Saturday, 17 November 2012

‘Those Who’ve Tried To Change The System Via Elections Have Ended Up Being Changed By It'

On the anti-corruption movement that has implications for politics, media and the national discourse
Saba Naqvi interviews Arundhati Roy

In August last yearArundhati Roy wrote a piece that raised important questions about the Anna Hazare movement. A lot has changed since then and Arvind Kejriwal and Anna have taken divergent paths. Kejriwal will launch a political party on November 26 and in the last few months he has, along with lawyer Prashant Bhushan, taken on powerful politicians and corporates. Saba Naqvi sent Arundhati five questions on e-mail to get her views on what is an evolving situation that has implications for politics, media and the national discourse. Here are Arundhati’s very detailed answers.

What do you make of these many corruption exposes and do you see this as a healthy development?
It’s an interesting development. The good thing about it is that it gives us an insight into how the networks of power connect and interlock. The worrying thing is that each scam pushes the last one out of the way, and life goes on. If all we will get out of it is an extra-acrimonious election campaign, it can only raise the bar of what our rulers know we can tolerate, or be conned into tolerating. Scams smaller than a few lakh crores will not even catch our attention. In election season, for political parties to accuse each other of corruption or doing shady deals with corporations is not new—remember the BJP and the Shiv Sena’s campaign against Enron? Advani called it ‘Looting through liberalisation’. They won that election in Maharashtra, scrapped the contract between Enron and the Congress government, and then signed a far worse one!

Also worrying is the fact that some of these ‘exposes’ are strategic leaks from politicians and business houses who are spilling the beans on each other, hoping to get ahead of their rivals. Sometimes it’s across party lines, sometimes it’s intra-party jockeying. It’s being done brilliantly, and those who are being used as clearing houses to front these campaigns may not always be aware that this is the case. If in this process there was some attrition and corrupt people were being weeded out of the political arena, it would have been encouraging. But those who have been ‘exposed’—Salman Khurshid, Robert Vadra, Gadkari—have actually been embraced tighter by their parties. Politicians are aware of the fact that being accused or even convicted of corruption does not always make a dent in their popularity. Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Jaganmohan Reddy—they remain hugely popular leaders despite the charges that have been brought against them. While ordinary people are infuriated by corruption, it does seem as though when it comes to voting, their calculations are more shrewd, more complicated. They don’t necessarily vote for Nice Folks.

Why do you think stories that the media knew about but never carried or paid a price for carrying are suddenly coming out like a rash and new details are emerging in the process?
Just because there is a new kid in town, we mustn’t forget that some media houses and several other groups and individuals, at cost to themselves, have played a part in exposing major scams, like the Commonwealth games, 2G and Coal-gate, which shone the light on private corporations and sections of the media as well. Ironically, the Anna Hazare movement last year concentrated solely on politicians and let the others off the hook. But you’re right, there are cases in which the facts were known, but they remained unpublished until now. And suddenly it’s raining corruption scams now—some are even being recycled. Corruption has become so blatant, so pathological that those involved don’t even try very hard to hide their tracks. Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan have all played an important part in making it hard for the media to elide the issue. But the sudden rash of exposes also has to do with the growing competition between the various coalitions of politicians, mega corporations and the media houses they own. For example, I do believe there is some substance to the speculation that the expose of Gadkari has to do with Narendra Modi—backed by big business—positioning himself to become the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and trying to get hostile lobbies out of the way. Now since it’s the era of corruption and balancesheets—blood is passe. It’s strange how often you hear commentators saying that it’s time to move on from the Sangh parivar’s Gujarat pogrom against Muslims in 2002 and to look ahead. The Congress party-led ’84 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi has been forgotten too. Killers and fascists are OK as long as they are not financially corrupt? What the newest anti-corruption movement led by Kejriwal and Bhushan is doing is important work that ought really to be done by the media and investigation agencies, and by people pressurising the system from outside. I’m not sure a new political party that is going to fight elections is the right vehicle. Given how elections work in India, given the amount of money and the machinations that go into them, what does this decision to stand for elections mean? There is a reason why the big political parties gleefully invite everybody to stand for elections. They know they control the arena, they want to turn newcomers into clowns in their circus, and wear them down by having to perform endlessly before a carnivorous media.

