Friday, 30 September 2011

Sunday with Arundhati Roy - 2 October 2011

Written by: Alexandra Muglia to 23:32 of 9/30/2011

 A destination for those who do not yet have programmes for the weekend or for those who can still review: Ferrara today opened the International film festival. Three days of meetings and debates with the big names of international journalism and world culture in the historical centre of the beautiful city of Emilia. The host of this edition is, at least for me, the writer and activist Arundhati Roy, who has called ] A destination for those who do not yet have programmes for the weekend or for those who can still review: Ferrara today opened the International film festival. Three days of meetings and debates with the big names of international journalism and world culture in the historical centre of the beautiful city of Emilia. The host of this edition is, at least for me, the writer and activist Arundhati Roy, who has called "embarrassing" the recent revolution led by Anna Hazare, compared to wrong, according to her, to a new Gandhi. The appointment with the author of "the God of small things" is Sunday at 16.30 at the Teatro Comunale.

This year's protagonists are some voices of Arab spring: Ziad Majed, political activist of the leftist Lebanese and Egyptians Issandr el Amrani, founder of The Arabist, and Hossam el-Hamalawy, author
Arabawyblog. And then the new femminismi, with the philosopher Michela Marzano, the Spanish writer Beatriz Preciado and British journalist Natasha Walter. Take center stage, among others, the British intellectual and journalist John Berger Jason Burke who will speak about Al Qaeda after the death of Bin Laden. With focus on the forthcoming elections in Argentina with Horacio Verbitsky, on Russia's Putin with Novaya Gazeta reporter Yulia Latynina and investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, on work and precarious with the Secretary General of the Cgil Susanna Camusso.


*This article has been automatically translated from Italian to English. Any errors are due to the translation.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The dead begin to speak up in India by Arundhati Roy

At about 3am, on 23 September, within hours of his arrival at the Delhi airport, the US radio-journalist David Barsamian was deported. This dangerous man, who produces independent, free-to-air programmes for public radio, has been visiting India for 40 years, doing such dangerous things as learning Urdu and playing the sitar.
Barsamian has published book-length interviews with public intellectuals such as Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Ejaz Ahmed and Tariq Ali (he even makes an appearance as a young, bell-bottom-wearing interviewer in Peter Wintonick's documentary film on Chomsky and Edward Herman's book Manufacturing Consent).
On his more recent trips to India he has done a series of radio interviews with activists, academics, film-makers, journalists and writers (including me). Barsamian's work has taken him to Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Pakistan. He has never been deported from any of these countries. So why does the world's largest democracy feel so threatened by this lone, sitar-playing, Urdu-speaking, left-leaning, radio producer? Here is how Barsamian himself explains it:
"It's all about Kashmir. I've done work on Jharkand, Chattisgarh, West Bengal, Narmada dams, farmer suicides, the Gujarat pogrom, and the Binayak Sen case. But it's Kashmir that is at the heart of the Indian state's concerns. The official narrative must not be contested."

