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[Statement] India: Government must withdraw anti-terror charges against Arundhati Roy and Sheikh Showkat Hussain, uphold freedom of expression

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The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is deeply concerned by the initiation of prosecution against political activist and award-winning author Arundhati Roy and former Kashmiri Professor and political analyst Sheikh Showkat Hussain under India’s anti-terror legislation.


Silencing dissent through repressive laws

Shortly after the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and backed by National Democratic Alliance (NDA)—came to power for the third term in June 2024, Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor and BJP member Vinai Kumar Saxena granted sanction for the prosecution of Roy and Hussain. This prosecution was originally proposed in 2023.

The charges stem from allegedly seditious comments made by Roy and Hussain at a seminar in 2010, condemning the military occupation in Indian-administered Kashmir and stressing the need for justice in Kashmir. After Roy’s comments, protestors surrounded her house in Delhi, many of whom were BJP supporters. Meanwhile, Kashmir was embroiled in unrest following the death of Tufail Mattoo, a teenager hit by a tear gas canister fired by Indian forces.

Both Roy and Hussain have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), an extraordinary anti-terror law enacted in 1967. The Indian state has increasingly wielded the UAPA to suppress dissent and target anyone critical of the government or its policies. The law circumvents due process, permitting prolonged detention without formal charges or a trial–often without substantial evidence–effectively making the process itself a punishment.

The prosecution of Roy and Hussain illustrates the Indian state’s systematic approach to suppressing dissent, a trend that has intensified over the last decade under BJP rule.

“Such methods, though not new, highlight a troubling trend: the deliberate silencing and delegitimisation of dissenting voices. Vindictive actions against internationally acclaimed intellectuals like Roy amplify concerns about the state of freedom of expression in India both in the present and the future,” said Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA. “This suppression is especially pronounced regarding Indian-administered Kashmir and for Kashmiris, signalling that anyone speaking out against human rights violations in the region will face severe repercussions under the Modi 3.0 regime. This effectively stifles any meaningful dialogue on Kashmir and other politically sensitive issues,” Diez-Bacalso added.


Call to Action

FORUM-ASIA calls on the Government of India to immediately withdraw the anti-terror charges against Roy and Hussain.

We condemn the targeting, harassment and wrongful incarceration of human rights defenders, including scholars and journalists exercising their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.

These actions, alongside the weaponisation of repressive laws like the UAPA, not only undermine democratic principles but also breach international conventions and treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a signatory.

We call upon the Indian Government to comply with its international obligations to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of everyone. The government must uphold people’s freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.

Lastly, we urge the Indian Government to halt the persecution of those speaking out on issues related to Indian-administered Kashmir and respect Kashmiri people’s fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to self-determination.




The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a network of 85 member organisations across 23 countries, mainly in Asia. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. The FORUM-ASIA Secretariat is based in Bangkok, with offices in Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu.

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