Saturday, October 23, 2010

Privilege of being Arundhati Roy

Since Arundhati Roy believes in a world of equals, why should she be more privileged than Chhatradhar Mahato?

If consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative, as was famously (and tad bitchily) declared by the flamboyant Irish writer Oscar Wilde, then Arundhati Roy qualifies as an author-activist-anarchist lacking in imagination. For she has been consistent in denouncing the Indian nation, questioning the quality of democracy in this country, casting aspersions on the judiciary, promoting secessionism and justifying the murderous campaign by Maoists to capture state power. Outraged as most people are by her passionate espousal of azadi for Kashmir at a convention in the heart of Lutyens’s Delhi last Thursday, they appear to have forgotten her previous assertion of the Kashmiris’ “right to secede” from the Union of India, not once or twice, but many times over. Similarly, this is not the first time that she has ridiculed the nation and the state or poured scorn over India’s democratic credentials which are universally acknowledged as among the best in the world.

“India needs azadi from Kashmir and Kashmir needs azadi from India,” she told an appreciative crowd of secessionists and their supporters, carted in from Aligarh Muslim University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi University and other such taxpayer-funded institutions of learning that double up as fast-breeders of Muslim separatists and Left extremists for whom nationalism is as offensive as their nationality. But this is not the first time Arundhati Roy has outraged sensitivities. Two years ago, on August 19, 2008, after attending a rally organised by separatists in Srinagar, she had excitedly told mediapersons eager to record her pearls of wisdom: “India needs azadi from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs azadi from India.” She had then added with a flourish, as is by now her established style of exaggerating a point to sheer banality, “If no one is listening then it is because they don’t want to hear. Because this is a referendum… People don’t need anyone to represent them, they are representing themselves.”

Nor is this the first time that Arundhati Roy has questioned the quality of democracy in India; she has done so repeatedly. Invited for a book-reading session at New York’s Town Hall, she had stunned the gathering by suddenly launching a vitriolic attack on democracy in India. “The biggest PR myth of all times is that India is a democracy. In reality, it is not… There is no real democracy in India. Several States in India are on the verge of civil war… In Iraq, there are 1,50,000 military personnel, whereas in Kashmir Valley there are some 7,00,000,” she had said. Not surprisingly, she got a standing ovation. Who is to tell the Americans who applauded her that had India not been a democracy she would have been frog-marched to Tihar Jail immediately upon arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport on her return?

On another occasion, while berating the police for arresting Maoists and charging them with murder, Arundhati Roy had lashed out at democracy in India for not tolerating terrorism in the name of Chairman Mao’s blood-stained ideology. “The concept of Indian democracy is the biggest publicity scam of this century. Holding elections every five years does not necessarily mean that our country enjoys democracy.” Her notion of democracy, presumably, is a system that allows unrestricted lawlessness so long as laws are being followed in the breach by her ilk — deracinated, English-speaking, cliché-mouthing ‘intellectuals’ who wax eloquent on the plight of the unwashed masses but recoil in horror at the very suggestion of being counted with those on whose behalf they claim to speak — and their rage boys who kill and maim, rape and loot, burn and destroy to satiate their perverse desire to see India suffer. It’s fashionable for them to intersperse their accented English with deliberately mispronounced words in Hindi. Hence Arundhati Roy’s description of India as “bhookhey-nangey Hindustan”; she, of course, has known neither dehumanising hunger nor the indignity suffered by a woman in tattered rags. India’s well-heeled radicals who own farm houses built on illegally ‘acquired’ tribal land are not expected to sully their manicured fingers with desi daal-roti.

The issue, therefore, is not about Arundhati Roy trying to shock Indians who are proud of their nation and nationality, Hindustanis who are perfectly at ease with Hindustan, a billion people who wouldn’t want to swap their democracy with a Talibani social order and political system which she obviously admires because she was inconsolable and in unrestrained grief after Mullah Omar and his thugs were chased out of Kabul. Only the naïve and the uninitiated would be offended by her crudity which is designed to infuriate the most tolerant and liberal among us who believe free speech is one of the defining features of democracy. The real issue is the discriminatory attitude of our state which fosters a system where the law, in theory, is the same for all but privileges, in practice, are different. Nothing else explains why Chhatradhar Mahato, a flashily dressed, dimwitted blabbermouth from the boondocks of Lalgarh in West Bengal, should be in jail for aiding and assisting Maoists in waging war on the state and helping propagate their destructive ideology, charged under the amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, while Arundhati Roy, a sophisticated self-publicist and articulate propagandist of every conceivable anti-national ‘cause’, should remain untouched by the proverbial long arm of the law.

The UAPA says “secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union includes the assertion of any claim to determine whether such part will remain a part of the territory of India”. The offences listed under this law include any assertion or statement “which is intended, or supports any claim, to bring about, on any ground whatsoever, the cession of a part of the territory of India or the secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union, or which incites any individual or group of individuals to bring about such cession or secession”. Prima facie Arundhati Roy is guilty of these offences when she endorses the separatists call for azadi, incites Kashmiris to break away from India, and urges impressionable young men and women to get “involved in this cause which is their future”.

