now back to Ajita, having stated all this, for the sake of clarity, if your stand is that one should be allowed to say that they extend support to the Maoists in their armed struggle to overthrow the government and yet one must not be persecuted then that calls for a different debate. You would have to oppose the very constitution of India and the right to freedom as mentioned there and that should take you to my very first comment on this thread. I shall continue further assuming that it is not your intention to support armed struggle against India.

Siddharth’s concerns, I am sure as is the concerns of most of us trying to uphold freedom, is about misuse. I don’t deny there are and there could be incidents of misuse. Every time a law is enacted, in any part of the world, especially laws created to fight terrorism, there are incidents of misuse. Such misuses have been reported even from developed and liberal countries. I am not making an argument for, ‘if it can happen there, it can happen here’ but incidents like this happen and democratic systems such as ours provide room for rectification unlike police states. I have already responded to Siddarth with details on earlier laws that were enacted by India for containing terrorism and how the laws were repealed through democratic processes.

Ajita you have made repeated references to ‘current laws protecting us against terrorist threats’. May I request you to please list them? The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, was enacted into law as way back as 1967. When can law be classified as current law as per your definition? It has gone through various amendments but then that is in keeping with democratic processes with multiple minds working in tandem to structure the law. These minds belong to people who were elected by the Indian populace. In affect it is the will of the people.
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Here is Part 2/2

Ajita, I am impressed at your knowledge of various eminent personalities and their quotes but unfortunately I haven’t done much reading on the philosophies of others. I was speaking my mind and was not aware that I must understand a particular grammar in free speech. The Harm Principle and The Offense Principle is new to me and all the knowledge I posses is from the little I checked on Wikipedia. However one thing did glaringly stand out to me and that is your reference to John Stuart Mill’s quote, "...there ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered." This would be unacceptable to anyone if the doctrine professed is going to create harm. Since you did express your opinion being,
Quote:the only valid restrictions on freedom of speech are those that are clearly meant to prevent harm
, the press release is completely in keeping with this.

You make a reference to an excerpt from the press release, ‘ ...inter alia intention to further the activities of such terrorist organisations...", with,
Quote:What activities? Terrorist activities? Bathroom activities? Familial activities?
An online dictionary defines ‘inter alia’ as among other things; eg. "the committee recommended, inter alia, that he be promoted". Where does this conflict with your thoughts on the harm principle? I see nothing ambiguous. You are dwelling upon one section of the entire act. To assume that it was Arundhati Roy’s activities that prompted the government to issue the press release is giving Arundhati Roy too much importance and bordering on paranoia. If framing people is the game, they can take her and other ‘intellectual dissidents’ out with the existing laws if they so choose.

With references made to my final comment.
Quote:………does this justify creating a special law targeting this one terrorist group and all those who voice support for Maoist/tribal issues? Are not our existing anti-terrorist laws sufficient?.
The law was not created for tackling the Maoists and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, is an existing law. I disagree with your claim on this being a case of poisoning the well because the Maoist ideology clearly states the same objectives that the Indian Government is accusing them of. My comparison of equating the 9/11 conspiracy theory with your views on the law we are debating ends at the point where fingers are being pointed at people in authority as being the ones perpetrating atrocities on its own citizens. I continue to disagree with you that this is a case of breakdown of freedom of speech.

Quote:Of course political parties are diametrically opposed to each other on certain ideological grounds. The misleading part is when you imply that this particular issue is something that the parties are diametrically opposed to each other about. This is false. Both major parties (BJP and Congress) have much to gain by suppressing communist ideology in our modern socio-political climate. In fact, we (meaning those of us debating this) all do! If we were making the argument purely out of self-interest (using a narrow definition of self-interest) most of us here would benefit from putting an end to communist ideology through force. But that would be undemocratic. I may not agree with communist ideology, but I certainly think that the government should not be suppressing it.

I completely agree with you on this one and I stand corrected if that is what was interpreted from my statement, however your next paragraph helps clear my air.

Quote:Of course, this is a self-correcting process, but it is one that involves taking a stand when injustice is being perpetuated. This is why we have rights as citizens and this is why we have a judiciary that can challenge legislative decisions. In a true democracy, an informed and proactive citizenry is very much a part of the process. In India we are just not used to this, at least when compared to the West. It is essential that we realize that government is not just about political parties but also about the people.

At a macro level the balance tilts in favor of the idea with the maximum noise. As I have already stated, you make your noise and if everyone else joins you then you will succeed in changing the law. We in India are no less in comparison to how the citizens collectively tilt the power balances. We have seen the decline of the BJP for instance from the national scene and to add to your last line in that quote, it is not just about the people, the government is the people.
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Adithya: "Siddharth is a wonderful example of this sort of opposition/whining. I would like to state that parts of what Siddharth stated is in complete support of Maoist thought but he will not be persecuted for saying that because not for once has he suggested that the ideology (in terms of armed struggle) is correct nor did he extend support to further their terrorist activities."

Slight disagreement there, Adithya. And the disagreement arises from the use of the word "thought".

I am sure you would agree that water is vital for sustaining human life. Charu Mazumdar and Osama Bin Laden would agree with the same too. It surely would not imply that the notion that water is important for human existence can be called Maoist or Al-Queda "thought". It's the recognition of the reality. Maoist "thought" would refer to their ideas, opinions and ideology, which I do not share with them at all (as you recognised in the latter half of the sentence, and later in your comment).

This is why my comments don't constitute the same type of commentary by the likes of Arundhati Roy and Varavara Rao, who have openly written about why only an armed revolution can be a lasting solution to the "corporate-Hindu-political" nexus (although Arundhati has come out speaking against violence, she has written in her books about her passive support of an armed struggle). The above law is targetted, I presume, on the likes of such individuals, and not me or someone like a Digvijay Singh.

Also, far from being the "opposition", I want the government to take action, fully bearing in mind the ground realities and addressing all concerns, rather than just the mindless sending in of troops, which is counterproductive and plain wrong.

@Siddharth - If you like apples and I like apples, it would not imply that you like apples because I like apples. As you later point out in your response what I expressed is quite clear when you read till the end of the paragraph.