News reports about his deportation quoted official "sources" as saying that Barsamian had "violated his visa norms during his visit in 2009-10 by indulging in professional work while holding a tourist visa". Visa norms in India are an interesting peep-hole into the government's concerns and predilections. Using the tattered old banner of the "war on terror", the home ministry has decreed that scholars and academics invited for conferences and seminars require security clearance before they will be given visas. Corporate executives and businessmen do not.
So somebody who wants to invest in a dam, or build a steel plant or a buy a bauxite mine is not considered a security hazard, whereas a scholar who might wish to participate in a seminar about, say, displacement or communalism or rising malnutrition in a globalised economy, is. Terrorists with bad intentions have probably guessed that they are better off wearing Prada suits and pretending they want to buy a mine than admitting that they want to attend a seminar.
David Barsamian did not travel to India to buy a mine or to attend a conference. He just came to talk to people. The complaint against him, according to "official sources" is that he had reported on events in Jammu and Kashmir during his last visit to India and that these reports were "not based on facts". Remember Barsamian is not a reporter, he's a man who has conversations with people, mostly dissidents, about the societies in which they live.
Is it illegal for tourists to talk to people in the countries they visit? Would it be illegal for me to travel to the US or Europe and write about the people I met, even if my writing was "not based on facts"? Who decides which "facts" are correct and which are not? Would Barsamian have been deported if the conversations he recorded had been in praise of the impressive turnouts in Kashmir's elections, instead of about daily life in the densest military occupation in the world (an estimated 600,000 actively deployed armed personnel for a population of 10 million people)?
David Barsamian is not the first person to be deported over the Indian government's sensitivities over Kashmir. Professor Richard Shapiro, an anthropologist from San Francisco, was deported from Delhi airport in November 2010 without being given any reason. It was probably a way of punishing his partner, Angana Chatterji, who is a co-convenor of the international peoples' tribunal on human rights and justice which first chronicled the existence of unmarked mass graves in Kashmir.
In September 2011, May Aquino, from the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (Afad), Manila, was deported from Delhi airport. Earlier this year, on 28 May, the outspoken Indian democratic rights activist, Gautam Navlakha, was deported to Delhi from Srinagar airport. Farook Abdullah, the former chief minister of Kashmir, justified the deportation, saying that writers like Navlakha and myself had no business entering Kashmir because "Kashmir is not for burning".
Kashmir is in the process of being isolated, cut off from the outside world by two concentric rings of border patrols – in Delhi as well as Srinagar – as though it's already a free country with its own visa regime. Within its borders of course, it's open season for the government and the army. The art of controlling Kashmiri journalists and ordinary people with a deadly combination of bribes, threats, blackmail and a whole spectrum of unutterable cruelty has evolved into a twisted art form.
While the government goes about trying to silence the living, the dead have begun to speak up. Perhaps it was insensitive of Barsamian to plan a trip to Kashmir just when the state human rights commission was finally shamed into officially acknowledging the existence of 2,700 unmarked graves from three districts in Kashmir. Reports of thousands of other graves are pouring in from other districts. Perhaps it is insensitive of the unmarked graves to embarrass the government of India just when India's record is due for review before the UN human rights council.
Apart from Dangerous David, who else is the world's largest democracy afraid of? There's young Lingaram Kodopi an adivasi from Dantewada in the state of Chhattisgarh, who was arrested on 9 September. The police say they caught him red-handed in a market place, while he was handing over protection money from Essar, an iron-ore mining company, to the banned Communist party of India (Maoist). His aunt Soni Sori says that he was picked up by plainclothes policemen in a white Bolero car from his grandfather's house in Palnar village.
Interestingly, even by their own account, the police arrested Lingaram but allowed the Maoists to escape. This is only the latest in a series of bizarre, almost hallucinatory accusations they have made against Lingaram and then withdrawn. His real crime is that he is the only journalist who speaks Gondi, the local language, and who knows how to negotiate the remote forest paths in Dantewada the other war zone in India from which no news must come.
Having signed over vast tracts of indigenous tribal homelands in central India to multinational mining and infrastructure corporations in a series of secret memorandums of understanding, the government has begun to flood the forests with hundreds of thousands of security forces. All resistance, armed as well as unarmed has been branded "Maoist" (In Kashmir they are all "jihadi elements").
As the civil war grows deadlier, hundreds of villages have been burnt to the ground. Thousands of adivasis have fled as refugees into neighbouring states. Hundreds of thousands are living terrified lives hiding in the forests. Paramilitary forces have laid siege to the forest, making trips to the markets for essential provisions and medicines a nightmare for villagers. Untold numbers of nameless people are in jail, charged with sedition and waging war on the state, with no lawyers to defend them. Very little news comes out of those forests, and there are no body counts.
So it's not hard to see why young Lingaram Kodopi poses such a threat. Before he trained to become a journalist, he was a driver in Dantewada. In 2009 the police arrested him and confiscated his Jeep. He was locked up in a small toilet for 40 days where he was pressurised to become a special police officer (SPO) in the Salwa Judum, the government-sponsored vigilante army that was at the time tasked with forcing people to flee from their villages (the Salwa Judum has since been declared unconstitutional by the supreme court).
The police released Lingaram after the Gandhian activist Himanshu Kumar filed a habeas corpus petition in court. But then the police arrested Lingaram's old father and five other members of his family. They attacked his village and threatened the villagers if they sheltered him. Eventually Lingaram escaped to Delhi where friends and well-wishers got him admission into a journalism school. In April 2010 he travelled to Dantewada and escorted villagers to Delhi to give testimony at the independent peoples' tribunal about the barbarity of the Salwa Judum and the police and paramilitary forces. In his own testimony, Lingaram was sharply critical of the Maoists as well.
That did not deter the Chhattisgarh police. On 2 July 2010, the senior Maoist leader, Comrade Azad, the official spokesperson for the Maoist party, was captured and executed by the Andhra Pradesh police. Deputy Inspector General Kalluri of the Chhattisgarh police announced at a press conference that Lingaram Kodopi had been elected by the Maoist party to take over Comrade Azad's role (it was like accusing a young school child in 1936 Yan'an of being Zhou Enlai). The charge was met with such derision that the police had to withdraw it. Soon after they accused Lingaram of being the mastermind of a Maoist attack on a congress legislator in Dantewada. But oddly enough, they made no move to arrest him.
Lingaram remained in Delhi, completed his course and received his diploma in journalism. In March 2011, paramilitary forces burned down three villages in Dantewada – Tadmetla, Timmapuram and Morapalli. The Chhattisgarh government blamed the Maoists. The supreme court assigned the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation. Lingaram returned to Dantewada with a video camera and trekked from village to village documenting first-hand testimonies of the villagers who indicted the police. By doing this he made himself one of the most wanted men in Dantewada. On 9 September the police finally got to him.
Lingaram has joined an impressive line-up of troublesome news gatherers and disseminators in Chhattisgarh. Among the earliest to be silenced was the celebrated doctor Binayak Sen, who first raised the alarm about the crimes of the Salwa Judum as far back as 2005. He was arrested in 2007, accused of being a Maoist and sentenced to life imprisonment. After years in prison, he is out on bail now.
Kopa Kunjam was my first guide into the forest villages of Dantewada. At the time he worked with Himanshu Kumar's Vanvasi Chetna ashram, doing exactly what Lingaram tried to do much later – travelling to remote villages, bringing out the news, and carefully documenting the horror that was unfolding. In May 2009 the ashram, the last neutral shelter for journalists, writers and academics who were travelling to Dantewada, was demolished by the Chhattisgarh government.
Kopa was arrested on human rights day in September 2009. He was accused of colluding with the Maoists in the murder of one man and the kidnapping of another. The case against Kopa has begun to fall apart as the police witnesses, including the man who was kidnapped, have disowned the statements they purportedly made to the police. It doesn't really matter, because in India the process is the punishment.
It could take years for Kopa to establish his innocence. Many of those who were emboldened by Kopa to file complaints against the police have been arrested too. That includes women who committed the crime of being raped. Soon after Kopa's arrest Himanshu Kumar was hounded out of Dantewada.
Eventually, here too the dead will begin to speak. And it will not just be dead human beings, it will be the dead land, dead rivers, dead mountains and dead creatures in dead forests that will insist on a hearing.
In this age of surveillance, internet policing and phone-tapping, as the clampdown on those who speak up becomes grimmer with every passing day, it's odd how India is becoming the dream destination of literary festivals. Many of these festivals are funded by the very corporations on whose behalf the police have unleashed their regime of terror.
The Harud literary festival in Srinagar (postponed for the moment) was slated to be the newest, most exciting literary festival in India – "As the autumn leaves change colour the valley of Kashmir will resonate with the sound of poetry, literary dialogue, debate and discussions …"
Its organisers advertised it as an "apolitical" event, but did not say how either the rulers or the subjects of a brutal military occupation that has claimed tens of thousands of lives could be "apolitical". I wonder – will the guests come on tourist visas? Will there be separate ones for Srinagar and Delhi? Will they need security clearance?
The festive din of all this spurious freedom helps to muffle the sound of footsteps in airport corridors as the deported are frog-marched on to departing planes, to mute the click of handcuffs locking around strong, warm wrists and the cold metallic clang of prison doors.
Our lungs are gradually being depleted of oxygen. Perhaps it's time use whatever breath remains in our bodies to say: "Open the bloody gates."

Monday, 19 September 2011

Arundhati Roy will receive the Mailer Prize for Distinguished Writing 2011

Each year the Center holds a Benefit Gala in New York City to raise funds for over 100 scholarships
and fellowships it awards each year.  In addition the Center awards the Mailer Prize to distinguished
writers from around the world and honors high school, two-year college,
college and high school teachers with a series of writing awards.. 

This year on November 8 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City, Dr. Elie Wiesel will receive
the Mailer Prize  for Lifetime Achievement;  Arundhati Roy, the Mailer Prize
for Distinguished Writing, Gay Talese the Mailer Prize for Distinguished Journalism
and Keith Richards the Mailer Prize for Biography..
Other awards will be made public that evening.

This year our presenters will include: President William J. Clinton; Jonathan Demme;
Sr. Harold Evans
and Mortimer Zuckerman.

Tina Brown will be Honorary Chair and Dylan Jones and Piers Morgan Co-Chairs.

Advanced seating for this year's Benefit Gala can be arrnaged by calling +1 646 374 3939,
option 1 and / or . Click here to view or print the reservation - reply card.


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Arundhati Roy expected to attend Indian Students Parliament in Pune

Mumbai, Sep 18 (PTI)

The second edition of Indian Students Parliament also known as ''Bharatiya Chhatra Sansad'' (BCS) will be held in Pune on January 10 next year.The eminent dignitaries, including business tycoons like Anand Mahindra and Azim Premji, Infosys mentor N R Narayan Murthy, Jindal Steel and Power Chairman and Managing Director Naveen Jindal are expected to address the students Parliament.Besides, spiritual leader Dalai Lama, noted writer and activist Arundhati Roy, actress Nandita Das, filmaker Prakash Jha and Nobel-aureate environmentalist Rajendra Pachauri, are also expected.From political fraternity, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee would be part of the event.The Indian Student Parliament is an exercise for identifying young leaders'' potential, introducing them to different issues, promoting them to be proactive while interacting with prominent personalities from different spheres of public life."Today there are social issues like financial scams, problems in the education system, corruption, caste issues.There are various issues related to our democracy and the youth should be sensitised about them," Maharashtra Minister for Higher and Technical Education Rajesh Tope told reporters here.Emphasising need for youth empowerment,t Tope, who also is the patron of the BCS said,"if youth is our future then we have to strengthen them. If they are strengthened then our democracy will get strengthened.BCS is organised by the Maharashtra Academy of Engineering and Educational Research (MAEER''s) MIT School of Government, Pune

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Arundhati Roy attending Earth at Risk Conference

Name: Earth At Risk
November 13, 2011
Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley

Leading environmental thinkers and activists will headline a special day-long conference at UC Berkeley on Sunday, November, 13, convened and led by writer-philosopher Derrick Jensen.