Many have walked this plank before. If, for example, Kejriwal’s party wins just a few seats, or none at all, what would it imply? That the majority of Indian people are pro-corruption? What stands exposed in all of this, other than the grand nexus between politicians and business houses, is that the media is struggling with its role as the ‘Fourth Estate’. A new political party, however good or honest, is not going to be able to resolve that anytime soon, because that is a structural problem. The media is hobbled by its economics. Recently in an interview, Vineet Jain of the Times Group was disarmingly frank when he said the Times Group was not in the business of news, but in the business of advertising. Apart from this, we have the problem of paid news and of outright ownership. Industrialists have always owned newspapers, but the scale of the operation has changed. Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), for example, recently bought 95 per cent shares in Infotel, a TV consortium that controls 27 TV news and entertainment channels. Sometimes it’s the other way around: we have media houses own mining companies. Dainik Bhaskar, with a readership of 17 million, owns 69 companies with interests in mining, power generation, real estate and textiles. And then, of course, we have the newspapers and TV channels owned by politicians like Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha, Jaganmohan Reddy and others. 

As the boundary between big business, big politics and news melts away, it’s becoming harder for journalists and reporters to do what was once considered an almost sacred duty—to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That ideal has been more or less turned on its head.

Can anti-corruption be a valid plank for a political party?
I don’t think so. Corrupt politicians have shown themselves to be hugely popular. I hope Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan’s party will have more to its plank than just anti-corruption.

I think the middle-class definition of corruption—as a sort of accounting problem—isn’t necessarily everybody else’s definition. Corruption is a symptom of a widening gap between the powerful and the powerless which, in India, is one of the worst in the world. That is what needs to be addressed. Moral policing, or even actual policing, can’t be a solution. What is that meant to achieve? Making an unjust system cleaner and more efficient? Setting up a parallel government with tens of thousands of police and bureaucrats, which is what the Jan Lokpal Bill envisages, will not solve the problem. Have our police and bureaucrats shown themselves to be guardians of the poor? Which pool will these new, honest souls be culled from? In a country where a majority of the population is illegitimate in the ways in which they live and work, the Jan Lokpal Bill could easily become a weapon in the hands of the middle classes—“Remove these filthy illegal slums, clear away these illegal vendors crowding the pavements”—and so on. The point is how do we define corruption? If a corporate house pays a thousand crore bribe to secure a contract for a coal-field, it’s corruption. If a voter takes a thousand rupees to vote for a particular politician, it’s corruption too. If a samosa-seller pays a cop a hundred-rupee bribe for a place on the pavement, that too is corruption. But are they all the same thing? I do not mean to suggest that there shouldn’t be a grievance redressal mechanism to monitor corruption, of course there should be. But that will not solve the big problem, because the big players only become better at covering their tracks.
For a political party to view the politics of this vast and complex country through the lens of corruption is—to put it politely—inadequate. Can we understand or address the politics of caste and class, ethnicity, gender, religious chauvinism, the whole of our political history, the current process of environmental devastation—and the other myriad things that make India’s engine work, or not work—all through the narrow, brittle lens of corruption? They can only be addressed if you know your people, if you have vision and ideology, not by just changing the props or costumes activists wear on stage when one or the other group accuses them of something or the other. Being against corruption is not in itself a political ideology. Even corrupt people will say they’re against corruption.
Change will come. It has to. But I doubt it will be ushered in by a new political party hoping to change the system by winning elections. Because those who have tried to change the system that way have ended up being changed by it—look what happened to the Communist parties. I think the insurrections taking place in the countryside will move towards the cities, not under any single banner, not in some orderly or revolutionary way, necessarily. It will not be pretty. But it’s inevitable.
Sections of the ruling class see the current exposes as ‘anarchy’. After the Ambani, KG basin and oil issue was raised, there were some commentaries about Kejriwal and “his leftist” friends. Your comments on this.
By ‘anarchy’, I presume they mean chaos, which is not what anarchy means. May I say that what the ruling classes are engaged in today, that is anarchy, by their definition. (By the way, I don’t know which of Arvind Kejriwal’s friends is a ‘leftist’.) Or are we now supposed to collapse ‘chaos’, ‘anarchy’ and the ‘left’ into one big ball of wax?

