10 March, 2007

Arundhati Roy

. . . is writing a new novel. Yay! Her take on what's happening in India is one seen taking place across the globe:
"Here you see what’s happening. People are driven out of villages, driven out of the cities, there’s a kind of insanity in the air and all of it held down by our mesmeric, pelvic-thrusting Bollywood movies. The Indian middle class has just embarked on this orgy of consumerism."

But she admits that the kinds of non-violent protests she has taken part in for a decade have failed in India, a republic founded on the Gandhi-ite principles of peaceful resistance. "I am not such an uninhibited fan of Gandhi. After all, Gandhi was a superstar. When he went on a hunger strike he was a superstar on a hunger strike. But I don’t believe in superstar politics. If people in a slum are on a hunger strike, no one gives a shit."

Roy says activists have been “exhausted” by their attempts to influence the courts and the press and now says she does not “condemn people taking up arms” in the face of state repression.

"It would be immoral for me to preach violence unless I were prepared to resort to it myself. But equally, it is immoral for me to advocate feelgood marches and hunger strikes when I’m not bearing the brunt of unspeakable violence. I certainly do not volunteer to tell Iraqis or Kashmiris or Palestinians that if they went on a mass hunger strike they would get rid of the military occupation. Civil disobedience doesn’t seem to be paying dividends."

Instead of the Indian state caving in to the moral righteousness of the numerous causes Roy supports, she says it merely moved to co-opt its adversaries. The power of argument, even in the world’s biggest democracy, has been shrunk by the argument of power.

Roy says she was aghast to learn that a fellow Indian environmental campaigner accepted a million-dollar award from the transnational metals firm Alcan, which has been accused of grabbing tribal land in eastern India. The tentacles of big business have learned to embrace non-government organisations. The result, she claims, is that the charitable trusts of Tata, India’s largest private company, fund "half the activists in the country".

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