The "Earth at Risk" conference will feature Arundhati Roy, Chris Hedges, and Thomas Linzey among others in a day-long series of interviews with Jensen before a live audience.

The theme will be the need to build a "deep green resistance movement" to confront the array of powerful interests that currently prevent needed action on curbing the activities that threaten the survival of our planet.

We live in the most destructive culture to ever exist. In Derrick's talks around the country he repeatedly asks his audiences, "Does anyone think this culture will voluntarily transform to a sustainable way of living?"

No one ever says yes. If we accept the seriousness of the situation, what would that mean for our strategy and tactics? This is the urgent question that Derrick and his guests will be exploring.

Our planet is under serious threat from industrial civilization. Yet activists are not considering strategies that might actually prevent the looming biotic collapse the Earth is facing. We need to deprive the rich and powerful of their ability to destroy the planet. We need a serious resistance movement that includes all levels of direct action---action that can match the scale of the problem.

Derrick Jensen has been called “the philosopher-poet of the environmental movement.” During this day-long event, he will interview eight people who each hold an impassioned critique of this culture and offer ideas on what can be done to build a real resistance movement. Participants include Arundhati Roy, Chris Hedges, Thomas Linzey, Aric McBay, Lierre Keith, Waziyatawin, and Stephanie McMillan.

Earth At Risk is a full-day event from 10 AM to 7 PM at UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Auditorium, which is located near the intersection of College and Telegraph. General admission is $40, $25 low-income, $60 supporter.

For more information, go to
Sun, 13 Nov at 10:00am - at 7:00pm
Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley

Friday, 16 September 2011

Ferrara International in 2011. A weekend with journalists from around the world. (Arundhati Roy)

September 16, 2011

 From September 30 to October 2, the great journalism makes an appointment in Ferrara

Press conference to present the festival

It was presented yesterday, Thursday, Sept. 15, the fifth edition of the International Journalism Festival in Ferrara in 2011. At the press conference that was held at the hall of the Lorenzo Natali European Commission Representation in Italy at 12, intervene Giovanni De Mauro, director of the International Battistotti Lucio, director of the European Commission Representation in Italy, Tiziano Tagliani, mayor of Ferrara, Sergio Cecchini, Director of Communications Doctors Without Borders, and Paul Marcolini, ARCI President Ferrara.

Also this year, in Ferrara, the big names of international journalism and culture: "The festival of Ferrara, origin, five years ago, was designed as a real number
Internationally in terms of variety of proposals and signature. This year, with 169 guests and 74 meetings in three days I would say that we did, we reached the goal, "says Director John De Mauro. Witness the growth of the festival the city of Ferrara, "The greatest satisfaction is the collaboration of the city event. Almost, but not in Ferrara International International with Ferrara, "said Tagliani Titian, the Mayor of Ferrara.

Protagonists of the fifth edition of the festival the great revolutions and social policies with the voices of the Arab spring: Ziad Majed, a political activist of the Lebanese left and the Egyptians Issandr el Amrani, founder of The Arabist, and Hossam el Hamalawy, author of the blog Arabawy. And then the new feminism, the philosopher Michel Marzano, the Spanish writer Beatriz Preciado and the British journalist Natasha Walter.

The great names of artists and journalists will discuss the main themes of actuality: the expected meeting between the British intellectual and writer John Berger and activist Arundhati Roy of India, Al Qaeda after the death of Bin Laden with the British journalist Jason Burke, the upcoming elections in Argentina Horacio Verbitsky, Putin's Russia with the Novaya Gazeta reporter Yulia Latynina, the reportage of war sending the New York Times Elizabeth Rubin, precarious work and the general secretary of the CGIL Camusso Susanna.

And then the debate on social networks with Evgeny Morozov, author of The Net Delusion, and Bruno Giussani, European Director of TED. For the first time calling the TED Conference in Ferrara. Continue the commitment of the International Festival for a zero impact. Environmental policies we talk with the director of Greenpeace International Kumi Naidoo.

Do not miss the great shows in the evening. The concert of world music to the streets of Mali, Amadou and Mariam and dj-sets expected by Jovanotti. Directly from Venice, the film unveils the latest Terrestrial Gianni Gipi Pacinotti Black Bloc and the documentary of Charles A. Bachschmidt, theatrical performance the days of Genoa and the unpublished collection of documentary television.

Ferrara International is promoted by the International City of Ferrara, Ferrara Province, Emilia-Romagna, University of Ferrara, Fondazione Teatro Comunale of Ferrara, Ferrara, Earth and Water, IF Arch Ferrara Association. The festival is made ​​possible by the collaboration of Doctors Without Borders, the European Commission Representation in Italy and Presseurop, with the support of Eni, Unipolis Foundation, World Food Programme (WFP), Banca Etica, Sammontana Ferrara and Holding Services Ltd. Webtv is made ​​possible by Unipol. Thanks for Tiscali's media and technical partnerships and Radio 3, The Post and Euranet for media partnerships.

Elena Giacchino
The following page has been translated from Italian. Any errors found are possibly due to the loss in translation

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

You are not really mining for your needs

K. V. Kurmanath

 We have around 830 million people earning Rs 20 a day and also the largest number of millionaires in the world.

Ms Arundhati Roy took Indian literature by storm in 1997, winning the Booker Prize for her novel God of Small Things. Thereafter, in addition to her literary pursuit, she has taken serious interest in socio-economic and political problems.

A strong critic of the existing development model, Ms Roy opposes ruthless pursuit for ores. Penguin has just published Broken Republic, a compilation of her three articles – Walking with Comrades, Trickledown Revolution and Mr Chidambaram's War. In an interview to Business Line, Ms Roy speaks on issues such as mining, corruption and agriculture.

You have expressed strong reservations on large-scale mining. But don't you think we need metals as we progress?

We need to address this question at several levels. What do you mean by needs and what do you mean by progress? You are mining not because you need metals. The Government is selling its ores to private companies for a very small royalty.

So even in its own terms it is an absurd thing to do. It (royalty) is not determined without honestly considering the real costs, forget about social and environmental costs, while selling of wealth worth $4 trillion.

You are not really mining for your needs, you are producing it for a market, to be traded on futures markets.

What could be the impact of the focus on mining on society?

The issue of displacement started sometime ago but has accelerated now.

Among millions of people displaced are tribals and Dalits who are paying disproportionate price. What started as displacement of Adivasis and Dalits has also begun to include farmers now.

When the Naxalite movement started what was their demand? Land to the tiller. Land to the landless. Today, the fact is even marginal farmers are being displaced. It is an amazing journey. The actual landless, who are mainly Dalits and Adivasis, are left out of even radical discourse. They don't count for compensation.

Corruption has become a big issue for discussion after Anna Hazare's campaign for Jan Lokpal Bill. How do you view this movement?