The government's consideration to send in troops is coming to us after many decades of insurgency. Going by whatever I have read in the media till date, I understand that the Maoists never wanted to come to the table for a talk.. as their ideology clearly states it is about overthrowing the establishment on the lines of Mao in China. I have heard arguments from multiple angles about how the true intention of the government is to quash/suppress without hearing them out and so on... The truth is that I have no reason to believe that the government is plotting something heinous. It would pain me if innocent lives are lost but the government's wait and watch policy till date has only give time for the tumor to grow to the extent that they now feel justified to derail passenger trains. It pained me more to watch bodies of innocent children being pulled out of the wreckage. What is the solution? I dont know.. I dont have a solution. I dont even have suggestions on how the government might want to try handling the problem. I have taken the stance of an observer. Through forums like these I am listening to other people's opinions. I yearn for a solution where no life is lost.

From my understanding of insurgencies around the world, they gain great momentum when presenting resistance but soon their cause is lost and the whole movement becomes a profession. Members of the movement know no other work but to fight. They never integrate into civil society even if they succeed in overthrowing the existing establishment and set up their own. We have seen this happening in neighboring Srilanka and Nepal. Violence is never a solution. I have grievances against the government as well but I am not plotting to overthrow the government for that.. I am striving to change it using tools within the existing frame work.

I know that I have completely deviated from the main topic on one's opinion on the government's press release. My apologies

(04-Jun-2010, 02:15 AM)siddharth Wrote: Adithya: "Siddharth is a wonderful example of this sort of opposition/whining. I would like to state that parts of what Siddharth stated is in complete support of Maoist thought but he will not be persecuted for saying that because not for once has he suggested that the ideology (in terms of armed struggle) is correct nor did he extend support to further their terrorist activities."

Slight disagreement there, Adithya. And the disagreement arises from the use of the word "thought".

I am sure you would agree that water is vital for sustaining human life. Charu Mazumdar and Osama Bin Laden would agree with the same too. It surely would not imply that the notion that water is important for human existence can be called Maoist or Al-Queda "thought". It's the recognition of the reality. Maoist "thought" would refer to their ideas, opinions and ideology, which I do not share with them at all (as you recognised in the latter half of the sentence, and later in your comment).

This is why my comments don't constitute the same type of commentary by the likes of Arundhati Roy and Varavara Rao, who have openly written about why only an armed revolution can be a lasting solution to the "corporate-Hindu-political" nexus (although Arundhati has come out speaking against violence, she has written in her books about her passive support of an armed struggle). The above law is targetted, I presume, on the likes of such individuals, and not me or someone like a Digvijay Singh.

Also, far from being the "opposition", I want the government to take action, fully bearing in mind the ground realities and addressing all concerns, rather than just the mindless sending in of troops, which is counterproductive and plain wrong.

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Adithya, I think we are still not on the same page on the important distinctions, especially regarding a few points I thought I had made clear earlier. So let me make my case one last time.

As far as I am concerned, there are two clear arguments to be made against this law, both of which are still standing unaffected.

1. The law is deliberately ambiguous.
2. The law is redundant.

Both these conspire to discredit the proposed intent and to lay unwarranted power in the hands of the government. I will take both in order.

1. Ambiguity in the Law:

There was a real reason why I quoted John Stuart Mill. It is important to have a framework for understanding the philosophical underpinnings of the notion and limits of free-speech. The harm principle is indeed the most misunderstood and misused of all the ideas we have discussed. You quoted my statements about it, but I'm afraid you missed the nuance necessary to fully understand it's application. Here is the democratic interpretation of this principle, in more detail:

In order for an act of speech to violate the harm principle, it must call for and/or intend harm against individuals, and/or target specific locations or events. That is, you must express intent towards furthering specific harmful acts for the harm principle to be violated. On the contrary, if an act of speech expresses support for the notion of harm, or argues that harm is the only way for something to get done, it cannot be construed of as violating freedom of speech. This is the nuance that is being missed throughout our conversation. One involves verbally endorsing an act of physical aggression (with the intention of furthering said act). The other is about simply supporting an ideology (without calling for harmful action). Of course, the ideology can have unintended harmful consequences, but that is immaterial. It can be argued that every influential ideology has harmful consequences, even yours and mine. This distinction between action and ideology makes a world of difference in real situations, the type of situations that such laws are meant to help navigate. The reason why we need this clear distinction between support of actions (with intent to cause harm) and support of ideology is to avoid ambiguity in practice. This distinction prevents abuse by governments that want to get rid of certain popular ideas, under the pretext that they are "terrorist" ideas. As I said, no ideology is self-contained, including Maoist ideology. Contained within the Maoist ideology is a deeper political ideology with ideological roots in many other systems of thought that must not be censored. It must be debated and discussed in the free-market of ideas. Simply dismissing all Maoist ideology as terrorist is exactly the kind of thing that the distinction between supporting actions (intended to cause harm), and supporting ideology (with no intention of causing harm) is meant to prevent. This sort of attack on an ideology by the government is blatant censorship of ideas under the pretext of protecting the people. This is exactly the kind of authoritarian government intrusion into public life that democracy is supposed to guard us from.

As we are both aware, constitutional law is very ambiguous. This is an unavoidable artifact of the system. But as I said, there are practical limits to this ambiguity, to be determined by objective facts and logic. This is what we are trying to do here. This is why John Stuart Mill is relevant. Without such a logical framework, the ambiguity is a tool of oppression.

Note: There is of course possible overlap between support for ideology and support for action, which is why the distinction between discussion of ideas and the intent to harm is important. For example, it is perfectly OK for us to discuss the merits (or demerits) of destroying Israel or Palestine (just as an example). But if we demonstrate an intent to destroy Israel or Palestine by supporting specific actions, that should not be protected under free speech. Of course ideologies can incorporate direct action, but throughout my arguments I implore you to keep in mind the role of intent. The only way of demonstrating intent is if it is tied to support of an act. Ideologies are very complex sets of beliefs, and no ideology is a self-contained entity. The only way we have of preserving freedoms and removing ambiguity is to clearly distinguish ideologies from acts that are intended to harm. This is the form of the word ideology that we must use to preserve democratic freedoms. This is very important, because politics, like everything else, needs careful analysis of the semantics used.

The above distinction applies to my statement, the one that you quoted : "But restricting the right of people to support and argue against whichever ideology they choose to is a terrible precedent to set". So, my argument is that as long as the support and arguments are in relation to an ideology, it remains free speech. This is obviously not your view.

You say:
Quote:"I would like to state that parts of what Siddharth stated is in complete support of Maoist thought but he will not be persecuted for saying that because not for once has he suggested that the ideology (in terms of armed struggle) is correct nor did he extend support to further their terrorist activities."