I want to make just one very simple suggestion, and it is far from radical. Let’s say it is just a common minimum programme. We have become a country that is more or less run by private corporations. Let’s look at two of the biggest corporations who rule us today: Reliance and Tatas. Mukesh Ambani, who holds a majority controlling share in RIL, is personally worth $20 billion. RIL has a market capitalisation of $47 billion. Its business interests include petrochemicals, oil, natural gas, polyester fibre, SEZs, fresh food retail, high schools, life sciences research and stem cell storage services. It has a controlling interest in 27 TV news and entertainment channels. It has endowed chairs in foreign universities worth millions of dollars.

The Tatas run more than 100 companies in 80 countries. They are one of India’s largest private sector power companies. They own mines, gas fields, steel plants, phone, cable TV and broadband networks, and run whole townships. They manufacture cars and trucks, own the Taj Hotel chain, Jaguar, Land Rover, Daewoo, Tetley Tea, a publishing company, a chain of bookstores, and a major brand of iodised salt. The Tatas are also hugely invested in foreign universities.

I don’t think that there are corporations like these elsewhere in the world—none with this range of business interests, that control our lives so minutely, that can hold us to ransom and can shut us down as a country if they are unhappy with the deals they are being given. This is the biggest danger facing us.
What our economists like to call a level playing field is actually a machine spinning with a centrifugal force that funnels the poor out like disposable residue, and concentrates wealth in fewer and fewer hands, which is why 100 people have wealth equivalent to 25 per cent of the GDP and hundreds of millions live on less than `20 a day. It is why most of our children suffer from severe malnutrition, why two lakh farmers have killed themselves and why India is home to a majority of the world’s poor.

Whether you are Communist, Capitalist, Gandhian, Hindutva-ist, Islamist, Feminist, Ambedkarite, Environmentalist, whether you are a farmer, a businessman, journalist, writer, poet, or fool, even if you believe in privatisation and in the new economy—whatever—if you have a modicum of concern or affection, leave alone love, for this country, surely you must see that this is the clear and present danger? Even if these corporations and politicians were scrupulously honest, it is an absurd situation for a country to be in. Unless mega corporations are reined in and limited by legislation, unless the levers of such untrammelled power (which includes the power to buy politics and policymaking, justice, elections and the news) is taken away from them, unless the cross-ownership of businesses is regulated, unless the media is freed from the absolute control of big business, we are headed for a shipwreck. No amount of noise, no amount of anti-corruption campaigns, no amount of elections can stop that.

You have in the past described the system as “hollowed out”. In that case do you see all this as a pantomime?

Pantomime is a harsh word. I see what is happening now as part of the unrest, anger and frustration that is building up in the country. Sometimes the noisiness of it makes it hard to see clearly. But unless we look things in the eye—instead of heading off in strange quixotic directions—we can look forward to the civil war, which has already begun, reaching our doorsteps very soon.


Friday, 16 November 2012

Roy Against the Machine

The Indian author Arundhati Roy speaks at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Duncan Chard for the National.

 Normally, arriving 30 minutes early for a Sharjah book fair event at the Sharjah Expo Centre's huge conference hall would guarantee you a seat, but not this time. Every chair except for two rows of reserved seating was taken; the walls of the auditorium were lined with people. A few minutes and about a hundred people later, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, the president of the Emirates Publishing Association, presented Arundhati Roy to a standing ovation


Earlier that day, when I spoke to Roy, we talked about her work as a writer, her books and her experiences as an activist, championing human rights, environment issues and the anti-globalisation movement.

Her activities have not been without controversy. Vocal in her opposition to her country's nuclear policy, its ambitions of becoming a free market and the issue of Kashmir (she supports its independence) have incurred the wrath of Indian nationalists, and after she spent two months visiting the Maoist rebels in the Indian forests in 2010, highlighting the plight of India's tribal people, the Adivasis, she was accused of being a national traitor.
However, she dismisses the idea that she's any kind of activist.