When the Lokpal agitation started, you had a government battered by scandals which actually exposed the nexus between the Government, corporates and the media. Media and journalists were disgraced. Everything was laid bare. Then this agitation started and you might have thought that it was time for anti-corruption agitation.

Because you have a situation where the Government is withdrawing from its traditional duties, the corporate is taking over water, telecom, mining, transport and electricity and NGOs are doing education and health, and the media funded by corporates is obviously doing the campaign.

Now I would imagine that if you wanted a genuine Lokpal Bill, these people who have taken on functions of a Government should be included in it. But they are the ones who are doing the campaign, saying that the Government is corrupt and letting themselves off the hook.

No one is talking anymore on corporate corruption and about NGOs and the media. They have a platform, or they made themselves a platform, saying that the Government is corrupt and it is time for second round of reforms. I find this very dangerous.

What is the root cause of corruption?

What is corruption? Is it just an accounting imagination where corruption is some financial irregularity? It is a moral issue.

If hawkers are banned in Delhi or any other city, a woman wants to sell something and she pays bribe to a police man or municipal guy. Is that a crime? Surely, it is illegal. But if you consider what is legal, 90 per cent of what people are doing today are illegal.

Are you going to address the inequality that creates this value system? Or you are going to set up a whole lot of complaint booths?

And at the top, you are letting everyone off the hook.

Indian agriculture is facing a serious crisis. Thousands of farmers in Andhra Pradesh have announced crop holiday this kharif. What is ailing this sector?

There is this view that agriculture contributes very little to GDP. The Government asks the farmers to give up (land) and move to cities and let the corporates take over to make agriculture efficient.

One should see how agriculture has been marketised over the years with major irrigation schemes and increase in input costs.

Monoculture and huge irrigation projects too have an impact. Ground water is disappearing and irrigated areas are becoming saline. You turned everything upside down.

And your solution is more big projects, more irrigation, more pesticides and more fertilisers and more salinity .

Mr Jairam Ramesh says Maoists need to be tackled at block level. If you don't do it, opposition to Poscos, Vedantas could assume Naxalite overtones, he argues. What is your view?

If your larger agenda is actually to corporatise agriculture, to privatise water and electricity, mining and everything, that agenda is going to impoverish large sections of people. So whatever tricks you are going to play, they are not going to work. People are turning to Maoism because they have lost faith in the system, because assault on them is harsh. In other places they turn to other movements.

Economists argue that Sensex is doing well and the country's GDP is growing healthily despite global slowdown. Your views?

How many people have Sensex-related investments in this country? Only a fraction. Economists have a narrow view of things. They don't know about history, culture and environment. This number crunching will give you a distorted idea of everything.

We are in such a situation where 830 million people are earning Rs 20 a day but we have world's largest number of millionaires. You have more poor people than all the poor in entire Africa.

There are seven people in a room who are starving, two just managing and one of them is a millionaire. And when I say, seven people are starving, they are saying I'm negative.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The dictatorship of the middle class- Arundhati Roy

The Indian writer Arundhati Roy in conversation with Iris Radisch about capitalism, seduction, and the happiness of asceticism...

Die Schriftstellerin Arundhati Roy wurde 1959 in Südindien geboren. Ihr Roman "Der Gott der kleinen Dinge" machte sie 1997 weltberühmt.
The novelist Arundhati Roy was born in 1959 in southern India. Ihr Roman "Der Gott der kleinen Dinge" machte sie 1997 weltberühmt. Her novel "The God of Small Things" made her famous in 1997.

TIME: Since the aircraft at the 11th September  has brought down the Twin Towers, there is a hole in the world, which is now rather become larger and slower. Was 11 September, the beginning of the end of the capitalist West?

Arundhati Roy: It was the beginning of the downfall of the American Empire, which at the moment is progressing faster and faster. Empires have always risen and fallen. But never before has the world culturally and economically linked so closely that the fall of an empire all other terrain depression. All our ideas of what belongs to a civilized life, have become questionable. 

TIME: Exceeds the magnitude of the current crisis, what happened to our parents and grandparents, have taken place in their life time, two world wars? 

Roy: These generations have paid a high price in Europe But their world stretched even on a clear conceptual field. It was about fascism, socialism or democracy. We are already beyond this field. We no longer know what our dreams and what we mean by happiness. 

TIME: Ten years ago you wrote a now famous essay, is compared to the United States with al-Qaida and called Bush and bin Laden as a double. 

Roy: They were both megalomaniacs. Both were convinced that the world must be so, as they consider this appropriate. But of course you can a man who has the whole world under control, compare with anybody. One can only imagine that both of them, they were equally powerful, and equally destructive were. 

TIME: You were writing this essay is, ten years later again? 

Roy: I would not change him. But expanding. Meanwhile, Afghanistan was attacked, Iraq was attacked. Bush's response to 9 / 11 has killed many people did not even know that there is something like the World Trade Center was. All this has led to the crisis in which we live now. 

TIME: What were your first feelings when you saw the towers fall?

Roy: Most people in my part of the world were not as shocked as the people in the West. We have already seen so much misery, so much violence. We do not have this idea of ​​a perfect life that cannot be destroyed
TIME: What has changed in the ten years after 9 / 11 in your life. Is the crisis of capitalism arrived in your life?
Roy: 1997 was published my novel The God of Small Things , and I was this Indian middle class heroine. Then I began my political essays to write, and the same people began to hate me. In the West went through the still, as long as I only criticized the operations in India. When I wrote my essay Infinite Justice on America, I realized that I advanced in foreign territory. But it needed to be. It was totally clear that Bush was behind this talk about the endless war between good and evil, a whole industry of weapons and money.

TIME: How do you see the West, ten years after 9 / 11 ?

Roy: democracy and free markets are merged into a single predator, the fantasy only to be fodder, the profit increase, circles. It is even claimed that the Western world, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is to defend the western lifestyle. This way of life that there is defended with weapons, but it is who causes the downfall of the Western Empire.

TIME: If there is something on which the West is rightly proud of, then it is his lifestyle, its culture of freedom and individualism.

Roy: Of course there are Western values ​​are worth defending. The question is at what price. Der The West does not think in context. He thinks in separate departments. The war on terror is a resort. The economy to another. Democracy is a third. But you have to see it all together. We do all the good work and make our department then surprised to find that without bees that pollinate the flowers do not survive.

TIME: What is your prognosis, capitalism has a future?

Roy: The future? This will be wars of the elites against the poor. This is the real conflict at issue today. We have a global elite that is culturally and economically linked very well and it only comes to their own survival.

TIME: Who is this elite?

Roy: In Europe, the Americas, China, in India there is an elite fighting only downward. It is about domination by realpolitik to energy. Where does China's raw materials to feed its growth machine ever? It will have to fight wars for it. Where does India's raw materials? At the moment of its poorest people in the woods. The old argument that the destruction of the natural foundations of life was for the good of the country and several in the end the prosperity of all, has ruined. All these are just empty phrases of the ruling middle class, the world's best elite linked.

TIME: Are we living in a dictatorship of the middle class?

