Arundhati Roy released from jail

Johannesburg | Thursday

INDIAN Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy was released from jail Thursday after paying a 2 000 rupee ($40) fine imposed by the Supreme Court for criminal contempt.

Roy had spent the night in Tihar jail after the court on Wednesday handed down a “symbolic” one-day prison sentence and the accompanying fine.

Had Roy refused to pay, she would have been kept in Tihar for another three months.

The contempt charges had arisen out of Roy’s criticisms of a Supreme Court judgement in October 2000 that gave the go-ahead for the building of a controversial dam in the Narmada River valley in central India.

Roy, however, was unrepentant after the court’s sentence.

“I stand by what I said and I am prepared to suffer the consequences. The dignity of the court can only be upheld by the quality of their judgements,” she said in a statement. “The message is clear. Any citizen who dares to criticise the court does so at his or her peril.”

Roy won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her debut novel, “The God of Small Things”.

Tihar Jail was surrounded Thursday morning by a large crowd of supporters, as well as photographers and reporters who were waiting for Roy’s release.

Since her success with “The God of Small Things”, Roy has concentrated on social and human rights issues, publishing a scathing condemnation of India’s 1998 nuclear tests and teaming up with environmentalist Medha Patekar to oppose the Narmada dam. Activists say the dam project will create a huge artificial lake swamping 248 villages and destroying fragile eco-systems, fertile farmlands and forests in western and central India.

The government has maintained that all displaced people are being re-housed and the project will help irrigate parched lands.

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