In one sentence you lump (support for) the "ideology" of armed struggle with "support to further terrorist activities". This is where the nuance is lost. Again, as I mentioned above, the democratic way of looking at the issue is that one can freely support any ideology but not terrorist acts (with the intention of furthering said acts). This is how freedom of speech should ideally work in a free society. The important thing here is that this is all about practical application of the law. This distinction between ideology and action is what enables us to distinguish (with as little ambiguity as possible) those who are enemies of the state and those who are engaged in pursuit of the truth. This is the logical framework without which ambiguity is a tool of oppression.

Therefore, suggesting that "ideology (in terms of armed struggle) is correct" should in no way be construed of as a violation of free speech. This is exactly where we disagree.

This same lack of nuance is apparent in this statement of yours:

Quote:"You may not kill people and you may not support people who kill. "

In a democracy, you may not kill people and you may not conspire to commit specified criminal acts endorsed by these people who kill, but you certainly may ideologically support people who kill.

Note: This paragraph is only intended to demonstrate the chasm between the majority view on free-speech in India and the American notion of the same. I am well aware that India is not America, and that you (and I) may chose to reject the American (and consequently, the entire Western) version of freedom of speech. In any case, here goes: In the US, what you stated above would certainly be considered a violation of the first amendment. There are numerous separatist groups in the US- neo-nazis, Aryan nation etc, whose members openly state support for those who commit violent crimes against the government, openly admiring their resolve and their methods, without actually conspiring to commit said crimes. These people are monitored closely by the feds, but they cannot be prosecuted because they are not violating free-speech. There are many Muslims in the US who openly admit support for the ideology of terrorists and suicide bombers. You can go out on the streets of New York and proclaim that terrorism is justified and you will not be prosecuted. You may be attacked by passers by, but you will not be prosecuted for supporting terrorism. You are probably aware of all this, but consider this (slightly unrelated) fact. Burn the American flag at the footsteps of the capitol building, and you will not be prosecuted. In India we simply do not have a conception of the distinction between support for undesirable ideas (or for anti-national symbolism, in the case of burning the flag) and intent to harm other people. Again, the American examples are irrelevant in the Indian context, except to demonstrate one little thing. In general, countries that are freer than us have a better understanding of this distinction between support of terrorist ideology and conspiring to commit acts of terror. We are unfortunately unable to find such nuance in our political dialogue, as evidenced by this conversation.

The justification for allowing any ideology to be freely proclaimed and discussed is a whole different subject. I will not venture to tackle it here, but suffice to say that it is one of the most highly valued commodities in the "free world". In fact, it is the reason why the "free world" is so relatively "free". The instant we begin adding restrictions to the free discussion of ideas we are in authoritarian territory.

You quoted this: " ...inter alia intention to further the activities of such terrorist organizations..." and explained the meaning of inter alia as though that removed the ambiguity inherent in the sentence. I had already looked up the meaning of inter alia before we began this thread, and I still fail to see how it removes any ambiguity. In fact, I believe it only increases the ambiguity, allowing the government to pick any other activity and deem it as illegal under the law. But here is my further explanation of the ambiguity in context:

Quote:"A law restricting free speech becomes a tool to be used for suppression of ideas when it is so purposefully unclear. The harm clause could easily be stated very clearly and simply."

Quote:"Free speech can be preserved while respecting the harm clause. This requires a clear distinction in the law between legitimate discussion of ideas and expression of intent to harm. This is clearly missing in the law."

I stated the above lines in the context of the ambiguous language of the law. Why could the lawmakers have not been more clear? One simple change in the language of the law would make it perfectly acceptable. If the law said "... the intention to further the terrorist activities of such organisations", we would not be having this conversation. This is a simple switch from "furthering the activities of terrorist organizations" to "furthering the terrorist activities of these organizations", but the effect is dramatic and extremely significant. This switch would remove the ambiguity inherent in the current law, but make the law ineffective as far as stifling of dissenting ideologies is concerned. My argument is that that the ambiguity is deliberately designed and put in place to suppress public expression and discussion of this ideology, through government intimidation.

(continued in the next post)
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(continued from previous post)

2. Redundancy of the Law:

The new law is redundant regarding its stated purpose of targeting Maoist terrorism. It is not required for the government to do what it should be doing to stop terrorist acts. This is clear as day and undeniably evident in the language of the new law, as I will demonstrate.

I realize that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was passed in 1967. I understand the point you make about how laws are amended over time and new sections added. I have no problem with this process in itself, as I have made amply clear, and in fact, I completely endorse this process of change. Unfortunately, not all change is good change, and the merits of this particular change is what our conversations is about. The disagreement is not with the process itself but with the content of this particular addendum to the act. Whatever the contents of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act prior to the addendum, it was fully sufficient to address Maoist terrorism. The recent change only pushes through one addition that makes any difference- the targeting of the Maoist ideology. This is why the new law is redundant as far as the purpose of targeting terrorism is concerned. It does not bring anything new to targeting the terrorist activities. The sole purpose of this law is to target the ideology.

Nevertheless, a walk through history can be useful, so let's take it together. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 has been added to until it has become the most draconian set of laws that the Indian government has ever imposed on the people. Contrary to what you would expect, our Indian form of democracy which has traditionally kept the people ignorant and cheering on government intrusion into all aspects of public life without heed to checks and balances, has not created a more free society today since 1967. I will get to these amendments and their draconian nature in a bit, but let us start at the beginning.

There have been various laws passed before and after independence to bring tribes and separatist elements under the government's rule. Generally most of the tyrannical laws that were in place during British rule were dismantled by 1967, when the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was passed. There have been a few other laws that have been passed since the UAPA was passed in 1967. Note that these are not amendments to the UAPA but separate acts, all of which have been replaced in some form or the other by amendments to the UAPA. I will get to the UAPA itself right after listing these other acts. It is important to understand these acts and the suppression of freedoms that they entailed, to understand how their cumulative inclusion under the UAPA has created the most repressive political environment supported by Indian law.

a. The Maintenance of Internal Security Act 1973 (MISA)

This act was passed by the administration of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. It gave Gandhi's administration and Indian law enforcement agencies the powers for indefinite detention of individuals, search and seizure of property without warrants, telephone and wiretapping. Subsequently when national emergency was enforced in 1975, thousands of innocent people were arrested and interrogated.

