Arundhati Roy threatened with arrest

Indian government accuses author of making “seditious” comments about Kashmir.

Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning author of The God of Small Things, has been threatened with arrest today by the Indian government after claiming that the disputed territory of Kashmir is not an integral part of India.

India's home ministry is reported to have told the police in Delhi that a case of sedition may be registered against Roy and the Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani for remarks they made over the past weekend, in a seminar entitled "Whither Kashmir? Freedom or Enslavement".

In a recent statement, Roy, who is currently in Srinigar, Kashmir, refused to backtrack on the comments.

"Some have accused me of giving 'hate speeches', of wanting India to break up," she told the Guardian. "On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one."

In an essay published in the New Statesman this month, Roy stressed the alarming state of civil liberties in India.

Those who have risen up are aware that their country is in a state of emergency. They are aware that, like the people of Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam, they too have now been stripped of their civil rights by laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, which criminalise every kind of dissent – by word, deed and even intent.

During the "Emergency", the saying goes, when Indira Gandhi asked the Indian press to bend, it crawled. And yet, in those days there were instances when national dailies defiantly published blank editorials to protest censorship. This time around, in the undeclared emergency, there's not much scope for defiance because the media are the government. Nobody, except the corporations that control it, can tell the government what to do.

The Indian justice Minister, M Veerappa Moily, described Roy's remarks as "most unfortunate", but sidestepped questions about sedition charges. On the issue of free speech, Moily said, "Yes, there is freedom of speech . . . it can't violate the patriotic sentiments of the people."

It remains unclear what will happen to Roy: under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Act, those convicted of sedition may face anything from a small fine to life imprisonment.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.