"I don't even know what an activist is," she says. "I don't know why people keep saying that I am an activist as if I'm walking around, carrying a banner all the time. I write because I have a space in which I can be heard and that is what I do. I write about my society and its issues."

Prior to meeting her, I expected the 50-year-old writer to be a fierce woman, full of angst and anger, but instead I found that she possesses both the infinite tenderness of a mother and the reckless rage of a suicide bomber, to paraphrase from The God of Small Things. Wearing a burnt orange cotton sari with an olive green blouse and long, white beads, she is a gracious woman who seems so instantly familiar that you want to greet her with a kiss on the cheek. And while her countenance may make you stop in your tracks, watch out: she carries a pen filled with the ink of ire.
In her work, she is known for focusing on the uneven tug of war between global capitalism and those under its feet. When The God of Small Things won the Booker Prize and sent Roy's international profile skyrocketing, she used the clout to unleash a blaze of dissent against India's nuclear ambitions, political corruption and the marginalisation of its poor and powerless.

The God of Small Things, which centres on the lives of twins, a boy and a girl, growing up in Aymanam Kerala - where Roy herself grew up - is a book that gives you butterflies in your stomach; it's filled with tastes, smells and sounds. It brings coolness to your skin and a twinge of pain to your heart. Remarkably, I can still conjure up these images after having read the book only once, 14 years ago, in 1998.

Roy is the daughter of a Syrian Christian mother and a Bengali Hindu. Her mother moved her family to Aymanam after divorcing Roy's father. It was an experience, Roy says, that strongly influenced her writing of The God of Small Things.
"In the Syrian Christian community, I grew up as an outsider," she recalls. "People would say: 'Why don't you go back to your father?' Then, there was the caste system, albeit a hidden one, but nonetheless very rigid. In retrospect, it was the battle to understand who you are."

The caste system is an issue that's obviously close to Roy's heart. But is there anything that can be done to change the national consciousness?

"The debate about changing the society's mindset began with Bhimrao Ramaji Ambedkar [the architect of the Indian constitution] and [Mahatma] Gandhi. The constitution was a compromise where caste was institutionalised. People like to think of Gandhi as someone that was against the caste system, but this is a lie. Gandhi himself believed in the caste system. He said that the untouchables should remain scavengers and Brahmins should take care of the spiritual needs of society - that every caste should remain where it is, but we should respect them.

"There is such intellectual dishonesty going around in India concerning him and his history. He is a fascinating figure, but he should not be someone that we cannot question or talk about - this is wrong."

Another cause Roy is associated with is anti-globalisation, a topic which she has written about extensively. Does she think her work, together with that of others such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and Howard Zinn are collectively making a chink in the globalisation machine's armour?

"I think it's hard to say," she says. "There is a chink in the machine, but I don't know if it is because of our work. The machine is creating such enormous disparity, such enormous violence, that there is bound to be a blowback. How can I take credit for that? I don't know."

The God of Small Things has yet to be followed by a second novel but, after 14 years, she confirms that another is on its way. An attempt to squeeze out some details is met with a sly chuckle.

"I am writing a new novel, but when I finish it, it will be as much as a surprise to me as it is to you."

Source :

Sunday, 11 November 2012

If we do not love people, what are we fighting for?

Arundhati Roy speaks at the Sharjah International Book Fair on 9th November 2012.

She moved quietly and with grace. All eyes were on her as she made her way on to a stage in front of a packed hall in Sharjah. Her greying hair and petite figure draped in a simple red sari belied the vibrant energy she was known for. 

Arundhati Roy's presence at the Sharjah International Book Fair 2012 was greeted with applause – it was a success even before she said her first word.

Known for her fearless criticism of governments and corporate giants, the award-winning author was at the fair to talk about 'God of Small Things', her most famous work of fiction that won the Man Booker Prize in 1997.

The air was thick with anticipation. What would she say? Here was a woman disliked by both the ruling party and opposition – a rarity in India. The Indian government often called her a rebel, a woman against globalisation and progress. The UAE was about to find out if this was true or not.

After the formal introduction and welcome, she took to the stage with the interviewer. When talking about her book, Roy said she began writing it only because of a river in Ayemenem, where she grew up. As she described how she wrote it, a smile lit up her face, and she lyrically described a beautiful river lit by a 'broken yellow moon'. Right at the beginning, it was evident that Roy was a woman who used language to empower. Her easy yet refined rhetoric exuded a calm confidence.