Much of the essence of this law is preserved under UAPA under various amendments, most of which were made quite recently.

b. The Terrorism and Disruptive Activities Act of 1985, modified in 1987 and renewed thrice before expiring in 1995.

This act was passed in response to the terrorist violence in Punjab, which also affected the rest of India. It has been roundly criticized as an extremely restrictive and one of the least effective laws ever passed in India. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
"It had a conviction rate of less than 1% despite the fact that, under criminal law, a confession before a police officer, even though being given under torture, was admissible as evidence in court"
You can read the entire text of the act here.

Despite being a very thorough piece of legislation, this law has been extremely ineffective, and has resulted in an unacceptably high number of wrongful arrests and cases of torture. Even the government has conceded that TADA was draconian!

c. The Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA)  of 2002

This act was was mostly driven by the events that took place on 9/11/2001. The government made claims that the laws were along the lines of the (heavily decried) Patriot Act in the US, but this was dismissed by those who actually compared the two acts. POTA is now infamous among human rights groups as probably the single most draconian piece of legislation ever passed in modern India. It has been universally condemned by human rights groups and civil liberty groups. It was severely abused throughout the country and became a huge factor in the 2004 elections, so much so that the UPA government made it an election talking point! The Union government scrapped this act in October of 2004, but not before adding the "essential provisions" of the act as an amendment to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The human rights issues (and the legitimate terrorist issues) regarding this act are addressed in an interesting article (abstract here) that I have attached to this post.

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967

I'm not going to bore you with the irrelevant parts and amendments (as far as our concerns here). You probably have already read up on this on Wikipedia. Let us just take the amendments to this act starting from 2004.

In October of 2004 the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Ordinance was passed. This law immediately squelched the jubilation among human rights groups on the death of POTA. Much of the criticism hinges on the definition of 'terrorist acts' which is something that I do not want to get into here. In any case, it is not useful to my arguments. The only thing I wish t say about this is that there are other more widely discussed issues with UAPA that we have not even begun to discuss in this entire thread. For a more thorough discussion of the 2004 ordinance, look here.

A few high-profile cases have cast a shadow on the act.

a. One of the most prominent of these cases is the arrest of human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen. Here is a letter sent to Indian public officials by 22 Nobel laureates, criticizing the arrest. The statement argued that Dr. Sen has been "charged under two internal security laws that do not comport with international human rights standards” . Dr. Sen later won the prestigious Dr. Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health & Human Rights, in 2007. The case against him has garnered international attention. Amnesty international came to Dr. Sen's support in 2009, alleging that the laws that he was being help under are against international law (at least 2 international laws). Prominent human rights figures like Noam Chomsky have tried to intervene on his behalf. The government held Dr. Sen without charging him for many months until the pressure finally brought charges against him. None of the evidence listed against him has been made public. You can read more about him on his wikipedia page here. There is absolutely no evidence (presented and made public for scrutiny) that he intended to further any terrorist activity, and if you see the amount of selfless good that this man has done, there can be no doubt that his treatment by the government is a human rights tragedy.

b. In May of 2008 film maker and journalist Ajay T.G. was arrested under UAPA. This was a case that was a direct violation of human rights. No evidence for support of any terrorist activity was provided. The only evidence they had was a letter from Ajay that was found in a raided Maoist camp, in which the film maker was requesting for the return of his camera. No FIR or chargesheet was filed, which was completely acceptable under the draconian UAPA. It took the force of the artists and film makers to get the officials to even begin looking into the evidence.

Ajay T.G. and Dr. Binayak Sen had been working together for many years prior to their arrests. Here is a video clip of the film on Dr. Sen, made by the film maker T. G. Ajay.

In 2008, a month after the Mumbai terror attacks, the UAPA was further strengthened above and beyond the draconian additions made in the 2004 ordinance.

The Burden of Proof is on You

The reason why I have listed all this is because you requested that I do so. But it is irrelevant as far as my argument is concerned. This is because the onus of proving that the new law is required falls on you and not on me. My claim is that the new law is not needed. Your claim (and the government's claim) is that it is. As you know from arguing with theists, the burden of proof lies on the person who makes the positive claim.

To reiterate my point in this argument 2, the only addition that this law makes towards addressing terrorism is that it threatens those who support Maoist ideology. This law is designed to undermine an ideology and not to prevent any act of terrorism. If its purpose is to prevent terrorist acts, this law is completely redundant.

(continued in next post)

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"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
(continued from previous post)

These are a few general thoughts in addition to the two main arguments presented in the two previous posts:

a. You stated "To assume that it was Arundhati Roy’s activities that prompted the government to issue the press release is giving Arundhati Roy too much importance and bordering on paranoia", without mentioning the context of my statements which contain the evidence for what I was actually saying there. Firstly, presenting evidence and then drawing attention to the implications of that evidence is the opposite of assumption. Secondly, my implication has been slightly misrepresented. Here is that context:

Quote:"Take a look at this story. Three days before the home ministry made its announcement, the communication between Arundathi Roy and the Maoists was made public. Roy was contacted by the Maoists and asked to represent them in dialogue with the state. Roy rejected the offer, but has stated that intellectuals and activists should be invited to peace talks between the government and the Maoists. Now go back and read what the government said in its statement. "The home ministry said the government has noticed that some Maoist leaders were directly contacting certain NGOs and intellectuals to propagate their ideology and "persuade them to take steps (and) support the CPI-Maoist ideology". The government has no intention of dealing with the intellectual debate. The proposed law is in reaction to a peaceful idea- that we can sort out our problems through discourse. The whole terrorism thing is a distraction.

Of course none of this is conclusive evidence that the government is targeting Roy alone, but I have not claimed that it was Roy's activities alone that led the government to draft this law. I have simply presented the facts and the timeline, both of which count as evidence that the government is trying to stifle an ideology, and both of which you have conveniently ignored. Which part of "the government has noticed that some Maoist leaders were directly contacting certain NGOs and intellectuals to propagate their ideology and "persuade them to take steps (and) support the CPI-Maoist ideology" is unclear? Of course there could be other intellectuals that the government is talking about, but the government statement makes it pretty clear that this law is in response to their fear that certain ideological elements could get mainstream public exposure. It is important to note the context that my statements were made within. I was pointing out that the agenda of the government is to target the ideology itself. This has been my point all along, not that the government is targeting one person. I do not think my statements are anywhere near bordering on paranoia. But I do think that ignoring the obvious implications contained within the language of the government statement approaches gullibility. The very statements provided by the government are clear that I am right on this point.

b. The tyrannical suppression of the freedom to believe and to propagate particular ideologies is commonplace in dictatorships and rare in true democracies. India does have a lot of freedoms compared to dictatorships and tyrannical regimes, but this is a hard fought and hard earned set of freedoms. In India, we can fight against tyranny confident that someday the truth will prevail, despite the forces that tend to accumulate power. The process of dialogue is key to our democracy, like it is to all democracies. The problem is that when laws are made to target ideologies rather than actions, this freedom to discuss and debate ideas is compromised. It was undemocratic when Stalin banned expression of religion and it is undemocratic if India bans expression of Maoist ideology (this is not the case with the law, but it's awfully close, using intimidation to suppress ideas).

