The right to dissent

Over the course of human history, intellectuals and artists have helped broaden the scope of citizenship and the nebulous contours of citizen rights. Southasia is no exception. Despite its colonial past and internal fault-lines, it can boast of extraordinary individuals who have stood up against tyranny and reaffirmed the innate strength of the human spirit.

A tradition of resistance by artists and intellectuals that was built up in colonial times continues to thrive in the Subcontinent. Arundhati Roy in India remains undeterred despite being charged with sedition or 'the attempt to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India', a penal provision defined by the British colonial government in 1860. Her ability, and that of many others like her, to speak the truth to power and populism, reconfirms that humanism remains above notions of narrow nationalism. Roy's latest act of criticising rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir has landed her in trouble with the guardians of patriotism, who have vociferously demonised her and trashed her worldview. Conversely, more and more people have also spoken in Roy's favour, thereby weakening linear jingoistic narratives which rely on ultranationalist worldviews.

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Himal Southasian