Arundhati Roy wants to be the voice of the downtrodden. She has been working actively to eliminate the caste system in India. She said, “the caste system continues to be the engine that drives Indian politics.” 

In her own words, she writes about 'incredible bravery and profound struggles'. In the interview, Roy emerges as a deeply sensitive human being who cares about people and issues that others hardly even notice. And her cause is very personal. She has spent two and a half weeks in the forest with guerrillas, to write about them of the experience, she said that there was the expected fighting, but she spent most of her time with them just ‘cracking up’.

Writing fiction for her was a lonely affair. Maybe that’s why she enjoys writing about real issues and real people. She feels connected to the people of her country when she writes. But is she happy doing this? The answer is thought-provoking. “Happiness is a weapon,” and she doesn’t want to be a victim.

Roy’s opinions extend beyond India as well. As expected, she was asked for her opinion Obama’s second term. Contrary to all the cries of ‘better change’ that the world has been screaming, she doesn’t think that there will be any change – for the better. According to her, Obama increased attacks in Afghanistan two-fold. How, she wonders, could he stand on that stage, hugging his daughters and wife even as he rips apart thousands of families in other parts of the world?

There were many memorable moments during Roy’s talk. One of them was when she was asked what she thinks of wearing the hijab. Her response was received with a round of applause. “Removing the hijab off women who want to wear it is not liberating them, it’s undressing them.”

So who is Arundhati Roy? Is she a human rights activist? “I don’t believe in human rights,” she is quick to respond. For her, it is jargon – a term coined by NGOs and governments to ‘evade the real issue’. 

Is she a writer? Yes, but she is much more. She is an empathetic human being who takes other people’s problems seriously. And for the rest of us, she is a picture of hope. 

Someone who doesn’t make empty promises for a better world. Someone who acknowledges that there are many more unseen, unheard people working harder than she is. Someone who we can trust – because she is more about ‘doing’ than ‘talking. She isn’t a larger than life celebrity. Arundhati Roy is simply a passionate believer in change.

By Georgina Paul

The writer is a MA Media and Communications student specializing in Journalism at Manipal University, Dubai.

All roads lead to Sharjah book fair

Arundhati Roy and Ahlam Mostaghanmi help attract record attendance

 People are descending on Sharjah International Book Fair in record-breaking numbers this year as it makes a significant impact in terms of both popularity and size. Attendance at the event has already surpassed 135,000 in the first three days.

 The annual book fair which counts itself among the biggest in the world saw a record 70,000 visitors turning out on Friday alone. The director of the fair, Ahmad Al Ameri, said: “We are delighted that so many people are coming to enjoy all the wonderful events here. It is no doubt that two very popular authors increased the visitor figures on Friday. It is particularly good to see families coming. It is important that our children grow up with a love of reading and the written word.”

 Best-selling novelist Arundhati Roy packed a hall at the fair yesterday when 2,000 people arrived to hear her speak on writing, politics, and her love for her homeland India. Roy, author of The God of Small Things, which won the 1998 Man Booker Prize for fiction, announced that she is writing a second book, but would not reveal what it is about. “Fiction is a lonely business,” she said. “Writing the book was like being in jail, the book took me over and even if I had wanted to escape from it, I couldn’t.”

Roy has written many essays on a wide range of issues that affect modern-day India. She added: “When I write essays, then I feel a part of the people of India.”

The 50-year-old also rejected the idea that she is an activist, saying: “There is something ‘missionary’ about the word activist that I don’t like.” However, much of her work focuses on the plight of the poorest and most marginalised sections of Indian society. “Writing is in my DNA. When you write you must be accurate about the detail, space and place. I think fishermen must make good writers; they spend so much time keeping quiet and plotting against the fish,” she added.

She also told the audience that, given the chance, she would not rewrite her famous novel. “I don’t have the urge to rewrite. Not because I think it is perfect but I am not the type to keep changing something when it is finished.”