This law does not necessarily have to be used to arrest individuals based on their ideological support, in order to have its intended effect. It is more about intimidation and control of mainstream culture. Here is what I said early in this thread:

Quote:"Under the current law, a professor of political science can easily be arrested for saying that the Maoists have a point (maybe it won't stick in court, but it will have its intended effect of silencing the dissenters). An objective observer must look at the language of the law and see how easily this law can be used to shut down political and social dissent."

This is the problem that we must address. The arrests of Dr. Sen and T.G. Ajay are evidence for this sort of intimidation. I completely reject as ridiculous the claim that a law targeting an ideology must be passed for the government to "educate the ignorant". We live in the 21st century, and this is not a primitive monarchy The only reason Arundathi Roy has not been arrested, contrary to what you claim, is because it will raise such a stink in the developed world that India will be condemned by human rights groups, the United Nations Human Rights Council and every democratic country in the world. We will be put in the same category as Burma (although this would be unfair) and comparisons will be made to Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest and treatment (again unfairly, but these comparisons will be made). The leaders in the Indian government knows all this very well. It takes a lot of political savvy to remain part of the "free world", and if nothing else, our politicians are great at PR.

Roy has so far laughed off this attempt to shut her and others like her down. She recently challenged the government to arrest her at a talk in Mumbai. This need to save face in front of the world is India's (and Roy's) only hope in such situations. If a lesser known person says or does the things that Roy does, he or she will be thrown in jail real quick. Consider her visit to and reporting of a Maoist camp earlier this year. Do you really think such acts by nameless individuals would be tolerated? Dr. Sen and T.G. Ajay were arrested based on flimsy evidence. No doubt many have been arrested on completely nonsensical charges. We do not hear about most of these people, and the few prominent cases like Dr. Sen and T.G. Ajay are simply the government's PR mistakes. These are individuals with too much influence for the authorities to make disappear into a cell somewhere. The majority of Indians do not have this luxury.

c. There is one assumption in the arguments that we have failed to address. I'm talking about the assumption that censoring Maoist ideology will somehow reduce Maoist terrorism. This line of reasoning is immaterial to my arguments against censorship of ideas, but where is the evidence for this assumption that censoring Maoist ideology will reduce Maoist terrorism? I think a very good case can be made that it will have the opposite effect by, for example, driving the Maoist elements underground and away from open and free discussion with democratically-minded and peaceful people. There may be better counter arguments, and there even may be studies on this subject. In any case, this is just something that we might want to explore.

To Recap:

The two points that I present as evidence that the law is draconian are:

1. The law is deliberately ambiguous.
2. The law is redundant.

I think I have stated my reasoning as clearly as possible. I also think that on the first point we are ideologically divided. Such a divide cannot be breached by talking about technicalities, because the divide is a values divide. My values on free speech are simply different from yours. But I am hoping that the arguments I presented will at least get you to see my position and where I stand on the rights for freedom of speech. I am hoping that my explanation of the application of the harm principle will make my position clear, even if it doesn't convince you that I am right. On this point I fear we may simply have to agree to disagree.

As for the second point, it is really a technical argument that needs evidence from your end. I would like to see what you have to say.

"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
Thanks Adithya and Ajita for your remarkable posts. Obviously you guys are digging deep!

This notification has become a serious debate in the media as well. Lawyers, judges and even an ex police chief are against the UAP act on civilians.

You’re with us or against us
The government’s recent warning that members of civil society who were in contact with the Maoists could be slapped with the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act has given rise to a fierce debate, reports Avijit Chatterjee

ENEMIES OF THE STATE? Civil society members such as writer Arundhati Roy and activist Sujato Bhadra (right) are perceived to be sympathetic to the Maoists
While the government tries to grapple with acts of terror by Maoists, a debate rages on the best way to tackle the grisly attacks on civilians and security men. In fact, of late the government has been under considerable fire from civil society members who have been questioning its policy of dealing with the Maoists. But does that justify the Centre’s decision to prosecute intellectuals and non governmental organisations (NGOs) upholding the Maoists’ cause under the Unlawful Activities Prevention (UAP) Act?

The Union home ministry recently issued a statement saying that some Maoist leaders have been directly contacting NGOs and intellectuals to propagate their ideology. The note warned members of civil society that the UAP Act, 1967, which calls for imprisonment of up to 10 years, could be used to punish individuals in contact with the Maoists. The law was amended and adopted by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in December, 2008, following the terror attacks in Mumbai.

The home ministry’s warning to intellectuals has generated widespread debate. While those who support the government’s stand feel that such a step could rein in the civil society outfits that have been espousing the rebels’ cause, perhaps emboldening them to wreak greater havoc, others feel that it would stifle the voice of the people.

A senior state police official, requesting anonymity, said that there was growing evidence of the involvement of intellectuals with Maoists and that the government directive would help them to act against these people.

Home minister P. Chidambaram had earlier called upon members of civil society at large, demanding “condemnation of those who have, erroneously, extended intellectual and material support to the CPI (Maoist)”.

Many intellectuals and NGOs feel the government’s strategy of dealing with the Naxalites is too heavily focused on the security offensive and not enough on development and socio-economic measures to address the problems in the tribal areas.

Expectedly, the government’s recent ultimatum has drawn flak from civil liberties outfits, writers, academics, lawyers and journalists. Even the Supreme Court recently censured the Chhattisgarh government for raising the bogey of Maoists to run down human rights activists.

Earlier this year, a division bench of Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, while snubbing the Chhattisgarh government for describing human rights activists as Maoist sympathisers, asked, “What do you mean by sympathisers? Sympathy is fighting for their cause (the Maoists). Nobody is advocating their cause. They are not saying their action should be condoned.... You mean to say they (human rights activists) should not be concerned with human rights and fundamental rights?”

