Roy is the celebrated author of The God of Small Things,
winner of the prestigious Booker Prize. The New York Times
calls her "India's most impassioned critic of globalization
and American influence." This interview, conducted by David
Barsamian, is published with the permission of ZNET.
BARSAMIAN: All nations have ideas about themselves that are
repeated without much scrutiny or examination: the United States
-- a beacon of freedom and liberty; India -- the world's largest
democracy, dedicated to secularism.
ARUNDHATI ROY: India has done a better job than the United States
in recent years. The myth about the U.S. being a beacon of liberty
has been more or less discredited amongst people who are even
vaguely informed. India, on the other hand, has managed to pull
off almost a miraculous public relations coup. It really is
the flavor of the decade, I think. It's the sort of dream destination
for world capital. All this done in the name of "India
is not Afghanistan," "India is not Pakistan,"
"India is a secular democracy," and so on.
India has among the highest number of custodial deaths in the
world. It's a country where 25 percent of its territory is out
of control of the government. But the thing is that these areas
are so dark, whether it's Kashmir, whether it's the northeastern
states, whether it's Chhattisgarh, whether it's parts of Andhra
Pradesh. There is so much going on here, but it's just a diverse
and varied place. So while there are killings going on, say,
in Chhattisgarh, there's a festival in Tamil Nadu or a cricket
match between India and Australia in Adelaide. Where the light
is shone is where the Sensex stock market is jumping and investments
are coming in. And where the lights are switched off are the
states where farmers are committing suicide—I think the
figure is now 136,000—and the killing, in say, Kashmir,
which is 68,000 to 80,000. We have laws like the Armed Forces
Special Powers Act, which allows even noncommissioned officers
to shoot on suspicion.
quite interesting what's going on right now, because we are
at the cusp where the definition of terrorism is being expanded.
Under the BJP, the Bharatiya Janata Party -- that's the radical
Hindu government previously in power -- much of the emphasis
was on Islamic terrorism. But now Islamic terrorism is not enough
to net those that the government wants to net, because the minimum
qualification is that you have to be a Muslim. Now, with these
huge development projects and these Special Economic Zones that
are being created and the massive displacement, the people that
are protesting those have to be called terrorists, too. And
they can't be Islamic terrorists, so now we have the Maoists.
The fact is that both in the case of militancy in Kashmir as
well as the expansion of the Maoist cadres, they are both realities
-- it's not that they are not -- but they are realities that
both sides benefit from exaggerating. So when Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh says it's the greatest internal security threat,
it allows various state governments to pass all kinds of laws
that could call anybody a terrorist. Say, tomorrow, they came
into my house here. Just the books that I have would make me
qualify as a terrorist. In Chhattisgarh, if I had these books
and if I weren't Arundhati Roy, I could be put into jail. Human
rights activists, like, say, a very well-known doctor, Binayak
Sen, has just been put into jail on charges of being a Maoist.
He's being made an example of to discourage people from having
any association with those who are resisting this kind of absolutely
lawless takeover of land now. Thousands and thousands of acres
are being handed over to corporates. So now we're sort of, as
I said, on the cusp of expanding the definition of terrorist
so that a lot of people who disagree with this mode of development
can be actually imprisoned and are being imprisoned.
Until recently, even post-1990s, when the sort of neo-liberal
model was imported into India, we were still talking about the
privatization of water, the privatization of electricity, the
devastation of the rivers. But when you look at privatization
of water and electricity, still these corporate companies had
to find their markets here, even if it was for the Indian elite,
even if it was just making water and electricity too expensive
for local people. But with the opening up of the mineral sector
and the discovery of huge deposits of bauxite and iron ore in
states like Orissa and Chhattisgarh, we are watching these places
turn into what it was like in Africa, what it is like in the
Middle East, where you don't have to find a local market. You
just take the whole mountain of bauxite and you store it in
the desert in Australia and you trade bauxite on the futures
market. So the corporates are here, and their guns are trained
on these minerals.
If you look at a geographical map of India, you will see that
the only areas where there are forests are where Adivasis, tribals,
live, and under the forests are the minerals. It is these ecologically
and socially most vulnerable parts of India that are now in
the crosshairs of these big guns. So you have absolute devastation
happening in Chhattisgarh and Orissa. Chhattisgarh is like Colombia.