‘Fairy princess’ to ‘instinctive critic’

If you ignore her legion of detractors and her yearn for criticism, Indian author Arundhati Roy can be an interesting, even affable person. Seldom does her reputation fail to precede her before she walks into a room. But she says the reputation of being an instinctive critic has been crafted for her by what she calls a “corporate controlled press” The author was present at the Sharjah International Book Fair and spoke to a crowded hall of book lovers on Friday.
KT Illustration by Rajendran Though she says that she finds it hard to understand the term ‘‘human rights activist’’, Roy is known across the globe to be one of India’s most controversial writers, environmentalist and human rights campaigners.

Before turning to activism and being a staunch critic of India’s political structure, the now 50-year-old author won the Man Booker prize for her first and only fictional title The God of Small Things in 1997. Overnight, her novel became the best-selling book by a non-expatriate Indian author and catapulted her to a status of what she calls being “India’s fairy princess”. The novel is a tragic love story, which revolves around topics like politics, class relations, cultural tensions and social discrimination, which are issues still prevalent in India.

Fifteen years later, when Roy is asked if she would change anything about the book, her response is: “When I read it now, I do not have that urge to re-write or correct it. That isn’t because it’s a perfect book but it’s because I am not that kind of a person who wants to keep fiddling with something that I’ve already done.”

“But what I find myself constantly surprised by is the fact that the book which was written all those years ago deals with certain aspects of Indian life and society and these are things which continue to haunt me and enrage me. Here I am speaking of issues like caste system, poverty, the growing communist movement in India, the extreme left, and the naxalite movement.”
However, Roy believes that not much has changed with the political state of the country that was reflected in the book 15 years ago.

I have spent the last 15 years writing overtly political essays, but those concerned have not been able to deal with what is going on with the Dalit movement in India. Caste, ethnicity and religion continue to be the engine that drives Indian politics. These are things that continue to be uppermost on my mind,” said Roy.

Since her first book, Roy has gone on to write essays on several important issues that shaped India’s political, environmental and social history.

She is a strong critic of India’s nuclear policies, the Narmada dam project, the 2002 violence in Gujarat, and more recently she voiced her opinion against anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare.
Speaking about as to why she never forayed into writing fiction again, she said: “It took me four and half years to finish the God of Small Things and I’ve never been a particularly ambitious person.” After the release of the book in 1997, she said that she had become part of the ‘Miss Universe parade’.

“But I had the space to raise a dissenting voice and if I had kept quiet, I would not be able to write with any degree of honesty again. So, I stepped off the pedestal and overnight turned from being a Fairy Princess into a seditionist. How is it possible that Indian liberal intellectuals cannot stand up and take a moral position?”

Roy believes that she is far from being a hated figure that the media would like to portray her as. “I feel embraced, I feel loved and I feel I can go almost anywhere and say ‘can you give me lunch?”

However, Roy remained stubbornly tight-lipped about her next work of fiction saying only that she “hope(d) to finish a second book”.

Roy blames her instinctive writing tendencies in her DNA and said that she does not consider herself to be a “great, courageous person”.

“I cannot be preening and accepting accolades about my courage. I am doing what I do and I enjoy what I do, I don’t have a choice. I am a person of instinct. But when everything around is sizzling, bubbling and boiling and I feel like there is no space in my body for my organs anymore. I feel that it is harder to keep quiet than not to write.”

Roy said that through her non-fictional writing, she felt like she was a part of the people of her country. “Fiction is a lonely affair. But when I write non-fiction, I feel like I am a part of the people of my country, but not in a nationalistic way. I am not a nationalist in that sense.”
But yet, when she was asked to suggest an alternative state to India’s problems, she skirted around the issue and said that there was a structural flaw in the way Indians imagine themselves. “We need building blocks for a kind of intellectual honesty.”

The author interacted with the crowds and signed copies of her books for fans over the weekend at the event organised by DC Books and was also attended by Shaikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, president of the Emirates Publishers Association, and Counsul-General of India Sanjay Verma among other dignitaries.

Source :

Arundhati Roy shuns 'activist' tag

SHARJAH: 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.

‘What ails India’

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 a leading Indian opposition figure, tended to peter out into something more political than being part of the larger battle against corruption.

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.

on ‘n’ and ‘K’

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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