“It is this distinction which is important,” points out Justice P.B. Sawant, a former Supreme Court judge. “Espousal of a cause cannot be considered a crime. The government is using the UAP Act as a weapon to terrorise intellectuals and human rights activists who have been most vocal against its repressive policies,” he says.

The UAP Act, which is routinely invoked against terrorists and hardened criminals, is a fairly stringent law. Section 39 of the act empowers the government to imprison anyone collaborating with terrorist groups for up to 10 years and impose a fine. It also allows arrest without warrant on mere suspicion, indefinite detention in custody and denial of bail if a prima facie case exists.

Former director general of Punjab police K.P.S. Gill, who is credited with stamping out insurgency in Punjab, feels that slapping intellectuals with the UAP Act is not a good idea. “There should always be room for debate,” he says. “You cannot stifle the voice of the people through legislation or by other means. Everyone has the right to criticise the government.”

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan is more scathing. “If the government tries to stifle dissent, we are heading towards fascism. You cannot take recourse to a law to clamp down on the right to freedom of speech and expression,” he says.

Others too feel that the government has erred in threatening civil society with punishment under the UAP Act if they are found to have “contacts” with the Maoists. Says Sujato Bhadra, secretary of the Calcutta-based Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, “There should be space for protest in a democratic society. Earlier, the act was used to arrest human rights defender Dr Binayak Sen and independent filmmaker and journalist Ajay T.G., among others. Voicing the concern of the Maoists who have been fighting for the cause of displaced tribal people doesn’t amount to lending ideological support to them.”

Of course, the debate is centred on whether one considers certain members of civil society to be actually sympathetic to the Maoists, despite the latter’s horrendous acts against the state and its people, or whether one considers them to be merely exercising their right to criticise the government handling of a serious problem. So while many are bitterly opposed to the idea of the government invoking the UAP Act in this context, others feel that it is well within its rights to do so.

“I don’t think the government is left with any other option. Intellectuals wield a lot of influence over society. If they continue to spread a canard against the government, it can have a bad effect. The need of the hour is to stand united behind the government in its fight against the Naxalites,” says West Bengal Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya.

Others caution that the act should be used with discretion. Says West Bengal BJP president Rahul Sinha, “Though we support the use of the act against the Naxalites and their supporters, discretion in its use is required.”

Agrees Justice Sawant. “I think it is unfair to tar everybody with the same brush. The government should act against individuals against whom it has conclusive proof,” he says.

Ultimately, the government has to figure out whether the supposed benefit of slapping champions of Maoists with the UAP Act will outweigh the bad press it will get as a result. For every silenced “Maoist sympathiser” will undoubtedly breed a thousand more who will decry the government’s effort to muzzle free speech and the right to dissent.
I simply do not trust our government. This new law gives police and political goondas too much power.

If I say TRUE things like:

Tribals and the poor have been forcefully dispossessed of their land and goods to make way for Corporates that bribed the politicians

Govt. has always neglected these margianlized people. Maoists built hospitals and roads which is one reason why they became popular.

Beauracrats and politicians stole the money meant for tribal development and that is why these tribals no longer trust that the sahibs will look after them and turn to people who promise to make things better.

Whenever tribals tried to assert their rights they were beaten by the police and women were raped and no one was punished.

In the name of fighting Maoists joint forces have brutally tortured villagers.

I can be arrested for not showing enough slavish loyalty towards the state.

Now the leaders of the movement have become corrupted and power-hungry and many of the villagers no longer support them. But Maoist violence is the first time the elite had even taken notice of their grievances. If the govt had been an actual govt for the people Maoists could not have taken root.

The ordinary people who first became Maoist supporters had nothing to lose --- 'nothing' is what Independant India gave them; why shall they love the nation-state?

Karan Thapar: I want very much to talk about the big picture. But, before I come to that, let me point out something else. In the last one year, the Maoists have beheaded Francis Induwar and Sanjoy Ghosh; they have killed Lokus Tete. They have kidnapped other policemen. There have been devastating attacks in Dantewada, there has been the sabotage of the Gyaneshwari Express. In your eyes, does it amount to legitimate strategy or tactics, or does it detract from the Maoist cause?

Arundhati Roy: You can't bundle them all together. For example the train accident. I don't think anybody knows who did it yet.

Karan Thapar: Everyone's convinced that the Maoists...

Arundhati Roy: Everyone can be convinced. But it is not enough to be convinced. You got to have facts and the facts are unravelling every day.
Karan Thapar: What about the Dantewada, the beheadings, the kidnappings?
Arundhati Roy: This thing is that now what's happening is that there is a situation of conflict, of war. So, you have set out a litany of the terrible acts of violence that have taken place inflicted by one side and left out the picture of what's going on the other side, which is that you have two hundred thousand paramilitary forces closing in on these poorest villages, evicting people, burning people. Of course, all violence is terrible but if you want to get into what actually is going on, we will have to discuss it in slightly more detail.

Karan Thapar: So what you are suggesting is that we have a spiral of violence where what one side does to the other justifies the response and, in a sense, you don't want to blame one or the other. You see them both as equally guilty?

Arundhati Roy: No I don't. I don't see both as equally guilty and I don't want to justify anything. I see a government breaking every sort of law in the Constitution that it has about tribal people and assault on the homelands of millions of people and some, there is a resistance force that is resisting that. Now, that situation is becoming violent, becoming ugly. And if you start trying to extract morality out of it, you are going to be in a mess.

Karan Thapar: But one thing that is crystal clear from what you said is you see the government as the first person, the first party, at fault. The bigger fault, the first fault, is the government's, you see the Maoists as just responding.

Arundhati Roy: I see the government absolutely, as the major aggressor. As far as the Maoists are concerned, of course, their ideology is an ideology of overthrowing the Indian state with violence. However, I don't believe that if the Indian state was a just state, if ordinary people had some minor hope for justice, the Maoists would just be a marginal group of militants with no popular appeal.

Karan Thapar: So the Maoists get support and strength from the fact that you don't believe that the Indian state is just.

Arundhati Roy: Let me tell you, forget the Maoists. Every resistance movement, armed or unarmed, and the Maoists today are fighting to implement the Constitution, and the government is vandalising it.
Karan Thapar: So the real constitutionalists are the Maoists and the real breakers of the Constitution is the government?