Roy: Yes. There is a middle-class totalitarianism. This can be shown in many indications. The economic and cultural codes in India have changed dramatically in the last twenty years. An example is the Bollywood film. the Bollywood film we see no more poor people. In the seventies and eighties played Amitab Bachchan the great Bollywood star, the Slumkönige, the coolies, the little man fighting against the system. In the nineties, we see the same man to live only in villas and fly around in helicopters.

TIME: The West, what you call middle class is not totalitarianism, has been imposed. It was created in free societies and apparently corresponds to the wishes of the majority.

Roy: A few years ago it still looked as if the Indian middle class here, and trample everything to transform the country into a shopping mall. But that is changing. People do not want it anymore.

TIME: Who will rise up in the western world against the conspiracy of the middle class? With us almost every part of the middle class.

Roy: Because the work is done in China or India.

TIME: Will the world eventually be middle class?

Roy: We cannot even imagine. It will allow the middle class never to live at the expense of others. Someone is always out.

TIME: Who should think about alternatives in a homogenous society? Can the all-powerful middle class alternatives to develop an economic model from which they all benefited in particular still?

Roy: No, they cannot. She is proud to be placed on the middle class itself, if challenged, will not by themselves but by the people in the jungle, out in the villages, where everything is taken.

TIME : Where do you want to know that people in the jungle not too happy to climb into the middle class and a nice Mercedes-Benz take?

Roy: You want to be left alone and live in the forest.

TIME: Are you so sure?

Roy: That they say. You do not want a life with bodyguards and police protection.

TIME: But maybe with a dishwasher and conditioners?

Roy: I do not think that everyone wants. What everyone needs is clean water and minimal health care, access to medicines. Was What India so fascinating is that there are very many people, even in the middle class who want to live a life of excess without these things. I could give away everything. As long as I only have a safe place to live where I can, I'm satisfied.

TIME: In Europe, thinks only a small, albeit growing educated elite Sun. Is self-discipline and renunciation one solution to the crisis of unbridled capitalism?

Roy: There is a possibility. In India, this is not an elitist project. It comes from an ascetic tradition, including some from the Sufism. There are millions of ordinary people in India, the secrets of a sustainable lifestyle have never been lost.

TIME: Can you tell us those secrets?

Roy: It is the ability to say: Enough. I've had enough. I no longer need. It is the idea of ​​elemental luck, as I have learned from the natives in the jungle.

TIME: If we want to curb the excesses of capitalism, as we reflect on our true needs, we act us a new problem. We need to distinguish true from false needs. How will that work?

Roy: You could. When I was growing up in Kerala in the village, I ate what grew there. It was wonderful food. It was lucky in that food that was not flown around the world to land on my plate. We did not have to deal with the question of whether we would rather eat Italian or Chinese. That was not in our imagination. There were no restaurants, no shops. There was a lot of loneliness, a lot of silence. As a child I had hours and hours on a river. But it was not a primitive life. We had books.

TIME: How can I transfer such a concept of life in modern societies?

Roy: In Europe and in America it was originally the distinction between what you need and what you wish for. This ability to differentiate is lost. Now you need a Mercedes-Benz. You're bombarded with these stimuli, it is a real brainwashing that takes place in the West.

TIME: It is long ago that a leftist critique of culture in Europe has dared to speak of true and false consciousness. Today, no one makes more. Do not you know these scruples?

Roy: Yes. At the moment, as the old style of thinking "Here is a pair of shoes that will last forever" was replaced "by the promise here is a pair of shoes that makes you a great feeling," the false consciousness has come into the world .

TIME: And you say that the guy was covered with his great shoe feeling brainwashed?

Roy: From the outside you see this very clearly.

TIME: But we're all mature and intelligent Democrats consumers.

Roy: And they want to mature Democrats run every BMW and eat mangoes from India, lamb meat from Australia and kiwis from Brazil. Okay. (Vehemently) I'm not interested in explaining these intelligent Europeans, what are their real needs. What I do is to stand by my people here and say we do not leave us for your needs from our homes, drive them from our country. I do not care if every family needs two cars in Europe. It does no good if I say that they do not need. I care the people who are struggling to have one meal a day.

TIME: You do not want to convert the West?

Roy: Even long time. The moralizing is pointless. What am I supposed to convince people not to shop? The western world will change but only if those who stand with their backs to the wall to force this change.

TIME: How do you protect yourself from the temptations of capitalism?

Roy: It is a struggle that everyone needs to unregister with itself. I made my money and I bought this apartment in Delhi, in which we sit here. You have to find a balance.

TIME: And how did you find this balance?

Roy: You can find them and they lose, they will lose it again and again. That's life. It is not about to sacrifice wealth and then to be unhappy. The point is that prosperity is not only to want. All the money I earn with my books, is also there to share it, pass it on. I do not tack on that money. My friends always say: We have become rich. For me it is a common possession.

TIME: greed has something to do with fear of life, protects it, it calms down.

Roy: My mother has been with me on the way: You have to be independent, you cannot give away anything, but you also do not need everything you have. I know what I need. Den I give the rest away.

TIME: What is happiness for you?

Roy: That is changing. Be open. Be a part of the wind that blows through the world. And then withdraw again. The thrills. And surprise yourself. Be curious and do not know what will happen tomorrow.

TIME: live wild and dangerous, that's a popular saying in the German Bohemians.

Roy: Let's put it this way: is happiness, when you live without skin. If you are not closed. I live here in a nice area of ​​Delhi, but if you drive at night through the streets of the city, you will not believe what you see. The sidewalks are filled with people who lie there. It is difficult to sustain that. Und And it's easy to end up there even if you do not live in any social and family safety nets. But if you live in these networks, it does not have the freedom of which I speak.

TIME: Is this the Indian savagery, you often boast of?

Roy: India consists of many countries and lives in different centuries. It still has many utterly magical places. Just two minutes from my home there is a neighborhood where one cannot imagine once again that the modern world still exists. This diversity should be straightened out through the opening to Western markets. Everyone should want the same thing.

TIME: If you could stop that at all yet, have you ever said, then certainly not in air-conditioned conference rooms or in big cities. Where should the problems of modern societies are usually negotiated?

Roy: The places where policy is made ​​are, market places, to include only those financial interests. People sit here with the sole idea of ​​climate change, trade in emission allowances is.

TIME: If the politicians cannot solve our problems, then who?

Roy: The war over resources is forcing us to find alternatives. It is vitally important to work for a non-capitalist society. I have a feeling that everything I have fought in recent years, is now out there yet. All that we are talking about for years, is finally in every newspaper.

TIME: You are now 52 years old. What will be your future?

Roy: I see my mother, she is 74 years old, a wild and crazy person who now has the best time of their lives. She enjoys herself. She runs her own school. She could come out of a Fellini movie. She is so free from everything. I am sure that I get to her.


 This article has been translated from a Dutch website; any grammatical mistakes are solely due to the translation of the article

Saturday, 10 September 2011

'The Press Decides Which Revolutions To Report'

The celebrated dissenter on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, mass uprisings in the Arab world, the Anna Hazare movement, her old comrades-in arm like Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan, Maoism, writing and much else.

Rajesh Joshi Interviews Arundhati Roy 

Rajesh Joshi: The 10th anniversary of September the 11th attacks on the US is upon us. What do you think has changed in the world, or hasn’t changed, in these years?

