Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize“winning author of The God of Small Things, has been in the news recently for her outspoken comments about Kashmiri secession from India. Last week, rumours began circulating that the author might be charged with sedition for a speech in which she said, in part, “Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It is a historical fact.”
Although the Indian government appears to have backed away from charging Roy with sedition, on Sunday a mob gathered at the author’s Delhi home to demand she retract her statements. From the Guardian:
Around 150 members of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s women’s organisation surrounded the house chanting slogans such as: “Take back your statement, else leave India.” The BJP is fiercely opposed to Kashmiri independence.
Although Roy has received support from left-leaning commentators at the Guardian and on other websites (notably that of fellow author Hari Kunzru), Leo Mirani, also writing in the Guardian, feels the author’s overheated rhetoric has made her statements “irrelevant in Indian public discourse.” Mirani writes:
Who would want to live in Arundhati Roy’s India? Who would even want to read about Arundhati Roy’s India? The government of India has many faults, but even Roy has to admit that living in this country isn’t entirely intolerable. Confronted with the relentlessly bleak picture she paints, one in which the only good guys are murderers and mercenaries, who can blame middle India for retreating into their iPods and tabloid newspapers?
Roy has important things to say, but her tone and bluster ensure the only people listening are those who already agree with her. She is preaching to the converted. To the left-leaning publications of the west, she is an articulate, intelligent voice explaining the problems with 21st-century India. For the university lefties in India, she confirms their worst fears of a nation falling apart. But to any intelligent readers who may be sitting on the fence or for anyone from middle-class India taking their first tentative steps towards greater political involvement, her polemic serves to terrify and alienate.
Clearly, the 150 people who stormed Roy’s house on Sunday don’t feel that her statements are irrelevant. As for Roy herself, she has issued a press release in which she insinuates possible collusion between the protestors and the media (TV vans had appeared in the neighbourhood prior to the demonstrators descending upon her house):
What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle? Does the media which positions itself at the “scene” in advance have a guarantee that the attacks and demonstrations will be non-violent? What happens if there is criminal trespass (as there was today) or even something worse? Does the media then become accessory to the crime?