Arundhati Roy: Not only the Maoists, all resistance groups.

Karan Thapar: Let's focus for the moment on the Maoists because they are the ones that have been in the news all this week. The prime minister sees the Maoists as the single biggest security threat to the country. I take it that your perception of them is completely different. How do you perceive the Maoists?

Arundhati Roy: I perceive them as a group of people who have at a most militant end in the bandwidth of resistance movements that exist in the cities, in the planes and in the forests.

Karan Thapar: But what are they seeking to do? What is their justification?

Arundhati Roy: Well, their ultimate goal, as they say quite clearly, is to overthrow the Indian state and institute the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is their ultimate goal but...

Karan Thapar: Do you, Arundhati Roy, support that goal?

Arundhati Roy: I don't support that goal in the sense that I don't believe the solution to the problem the world is in right now will come from an imagination either communist or capitalist because...

Karan Thapar: That I understand but do you support any attempt to overthrow the Indian state?

Arundhati Roy: Well, I can't say I do because they will lead me from here, in chains.

Karan Thapar: That technicality apart, it sounds as if you do.

Arundhati Roy: However, I believe that the Indian state has abdicated its responsibility to the people. I believe that. I believe that when a state is no longer bound, neither legally nor morally by the Indian Constitution, either we should rephrase the preamble of the Indian Constitution which says...

Karan Thapar: Or?

Arundhati Roy: Which says we are a sovereign, democratic, secular republic. We should rephrase it and say we are a corporate, Hindu, satellite state.

Karan Thapar: Or?

Arundhati Roy: Or we have to have a government which respects the Constitution or we change the Constitution.

Karan Thapar: Let me be blunt. It sounds very much to the audience as if you are trying to find a clever, subtle way of saying that you do support the Maoists commitment to overthrow the state but you are scared to say it upfront because you are scared that you would be whisked away to jail.

Arundhati Roy: If I say that I support the Maoists' desire to overthrow the Indian State, I would be saying that I am a Maoist. But I am not a Maoist.

Karan Thapar: But you sympathise with them.

Arundhati Roy: I do sympathise with all the movements. I am on this side of the line with a group of people who are saying that here is a State that is willing to bring out the Army against the poorest people not just in the country but in the world. I cannot support that.

Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. You sympathise with the Maoist cause, but what about the tactics that the Maoists use? The problem is that the Maoists want to trade a new democratic order not by persuading people, not by winning legitimate elections but by armed liberation struggle. To many, that is tantamount to civil war. Do you go that far with them?

Arundhati Roy: There is already a civil war. I don't believe that a resistance movement that believes only in violence will lead to a new democracy. I don't believe that. Neither do I believe that if you doctrinally say you must only be non-violent, I believe that is a twisted way of supporting the status quo. I believe that has to be a bandwidth of resistance and I certainly believe that when your village is surrounded by 800 CRPF men who are raping and burning and looting, you can't say I am going on a hunger strike. Then, I support people's right to resist that.

Karan Thapar: But put this to me. If you support, no matter what qualifications you add, the right of the Maoists to resist with violence: whether you call it armed liberation struggle or whatever.

Arundhati Roy: You keep on going to these Maoists.

Karan Thapar: If you support that, no matter with what qualification, how then can you deny the State the right to resort to arms to defend itself?

Arundhati Roy: The State doesn't have to defend itself. The State is supposed to represent the people and defend the people.

Karan Thapar: But if the State is under attack, it is the people that are under attack and...

Arundhati Roy: It is not under attack. The State is perpetrating the attack. That is what I am trying to say. The State is going in violation of its own Constitution and perpetrating an attack. If you look at the recent report, the censured chapter in a recent report by the Panchayati Raj, it says so clearly: the State is being completely illegal in its actions. What do you suggest people should do when an army, a police, a paramilitary, an air force is going to start making war on the poor? Do you suggest that they should leave and live in camps and allow the rich and the corporates and the mining sector to take over?

Karan Thapar: So you are saying that the Maoists and all the other resistance fighters are left with no option but to fight back?

Arundhati Roy: What I am saying is that if a State respects non-violent resistance as has been the case in years, but if you ignore non-violence, by default you privilege violence.

Karan Thapar: But are the Maoists actually pursuing their goal, which you share, non-violently, or are they pursuing it with violence? That's the problem. There is a real issue here that the end seems to justify the means. The question is: do they?

Arundhati Roy: You are not listening to me. I am saying that there is a juggernaut of injustice that has been moving forward, displacing millions of people. Why do we have 836 million people living in on less than Rs 20 a day? Why do we have 60 million displaced people? Because the government refuses. For the last 25 years, it has refused to listen to non-violence.

Karan Thapar: So you see the Maoists as victims?

Arundhati Roy: I see the people as victims of something. If you look at the ideology of the Maoists, they don't think of themselves as victims. But that ideology is getting purchased among people, in the popular imagination because of the incredible injustice that is being perpetrated by the Indian State.

Karan Thapar: In short, the fault is almost entirely on the government’s side?

Arundhati Roy: It is.

Karan Thapar: You say that boldly and bluntly?

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely.

Karan Thapar: I want very much to talk about the prospects of talks but first, let me ask you about Azad. In May, it emerged that the home minister had asked Swami Agnivesh to facilitate talks with the Maoist leadership, and in turn he established contacts with the Maoists leader Azad. But in July, in an unexplained police encounter, Azad suddenly died. Do you believe that was a deliberate ploy to bring Azad into the open and then murder him?

Arundhati Roy: Yes I do.

Karan Thapar: You really mean that? The government laid a trap to murder Azad?

Arundhati Roy: That's what, from all the facts that are emerging, that's what it seems to point to.

Karan Thapar: Why did they do this? Why would they kill the one man with whom they have rational expectations of talks?

Arundhati Roy: I have been saying this for few months now that you have to understand that the government needs this war. It needs this war to clear the land, to hand over, to actualise these MoUs that have been signed. If you read the business papers, they are very clear about that.
Karan Thapar: If the government wants war, how do you interpret the government's attempt to have talks? One is contradictory to the other.
Arundhati Roy: Yeah. It needs the war but it needs to keep this smiling benign mask of democracy. So, it offers talks on the one hand and undermines it on the other.

Karan Thapar: But even if you accept this strange theory that the government is Janus-faced, two-faced, why would it destroy that mask by killing Azad? Why would it destroy itself?

Arundhati Roy: Because if you look at what was happening, Azad was beginning to sound dangerously reasonable.