Arundhati Roy: Plenty has changed. The numbers of wars that are being fought has been expanded and the rhetoric that allows those wars —that are essentially a battle for resources —is now disguised in the rhetoric of the war on terror, and has become more acceptable in some ways and yet more transparent in other ways.

Perhaps the most dangerous thing that has happened is that increasingly we are seeing that these wars can’t be won. They can be initiated. But they can’t be won. Like the war in Vietnam was not won. The war in Iraq has not been won. The war in Afghanistan has not been won. The war on Libya will not be won. There is this initial pattern where you claim victory and then these occupation forces get mired in a kind of slow war of attrition. That’s also partially responsible for the global economy slowly coming apart.

The other difficulty is that the more the weapons of conventional warfare become nuclear —and all this kind of air bombing and so on —the more it becomes clear to people who are fighting occupations that you can’t win a conventional war. So, ironically the accumulation of conventional weaponry is leading to different kinds of terrorism and suicide bombings and a sort of desperate resort to extremely violent resistances. Violent, ideologically as well, because you have to really motivate people to want to go and blow themselves up. So, [it's a ] very, very dangerous time.

You have been very critical of the war on terror, especially the US policy. Would you have preferred a Saddam Hussain or a Taliban regime in Afghanistan?

Well, it does look as if the Taliban regime is going to return in Afghanistan in some form or shape. And obviously, people like Saddam Hussain were first created and put in place and supported and funded and armed by the US. This process is something that a country that seeks hegemonic power can put in the despots it wants, topple them when it wants and then get mired in these kinds of battles where eventually it’s having to desperately scramble to get some foothold of a some face-saving measure in, say, Afghanistan. So, eventually, you are not ever going to get rid of despots or dictators or Taliban. The Taliban was also created by them. That kind of ideology was almost handed out as a kind of weaponry by them at the time they were fighting the Soviets which nobody really mentions. They just talk about Pakistan having had those camps but those camps were actually funded by the CIA and by Saudi Arabia, which is now one of the greatest despotic regimes wholly embraced by the US.

How do you look at the mass uprisings across the Arab world? Do you think it’s a positive development?

Obviously there are very positive things about it but the jury is still out on them, in terms of what happened in Egypt for instance. Hosni Mubarak was in power for 40 years. We knew that three months before the uprising in Tahrir Square, the papers were reporting that he was on his death bed. Then this uprising happened. And then you had such enthusiastic reporting by the western press about the uprising — the press decides which revolutions to report and which not to report and therein lies politics. You had similar huge uprisings, let’s say in Kashmir which was more or less blacked out and yet you had this being reported very enthusiastically but at the end of it you had headlines which said: 'Egypt Free, Army Takes Over'.

And today there are ten thousand people being tried in military tribunals. There is probably the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood happening now; it’s a negotiated emergence. I would say that it would be a successful uprising and a real democracy if they manage to completely stop the Egyptian role in the siege of Gaza. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

There are lots of manipulations going on. In India, as well as in these places, there is also the use of people’s power. People are angry. People are genuinely furious. People who have lived under these despotic regimes are desperate. But just moving the big blocks a little bit allows an eruption to take place. Is that eruption really going to end up in a genuine democracy or is that anger going to be channelised into something else?... We are still waiting.

Aren’t you happy that dictatorships are falling like a pack of cards?

I would be happy if they were not going to be replaced by military regimes. I would be happy if I was sure that whatever takes its place isn’t going to be another manipulation... I would be happy. But at this moment in Egypt, people are being picked and tried in military tribunals just the way they were under Hosni Mubarak. Of course, I am happy but why should you be celebrating something unless what you are celebrating is the right thing?

You have been supporting people’s movements everywhere but you are very critical of the Anna Hazare movement. Common people participated in the movement, after all.

I don’t support all people’s movements. I certainly didn’t support the Ram Janambhumi movement which was one of the largest people's movement in this country – the movement to topple the Babri masjid and build a temple there. I think all kinds of fascism could describe itself as people’s movements and I don’t support fascism. I am not an indiscriminate supporter of people’s movements. In this particular case, I think it’s very important to read what was going on and what was going on was not simple. We are at a stage where huge corruption scandals mostly involving mining corporations and telecom companies and so on have been exposed for their links to the government, links to the media, for looting billions of dollars and there is no accountability, neither from the government nor from the corporations. And there is a huge amount of popular anger against them.

The reason I am very suspicious about what is happening here is that I feel that this anger from the top to the bottom is channelised into a people’s movement and that anger which was a very amorphous anger was being used to push through this very specific piece of legislation which I don’t think anybody— including a lot of the people who were pushing it— has read. And if you read that bill, it is not only legally ludicrous but the people who call themselves Team Anna themselves said that people were angry and we provided them the medicine. The Team Anna are themselves saying that the people didn’t read the bill but they said ‘give us some medicine for the sickness’, but they didn’t read what it said on the label of the medicine bottle. Very, very few people have read it. And that medicine is far more dangerous than the illness itself. That’s why I am worried. Then it became this moral movement which started to use the old symbols of religious fascism that all of us have seen, that started to exclude the minorities.

Some of your comrades-in arm like Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan are part of that movement. How can you say that the movement has streaks of fascism? Do you doubt Medha Patkar and Prashant Bhushan’s integrity or is it their understanding?

It’s not a question of doubting their integrity. I doubt their (Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar’s) understanding for sure on the Lokpal bill — I am not doubting their integrity. Neither of them has brought in the politics they spent their life time doing; they left it outside at the doorstep. I just want somebody to have a proper conversation about that bill that they were insisting be passed without discussion through Parliament by the 30th of August. If you look at the bill, it’s so terrifying. Firstly, it’s so un-worked out. It asks for ten people of integrity —and proper class —to be running a bureaucracy that would contain about 30,000 officers. There is no comment on where those officers are coming from, who they are; there is no idea of what you mean by corruption in a society like ours. Sure there is corruption — from poor people having to bribe government officers to get their ration bills to corporates paying and getting rivers and mountains to mine for free.

But corruption is a value system, which has to be pinned to a legal system. And I keep saying that there are huge numbers, millions of Indians, who live untitled and unidentified outside this legal system. Supposing you live in Delhi. You have huge number of slums, illegal hawkers, squatters' settlements. Suddenly some middle class community can say, ‘I live in Jorbagh there is a slum there, it’s illegal. The politicians are keeping them there because they get votes; the municipalities are allowing them because they get bribes. Get them out of here. These are illegal people’. What’s the meaning of corruption has not been debated. Forget the fact that they are asking for a bill where these ten people are at the top and there is an additional bureaucracy of 30,000 who will be given a huge amount of money by the government and they have the right to prosecute, to sentence, to tap phones, to dismiss, to suspend and to enquire into the activities of everybody from the PM to the judiciary downwards. They are just setting up a parallel hierarchy! What’s happening is that the middle class which has benefited from these policies of privatisation and globalisation has become impatient with democracy.

If globalisation and privatisation is not the answer, according to you, then what is?

I think that the only way that we can begin to move to a place where people have some rights is by learning how to become an opposition which demands accountability. What the Jan Lokpal bill does is to set up another Super Cop. I am saying that the beginning of moving towards a society that we would like to live in is to force accountability. And that is only when people begin to stand by those who are fighting for their rights and demand that something happens. Not when they look away and say: that’s not my problem that people are being killed in Dantewada. I am a middle-class person and I believe that I should benefit. If we live in a democracy and you believe that everybody does have certain minimum rights, then you’ve got to be able to open your eyes to it. That’s what I try and do in whatever way I could by standing by those resistance movements that are questioning everything from big dams to mining to all these things—who are refusing to give up their lands, who are standing up to the biggest powers, whether it’s the army or the corporations and all of that.

