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HC glare on Roy hubby house
Arundhati Roy

Bhopal, Nov. 16: Writer-activist Arundhati Roy’s house in hill resort Panchmarhi is under threat following the rejection of an appeal in Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The court has asked Arundhati’s husband, filmmaker Pradeep Kishan, to appear before a sub-divisional magistrate.

The order comes four years after the Madhya Pradesh government had served a notice on Kishan and others for encroaching on tribal land.

The bungalow owned by Kishan is in Bariyam village of Panchmarhi, 250km south-east of Bhopal and part of the Panchmarhi special area development authority created to protect wildlife in the region.

In Bhopal, the buzz is that the Shivraj Singh Chauhan-led BJP regime is in a mood to “punish” Roy following her support for “azaadi” in the Kashmir Valley.

Chauhan had recently gone on record suggesting jail as an “ideal place” for Roy for her “seditious pronouncements”.

Roy and Kishan got embroiled in the land controversy in 2003 when the local administration claimed their elevated bungalow overlooking twin hillocks and vast rolling greens was in notified forest land. Then SDM Niyaz Ahmad of Pipariya had acted upon a complaint filed by Vijay Singh, a tribal, that Roy’s husband and three others, including Aradhana Seth, sister of writer Vikram Seth, had allegedly encroached on tribal land.

In his affidavit, Vijay had accused them of constructing a cemented road to their bungalows without bothering to obtain permission or pay adequate compensation.

Senior government officials who did not wish to be named said Kishan had bought the 4,346sqft plot in 1994. The government subsequently filed a suit arguing that the Forest Act of 1972 banned the sale of land in notified forest areas. Section 18 of the law bars buying and selling of notified forest land.

Roy has also been a controversial figure in Madhya Pradesh.

A few years ago, she campaigned for the rights of Bhopal gas survivors and villagers displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam. Soon after winning the Booker in 1997, she joined Medha Patkar’s fight, saying the Narmada dam was a “fault line” between the rich and the poor.

Today, she is having to contend with sarcastic comments from state BJP leaders who want her reaction to her husband “trampling upon the rights of hundreds and thousands of animal species”.

A state BJP spokesperson said: “Perhaps it’s time for Arundhati to look into her own backyard. Instead of extending support to Kashmiri separatists and Naxalites, she should consider the plight of helpless animals who have been driven out of forest land simply because they do not have an Arundhati to speak for them.”

If the SDM’s verdict goes against them, Roy, Kishan and the others can appeal to Manoj Srivastva, commissioner, Bhopal and Narmadapuram (Hoshangabad) division.

Reprieve may come at another level, too, if the Supreme Court accepts a court-appointed empowered panel’s finding that Bariyam doesn’t fall in the category of a forest village despite being in the heart of a forest.

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