Saturday, November 10, 2012

Arundhati shuns activist label

Firmly denying she belonged to the activist-writers’ category, the author of The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, on Saturday said it was wrong to label her an activist just because her writings take up the cause of marginalised sections of society.

Replying to a question, Roy, the first Indian to win a Booker prize for literature, said activism was a subject that needed elaborate discussion, stressing that her non-fictional writing was her way of expressing “myriad forms of resistance” to “wrong” policies.

The writer, known for her straight talk and anti-establishment views, had reservations about the application of the term “activist” in her case by whom she referred to as “market-driven” media, who by and large considered this breed as “boring” people who just repeated ad nauseam whatever they had to say.

There wasn’t a slightest hint of arrogance or harshness in her words or demeanour as was widely attributed to the writer, whose second fictional work the literary world was eagerly expecting, ever since her first book became an international bestseller

In an exclusive interview given to The Gulf Today, she said the voice of Maoists in India, who are criticised for their anti-state stand, has been relatively silenced, because they have been constrained within the forests by the Indian army. But she warned about a growing civil unrest across the country, the presence of which is already being manifest in states like Uttar Pradesh.

She agreed with the point that it was not only in India that the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. But the development pattern evident in India underlines the injustice meted out to its poorer sections, primarily because of the grip the corporate world had on the government there, she stressed.

Though she was hopeful of what the ongoing civil society movement in India would achieve, according to her, the recent discussion over corruption allegations against BJP party chief Nitin Gadkari was more of political than being part of the larger battle against the tainted UPA government.

She was of the view that corruption is “polarisation of power and powerlessness” and should not be a “campaigning issue restricted to elections.”

Corruption, according to her, did not begin and end with politicians. As a sole remedy for this deep-rooted menace, she suggested “limiting the size of the corporate world.”

She pointed out that when the doors to a liberalised economy were opened, and authorities decided to then “focus too much on communal issues,” corporate establishments managed an invasion of the economic and the bureaucratic systems — including the fourth estate, which was supposed to highlight the issue.

This has indeed “helped the corporate sector” consolidate its power and resulted in producing a whole gamut of corrupt leaders.

Though she did lay the blame at the voters’ doorstep, for bringing the corrupt to the seat of power, she refused to go by the “silly excuse” that the people eventually get a government they deserve.

While dwelling on the ongoing anti-nuclear agitation in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, she asserted that the country should not be a dustbin for America or other powers. She attacked the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being an “ever-eager servant of America.”

As a continuation of her firm stand on Kashmir expressed at a ‘Meet the Author’ programme on Friday, she said, “Nobody is looking for a solution to the Kashmir issue. Actually Kashmir is a solution for politics in India.”

On Friday’s interaction with readers and fans that was attended by several dignitaries, she touched upon a wide range of topics — from fiction to politics — in her trademark frank manner.

She drew spontaneous applause from the enthused women in the audience with her vocal support for their rights to choose a dress of their choice — be it the all-covering abaya or any other dress.

Lashing out at the caste system in India, she bemoaned its continued prevalence as in the ancient times, while lashing out at the Indian constitution for being a “compromised document,” on account of its ineffectiveness in the matter.

It was interesting to see the writer, darling of the media, attacking the fourth estate in India, which she maintained was being orchestrated by capitalists.


While drawing attention to her “biased” stand on the media, she said it was not the question of misquoted or distorted views, but a deliberate attempt to malign her by a few people, and sometimes putting things completely out of context.

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