You are a fierce critic of the Manmohan Singh government’s economic policies but India’s development has been praised by President Barack Obama of the US and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Many would say you are using your celebrity status as a Booker Prize winner author to criticise the path that India has taken after the collapse of the Soviet Union?

Booker Prize and all that is meaningless. There are plenty of famous people who can use their fame to sell shoes or coca cola. Nobody can use their fame meaninglessly. For me, I am a writer; I am somebody who sees the world in a particular way. And I keep saying that these words like ‘India’s development’ have become meaningless because who is India? When you say 'India' are you talking about the few hundred billionaires or are you talking about the 830 million people who live on less than 20 rupees a day? Surely, some people in India have developed very fast beyond their wildest dreams but they have done that by standing on the shoulders and the bodies of large number of other Indians. I keep saying when you have ten people in a room and one person become a billionaire and two people are doing really well and the rest of seven are starving and someone says, 'Hey, there are seven people are starving in this room', and you say, 'Why are you being negative? People have developed!' It doesn’t matter who I am, what I won, what I didn’t win. If I am saying something that is relevant it will have a place in this world. If I am being stupid, if I am being negative, if I am being meaningless, I won’t have a place in this world. So, there is no point in personalising things because it doesn’t really help.

Is Maoism the answer?

Of course it’s not the answer. However, as I keep saying what I believe is the answer is the diversity of resistance and the Maoists are at one end — the very militant end of the diversity. And they fight deep in the forests which are being filled with paramilitary and police and surely in that tribal village where no television camera ever reaches, where no Gandhian hunger strike is ever going to make the news, there is only the possibility of an armed resistance. Outside, that armed resistance will be crushed in a minute. The Maoists have not had any success outside. You need to look at other kind of resistance outside. The resistance movements often confuse the necessity for tactical differences with ideological differences. But the fact is that one of the things I think is wonderful in India is that there is a huge bandwidth of resistance movements who are being very effective and who are insisting on their rights and who are winning some battles. When you come back to this business of corruption, I would like to say that you have hundreds of secret memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between the governments and private corporations, which will result in a kind of social engineering across central India — forests, mountains, rivers — all of it given away to corporations. Millions of people are fighting for their rights. Nobody stood there and said can you declare those MoUs.

What does the state do? It has to defend itself.

Implicit in that statement is that the state is the enemy of the people and it has to defend itself. And if you see what’s happening in the world, increasingly that’s true that states and their armies are turning upon what traditionally were their own peoples. Wars are not always being fought between countries; they are also being fought by the state against their own people — a kind of vertical colonisation as opposed to a horizontal one.

Do you love to mess with power?

I do believe that the only way to keep power accountable is to always question it, to always mess with it in some way or the other.

Some people would say it’s very convenient of you to criticise things from a safe corner. What do you think your role is going to be in the future? Are you going to be a writer or have you every thought of joining politics?

It’s not a serious question, I am afraid. What I do is politics. What I write is politics. Traditionally this is what writers have done. So to separate commentary from writing, from politics, minimises politics, minimises writing, and minimises commentary. This has historically been the role of writers. I could surely go and wear a khadi sari and sit in the forest and become a martyr but that’s not what I plan to do. I have no problem being who I am, writing what I have because I am not playing for sainthood here. I am not playing for popularity. I am not asking to be hailed as a leader of the masses. I am a writer who has a particular set of views and I use whatever skills I have, I deploy whatever skills I have, whatever means I have to write about them, not always on my own behalf but from the heart of the resistance.

In an interview to Financial Times you once said, and I quote: “I feel like I’ve done a very interesting journey over the last 11 years, but now I’m ready to do something different. Two years ago, I told myself, ‘no more, enough of this’, and I was working on some fiction. Then this huge uprising happened in Kashmir.” Some would say your activism is just another career move — I’ve done this and now let’s move on and do something more exciting?

It’s not about more exciting things, it’s about writing again. If I am a writer and I have written in a certain way, then suddenly you feel like, for example The God of Small Things is a very political book but then there became another phase of very urgent and immediate politics and it became non-fiction. But I think fiction is a deeper, more subversive kind of politics. Like if you read The God of Small Things, dealing with issues of caste for example. It’s not about the government or the state versus the people; it’s about the absolute malaise within your own society. Fiction is a much better way of dealing with it. You can’t allow yourself to just be bogged down doing the same thing, thinking the same ways or using the same techniques of writing. It’s always a challenge. And it can never be that I will stop being a political person. Of course, I think that everybody, even a fashion model, is political. It’s the kind of politics you choose is what you choose to do. There is no escaping that. This idea that politics is only going out and standing for elections or addressing rallies is a very superficial thing.

Rajesh Joshi works with BBC Hindi Service where this interview was first broadcast in Hindi

Friday, 2 September 2011

An Interview with Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy is probably the most ‘do something’ public intellectual of our time. In her interview with New Internationalist she offers her take on market-friendly democracy, people power and the wealth that is fed by people’s lives.

Stuart Freedman/Panos 

Your writings have grappled with ruthless state violence which is often at the behest of corporate interests. Much of the corporate-owned media in India shies away from covering the civil war-like conditions in many parts of the country. The establishment tends to brand anyone who attempts to present the other side’s points of view as having seditious intent. Where is the democratic space?

You’ve partially answered your own question – newspapers and television channels do not make their money from subscriptions or viewership; in fact, corporate advertisements actually subsidize TV viewership and newspaper and magazine readership, so in effect, the mass media is run with corporate money. Some media houses are directly owned by corporations, some indirectly by majority share-holdings. Some media houses in, say, Central India, have a direct interest in mining and infrastructure projects, so they have a vested interest in the push to displace people in the huge, ongoing land-grab in which land and resources are forcibly taken from the poor and given to the rich – a process which goes by the name of ‘development’. It would be foolish to expect objective reporting: not because the journalists are bad people, but because of the economic structure of the organizations they work for. In fact, what is surprising is that despite all of this, occasionally there is some very good reporting. But overall we either have silence, or a completely distorted picture, in which those resisting their impoverishment are being labelled ‘terrorists’ – and these are not just the Maoist rebels who have taken to arms, but others who are involved in unarmed, but militant, struggles against the government. A climate has been created which criminalizes dissent of all kinds.

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of the poorest people in jails across the country under charges of sedition and waging war against the state. Many others are just charged under the common criminal penal code. There are the other ‘seditionists’ too, of course – those who have been fighting for self-determination after being inducted into the Union of India without their consent, when the British left in 1947. I refer to Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland… in these places, tens of thousands have been killed, hundreds of thousands tortured in the nightmarish interrogation centres and army camps all around the country. And now, the Indian army is migrating to the heart of the country – to fight the adivasi people whose lands the corporations covet. They say Pakistan is a military dictatorship, but I don’t think the Pakistani army has been actively deployed against its ‘own’ people the way the Indian army has been: Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Hyderabad, Goa, Telengana, Punjab and now, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa…

Anti-corruption campaigning has been at the forefront of media-reported news in India. Meanwhile, the relative silence on civil war conditions continues. How does one explain this gap in what makes the news?

