Centre not in favour of charging Geelani, Arundhati
The Union government has no intention of filing criminal charges against Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the writer Arundhati Roy and others who spoke in favour of Azadi for Jammu and Kashmir at a seminar in the Capital last week, highly placed sources told The Hindu on Tuesday.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is taking a strident position on the matter and insisting that a case of sedition be lodged against those who spoke at the seminar but the Centre believes acting on this demand would undermine the fragile dialogue process the governments three interlocutors have begun in Srinagar.
With Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari urging those Kashmiris raising slogans in favour of azadi to put their thoughts down in writing, the irony of criminalising mere speech has not been lost on New Delhi.
We knew the BJP would try and make the holding of the seminar an issue, the sources said, adding that police permission to hold the public event was given because the organisers could easily have gone to court if the authorities had tried pre-emptively to gag them. The meeting was thus videographed and the proceedings have been scrutinised. The sources said Ministry of Home Affairs permission was not needed for the police to file a case of sedition but added that North Block did not believe charging or arresting Mr. Geelani and Ms. Roy made any sense.
Geelani himself has said some 70 cases have been filed against him so let there be a 71st, the sources said. They also admitted as Ms. Roy herself notes in a statement issued Tuesday that scores of people in the Valley say every day what the writer and the Hurriyat leader are accused of saying at the meeting. If the two of them are now to be arrested for sedition for giving a speech, then so would scores of people in Srinagar.
The sources welcomed the efforts the three interlocutors had made so far and said the Centres aim was to begin a broad political process with all sections of the people in the state but especially with those who say they want autonomy and azadi.