There’s more. Section 18 of the amended UAPA lays down that “Whoever conspires or attempts to commit, or advocates, abets, advises or incites knowingly facilitates the commission of, a terrorist act or any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.” Section 18B says, “Whoever recruits or causes to be recruited any person or persons for commission of a terrorist act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

If the law of the land were truly applicable to all, then Arundhati Roy would have been in jail by now. Or, if we were to put it another way, had India’s democracy been perfect and not flawed, she would have been denied the presumed right to undermine the Indian state in so brazen a manner. Ironically, what she so crudely berates also affords her the freedom to abuse the very system of which she is a privileged beneficiary. The elite that is India’s bane would be incomplete without Arundhati Roy.

[This appeared as my Sunday column Coffee Break in The Pioneer on October 24, 2010.]

9 comments: said...

She believes the only way she can stay in the limelight is by being a thorn, so people notice her. Sad. Reminds me of teenage girls who cut their wrists to draw attention. She needs to mature up. As Baba Ramdev would say, Start doing Yoga. That'll calm her insecure mind.

Or Someday, some crackhead would have a blowout and something not nice might happen to her.

uthamanarayanan said...

Arunddhti Roy need not be right always is to be born in mind , first she is emotional in every aspect of analysis and emotions may be good to raise the people against the structure and edifice built in the name of democracy but building such structures on concrete substratum by our freedom fighters and leaders is the unimaginable task by such individual like Arundhati Roy.To cite an example how always some causes and rights are bulldozed by majority of people, I mean not the religious majority,certain hurdles have to be overcome to bring back the majority to the path of justice and fair play.One such example in 60's in Tamil Nadu was the separate Tamil Nadu for the Hindu chauvinism and fanaticism to suppress the equality in opportunities in every walk of life and , for that matter all the other languages were not respected by the Hindi Zealots.So over 30 or 40 years only those who know Hindi were virtually ruled over every walk of life and tried to smash away English like Angarazi Hatao slogans etc., fortunate for the rest of the states a statesman like Jawaharlal was at the helm of affairs.Only now , that too recently all the other languages were shown importance in appearing for the central services exams.Struggles are needed but not separatism. Now in Tamil Nadu no one talks about separatism although for some political gains some politicians takes up this outdated issue which does not have any support from Tamils.

Anonymous said...

Arundhati Roy has no idea what freedom means. As an ordinary citizen of India, I cherish and respect the rights and responsibilities that the constitution gives me. Had it not been for these same rights (or privileges as we can call it in this case) Ms.Roy would have been languishing in a jail. We are one of the few countries in the world where one can speak whatever one wishes and still getaway. I wish people respect this and not indulge in the kind of behavior that Ms.Roy and Mullah Syed Ali Shah Geelani have indulged in!

prashhanthkpp said...

Well said Dada. True, feel terribly frustrated when the long arm of Law looks elsewhere when ruthless anti-nationals like Roy time and time again attack, spit, mock and transgress the very democratic institution that enables her blabber her retarded sentiments. There is a menopausical insanity in her rantings which should be punished with all possible laws applicable for Traitors!.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Since you have such good knowledge of Indian law, please explain why Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act should apply only to Arundhati Roy and not to the millions of pro-azadi Kashmiri muslims who have been agitating for freedom from India for several decades. How is Roy's demand any different from demands of these millions? Do you advocate selective Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Actapplication of UAPA to book Roy or do you believe that every Indian, including pro-azadi Kashmiri muslims, should be arrested under this law?

Anonymous said...

You cherish the rights and responsibilities that the constitution gives you, but there are too many on this very soil who do not. Look around you. Open your nationalism-blinded eyes. Look beyond the new urban housing development, the malls and the multiplexes, look beyond the superficial growth and you will see the rapid exploitation of India and its most under-privileged, with hungry eyes that haunt you.
prashhanthkpp, the obvious male chauvinist undertones in your comment would be considered utterly disgusting in a civilized evolved society, but in India, it is perfectly natural. PS. This does not make me anti-Indian.

Lifeisbetter said...

People like Arundhati can never be constructive. They are perenial cribbers, cynics and a negative energy to be with. Be it their personal, social or economic life, they would only spread negative attitudes.

It is quite absurd that she is pro-secession. She wants us to go back to the age of princely states, so that another 'East India Company' (this time it would be North East India Company - China) would come and colonise us by divide and rule.

If Kashmir was never part of India, the North East was also not part of the Indian Union till 1826. Mughals could never conquer Assam after trying for 17 times to make it part of Indian Union. So the question is how far back in history should we go to establish that each of the states is not part of the Indian Union.

She should be arrested without delay for anti-national activities and be given a warning for a start. And be sent to a councelling center to help her use her talent (which she surely has) productively.

Anonymous said...

Problem with Arubndhati Roy is she is very selective and hypocritical. She closes her eyes on issues like Tibet and Taliban exploitation of muslims or fatwas by Indian Ulemas. Why didnt she fight for Tasleema Nasreen, who belonged to her fraternity?

Anonymous said...

This is another kind of free speech from TOI. They have already arrested Indresh Kumar!!! They know something which rest of the world do not know.

The ATS has so far arrested five men, including senior RSS functionary Indresh Kumar, in the dargah case