Karan Thapar: To whom?

Arundhati Roy: To all of us.

Karan Thapar: On the basis of one interview to The Hindu, you have come to the conclusion about Azad sounding reasonable?

Arundhati Roy: Come on Karan, we all know about Azad. He has been around for years. He has written a lot.

Karan Thapar: You may but people surely don't. To them, Azad is a mystery.

Arundhati Roy: No, not at all. For example, the piece that he wrote in Outlook, it was published after his death but it was sent around before.

Karan Thapar: But even if one accepts your theory that the government killed Azad because he was beginning to sound and look reasonable, that would only have made him a credible interlocutor and fit in better into their mask. Surely, that in a sense makes it even more ridiculously contradictory to kill him.

Arundhati Roy: Why would it be. Let's say there are two sides at war, there are more than two but everyone wants to make it binary so, for the sake of argument, accept it. When one side sends an envoy and the other side kills them, what does it mean? That one side does not want peace. That's what it means. That's a reasonable assumption.

Karan Thapar: So this is a duplicitous government?

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely.

Karan Thapar: In which case, let me come to the critical issue which I want to discuss. What are the prospects of talks? The government has repeatedly said that it would be willing to talk provided the Maoists abjure violence, not even asking the Maoists to lay down arms, and many people believe that that's a reasonable and perhaps, even a generous offer. How do you view the government's position on talks?

Arundhati Roy: I think that if you were to go down to those forests and see what's going on, when you have these two hundred thousand paramilitaries patrolling the tribal villages, the cordon and search operations are on, the killings are on, the siege is on, what do you mean to abjure violence? If you say that there should be a ceasefire, mutual ceasefire, which is I think the most reasonable thing, then we can be talking. But if you say you should abjure violence, what does that mean?

Karan Thapar: So one sided abjuring of violence is not what you think will be acceptable, but a mutual ceasefire on both sides?

Arundhati Roy: I think it's absolutely urgent that there should be a ceasefire on both sides.

Karan Thapar: Simultaneous?

Arundhati Roy: Yes. The government reports have said that these MoUs should be re-examined. Chidambaram himself promised in an interview that he would freeze them. Why doesn't he do that?

Karan Thapar: He is probably waiting for a sign from the Maoists that they will respond. He doesn't want to do it unilaterally.

Arundhati Roy: They responded in writing now; Azad responded in writing.

Karan Thapar: Azad is no more. Let me put this to you. You are beginning to suggest in this interview steps, which if they were taken simultaneously by both sides, will actually in some way facilitate talks. Would you be prepared, since you know the Maoists and trusted by the Maoists, to act as a mediator?

Arundhati Roy: Look, if you studied the peace-talks process in Andhra, you see that this business of picking one person and announcing it on the media, both sides have done it. Chidambaram has picked arbitrarily Swami Agnivesh. Maoists arbitrarily announced on the radio that we want this one or that one. That's not how it works. In Andhra, it took almost a year for this committee of citizens to form themselves as responsible people. It should not be one person.

Karan Thapar: Swami Agnivesh, who you say was arbitrarily picked, almost succeeded in bringing Azad to some talking point, except for the fact that as you say, he was killed. But he almost succeeded. So I come back, since you are trusted by the Maoists and since you speak a language, that at least in English, the government can understand, would you be prepared to act as a mediator?

Arundhati Roy: Look Karan, I don't think it should be one person. I think there should be a group of people who are used to taking decisions collectively.

Karan Thapar: Will a committee?

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely. That's what happened in Andhra. There was a committee of persons.

Karan Thapar: Isn't that a mess?

Arundhati Roy: No, it is absolutely vital.

Karan Thapar: Would you be a part of it?

Arundhati Roy: I don't think I am good at it. I am a maverick.

Karan Thapar: Would you be prepared to be one of that committee?

Arundhati Roy: Not really. I would not like to be because I don't think I have those skills. But I think there are people who would be very good at it.

Karan Thapar: In June, writing in The Hindu, Justice Krishna Aiyar publicly called on the Maoists to unconditionally come forward for talks. Would you make a similar statement?

Arundhati Roy: No. Not when there are two hundred thousand paramilitary forces closing in on the villages. I say unconditionally both sides should say there should be a ceasefire. Then you can see.

Karan Thapar: But you are not prepared to facilitate that being a mediator or, even part of the committee.
Arundhati Roy: I'll try.

Karan Thapar: Try! So suddenly you are changing your position.

Arundhati Roy: I don't know how to think about this.

Karan Thapar: If pushed and persuaded, you could accept.

Arundhati Roy: Look, you talk to me like you talk to politicians - will you stand for elections?

Karan Thapar: No, I am simply trying to get you to give me a clear answer. What I sense is that you are tempted but you are uncertain.

Arundhati Roy: I feel that all of us should do what we can but certainly, I don't feel that I'll be very good at it. But, I think there should be a committee of people with experience in negotiating, with experienced people like BD Sharma, who has such a long experience.

Karan Thapar: Let's come to a different issue. The government, particularly the home minister, often look upon people who are sympathetic to Maoists' cause as collaborators, sections of the press even call them traitors. Number one in that category is bound to be

Arundhati Roy. How do you respond to such branding?

Arundhati Roy: Well, this is an old game.

Karan Thapar: But it continues forcefully every time.

Arundhati Roy: I think the reason they were also unnerved, the government as well as most of the press, which is clearly on one side in this, is that from being people who are marooned in the jungle in one sense, when operation Green Hunt happened, a number of activists, a number of intellectuals came forward and said look, it is not acceptable to us. And that undermined the position of this open and shut case that was going on all this time.

Karan Thapar: So the certainty of the government's position was weakened and undermined by the intellectuals who supported the government which is why the government branded them collaborators?

Arundhati Roy: Again you are saying the Maoists.

Karan Thapar: But that's why the government called them collaborators?

Arundhati Roy: What has happened is that the government has expanded the definition of Maoists to mean everyone who is disagreeing with it. What people like myself have done is to complicate the scenario. Say it's not that simple. Of course it doesn't upset me because I like to say what I think very clearly. I am not worried about being called names.

Karan Thapar: And in a sense the government calling you a collaborator is proof that you actually made the government uncomfortable.

Arundhati Roy: I am proud if I made the government uncomfortable because it should be bloody uncomfortable with what it's doing.

Karan Thapar: A pleasure talking to you.

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