I have mixed feelings about the anti-corruption campaign. It gathered momentum after a series of huge scams hit the headlines. The most scandalous of them was what has come to be known as the ‘2G scam’ in which the government sold telecom spectrum for mobile phones (a public asset) to private companies at ridiculously low prices. The companies went on to sell them at huge profits to other companies, robbing the public exchequer of billions of rupees. Leaked phone taps showed how everybody, from the judiciary to politicians to high profile journalists and low profit hit-men, were in on the manoeuvring. The transcripts were like an MRI scan that confirmed a diagnosis that had been made years ago by many of us.

The 2G scam enraged the Indian middle classes, who saw it as a betrayal, as a moral problem, not a systemic or a structural one. Somehow, the fact that the government has signed hundreds of secret Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) privatizing water, minerals and infrastructure, and signing over forests, mountains and rivers to private corporations, does not seem to generate the same outrage. Unlike in the 2G scam, these secret MOUs do not have just a monetary cost, but human and environmental costs that are devastating. They displace millions of people and wreck whole ecosystems. The mining corporations pay the government just a tiny royalty and rake in huge profits. Yet the people who are fighting these battles are being called terrorists and terrorist sympathizers. Even if there were no corruption and everything were above board on these deals, it would be daylight robbery on an unimaginable scale.

On the whole, when a political movement is mobilized using the language of ‘anti-corruption’, it has an apolitical ‘catch-all’ appeal which could result in a hugely unfair system being strengthened by a sort of moral police force which has authoritarian instincts. So you have ‘Team Anna’: a sort of oligarchy of ‘concerned citizens’ – some of them very fine people – led by the old Gandhian Anna Hazare, who talks about amputating the limbs of thieves and hanging people and who has praised Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who presided over the public massacre of thousands of Muslims in broad daylight. On the other hand, to shun the anti-corruption movement and set your eyes on a long-term political goal lets the corporate looters and their henchmen in the media, parliament and judiciary off the hook. So it’s a bit of a dilemma.

Recent Indian government legislation permits web content to be shut down for a variety of reasons. Film censorship is still widely used. Why does the state take such a paternalistic role towards what its citizens have to say?

I think overt censorship is slated to become a big problem in the near future. Internet censorship, surveillance, the project of the electronic UID (Unique Identity card)… ominous. Imagine a government that cannot provide food or water to its people, a government whose policies have created a population of 800 million people who live on less than 20 rupees [about 45 US cents] a day, a country which has the largest number of malnourished children in the world, which has, as a major priority, the desire to distribute UID cards to all of its citizens.

The UID is a corporate scam which funnels billions of dollars into the IT sector. To me, it is one of the most serious transgressions that is on the cards. It is nothing more than an administrative tool in the hands of a police state. But coming back to censorship: since the US government has pissed on its Holy Cow (Free Speech – or whatever little was left of it) with its vituperative reaction to Wikileaks, now everybody will jump on the bandwagon. (Just like every country had its own version of the ‘war on terror’ to settle scores.) Having said this, India is certainly not the worst place in the world on the Free Speech issue: the anarchy of different kinds of media, the fact that it’s such an unmanageable country and, though institutions of democracy have been eroded, there is a militant spirit of democracy among the people… it will be hard to shut us all up. Impossible, I’d say.

You have pointed out that nonviolent positions are difficult to hold on to when there is no audience to witness them, and when the opposing force does not blink at the moral challenge and responds with murder. Why do you think pointing that out caused such an uproar?

I have written at some length about this. I do not say that nonviolent satyagraha is an obsolete tool of resistance, not at all. It can be extremely effective; but has to be carried out in the public eye, in front of TV cameras, and for demands – like ‘anti-corruption’– which appeal to the sympathies of the middle class. However, I do believe that preaching ‘nonviolence at any cost’ from a safe distance to adivasi people who live in remote forest villages and have watched hundreds of security forces arrive, surround their villages, burn their homes and kill and rape their people, can also be pretty immoral. If the middle class were to join the battle, then of course nonviolent satyagraha would be an option. But of course it won’t. It can’t. That would be a political oxymoron.

Why does pointing this out cause an uproar, you ask? I think because of the fear that once those millions of people who have been so cruelly dispossessed of all they have in order to fire India’s ‘growth’ suddenly unshackle their imaginations and realize that they are not so defenceless after all, the Beautiful People know that no power on earth will be able to protect them. Sure, there may not be a perfect, synchronized revolution in which the masses will overthrow the ruling classes. Instead, there will be a messy insurrection, when all manner of brutality will occur. The poor may not win, but the rich will certainly lose. The feast will end. That’s why the uproar.

Are we talking about the narratives we like to make up and then believe in, regardless of the reality of the situation? What is your take on the narratives, especially those of the Western media, around the Arab uprisings?

Well, when the mainstream media begins to report enthusiastically about a series of uprisings – when they described the Arab uprisings as the Arab ‘spring’ – and when you know how loaded the reporting around the Israeli Occupation of Palestine is, then if you have your wits about you, you have to be on your guard, a little wary of swallowing the reports hook, line and sinker. If you follow what happened over the last three summers in Kashmir, for example, when tens of thousands of unarmed people faced down Indian security forces with as much courage and determination as the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen, you can’t help but wonder why the Western media switches on the lights to cover some uprisings, and blacks out others. I found it a little disconcerting how enthusiastically the 19-day ‘revolution’ in Tahrir Square was being reported, how excited [New York Times foreign affairs columnist] Thomas Friedman was about it – but only a few months ago reports seemed to suggest that Hosni Mubarak was sick and dying… Then you had headlines like ‘Egypt free, army takes charge’ and you know that the army is intricately entwined with the US. I worry that the anger and energy of people who have been repressed for years by puppet dictators is being siphoned off, carefully defused, while the West jockeys to retain the status quo one way or another and replace the old despots with a more streamlined, less obvious form of despotism. The last I heard, people were beginning to gather in Tahrir Square again…

Surges of people power, as in Tunisia and Egypt, and earlier in the Philippines, are capable of forcing climactic moments and sudden change. But the aftermath often sees a return to old systems and old corruptions. Why is human social organization so resistant to the change we yearn for?

While people in these countries lived under repressive regimes and yearned for democracy, perhaps they didn’t know that real democracy has been taken into the workshop and replaced by the market-friendly version, which is a far more sophisticated form of despotism, not easy for beginners to decode. It might take a little time for people to realize they’ve been sold the wrong model. But meanwhile they have fought heroic street battles, faced down tanks, celebrated victory. They’ve been applauded all the way, while they let off steam. For them to build up that head of steam again isn’t easy. It’ll take years. Human society isn’t resistant to change: it wants change; but sometimes it isn’t smart enough to get what it wants.

Another world is possible. What are the ways in which we can make it likely?

To work out the complex ways in which we are being conned and corralled into being ‘good’. To realize we’re on our own. Help won’t come. We have to conserve energy, know how and where and when to deploy it. We have to fight our own battles. Ask the Sri Lankan Tamils what it feels like when the chips are down and the ‘international community’ slinks away while your people are slaughtered and then returns to cluck and commiserate in hollow ways.