The Tatas, who until just a few years ago were trying to be
the sort of good-uncle corporation, have now decided to go aggressive
and enter the world market big time. So, for example, they signed
an MOU, memorandum of understanding, with the Chhattisgarh government
for the mining of iron ore. And within days, not by coincidence
I'm sure, was the announcement of what's known as the Salva
Judum, a people's militia, which purportedly is a spontaneous
movement that sprang up to fight the menace of the Maoists.
Salva Judum is armed by the government. Something like four
hundred villages have been evacuated and moved into police camps.
Chhattisgarh is in a situation of sort of civil war, which is
exactly what happened in Colombia. And while our eyes are on
this supposed civil war, obviously the mining, the minerals,
everything can be just taken away.
If you look at what's going on in Orissa, the situation is similar.
Orissa has bauxite mountains, which are beautiful and densely
forested, with flat tops, like air fields. They are porous mountains,
which are actually water tanks that store water for the fields
in the plains. And whole mountains have just been taken away
by private corporations, and, of course, destroying the forests,
displacing the tribals, and devastating the land.
It's really interesting, what's going on in India today. It's
hard to know what to say or how to think about it anymore. We
are all well versed in Noam Chomsky's thesis of the manufacture
of consent, but actually what's going on now here is we're living
in the era of the manufacture of dissent, where you have these
corporations who are making so much money. For example, the
way the bauxite business works is that the corporates just pay
the Orissa government a royalty, a small percentage, and they
are making billions. And with those billions they can set up
an NGO. Somebody says they're going to set up Vedanta University
in Orissa. They will mop up all the intellectuals and environmentalists.
Alcan has given a million-dollar environmental award to one
of the leading environmental activists in India. The Tatas have
the Jamsetji Tata Trust and the Dorabji Tata Trust, which they
use to fund activists, to stage cultural events and so on, to
the point where these people are funding the dissent as well
as the devastation. The dissent is on a leash; it's only apparent.
It's a manufactured situation in which everyone is playing out
this kind of theater. It's completely crazy.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: Clearly, the state must be enabling these kinds
of situations to occur and to continue.
ROY: This is the genius of the Indian state. It's an extremely
sophisticated state. It has a lot to teach the Americans about
occupation, it has a lot to teach the world about how you manage
dissent. You just wear people down, you just wait things out.
When they want to mow people down, when they want to kill and
imprison, it does that, too. Who doesn't believe that this is
a spiritual country where everybody just thinks that if it's
not okay in this life it will be okay in the next life? Yet
it is one of the most devastatingly cruel societies. Which other
culture could dream up the caste system? Even the Taliban can't
come up with the way Indian civilization has created Dalits.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: Explain who Dalits are.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Dalits are the "untouchables" of India.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: They’re on the bottom of the economic,
ARUNDHATI ROY: They’re on the bottom of everything, everything.
They are routinely bludgeoned, butchered, killed. I don't know
whether it made it to the American press, but, for example,
Dalits, because they have been at the bottom of Hindu society,
often have converted and become Muslims, become Christians,
become Sikhs. But they continue to be treated as untouchables,
even in those religions. It's so pervasive.
There was recently a man called Bant Singh, who is a Sikh Dalit.
Even in India people would jump at the idea of there being such
a thing as a Sikh Dalit. But, actually, 30 percent of Sikhs
are Dalits and about 90 percent of them are landless. Because
they are landless, obviously they work as labor on other people's
farms. Their women are very vulnerable. Upper castes all over
India think that they have the right to pick up a Dalit woman
and have sex with her or rape her. Bant Singh's young daughter
was raped by the upper-caste people in his village. Bant Singh
was a member of the CPI (ML), which is the Communist Party of
India (Marxist-Leninist), known as Naxalites, and he filed a
case in court. They warned him. They said, "If you don't
drop the case, we will kill you." He didn't drop the case,
so they caught him and they cut off his arms and his legs.
He was in the hospital in Delhi. I went to see him there. It
was a lesson to me about how being a political person saved
him. He said, "Do you think I don't have arms and legs?
I do. Because all my comrades are my arms and legs." He's
a singer, so he sang a song about a young girl's father getting
her dowry ready for her just before her marriage, her trousseau.
And she says to him, "I don't want this sari and these
jewels. What will I do with them? Just give me a gun."
Unfortunately, more and more, because of, I think, what happened
with the Narmada movement and the fact that that nonviolent
movement, where people fought for fifteen years and were just
flicked aside like chaff, that has resulted in a lot of people
saying, "I don't want the bangles, I don't want Gandhi.
Just give me a gun."
DAVID BARSAMIAN: You were an active participant in, and observer
and reporter on, the NBA, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. It was,
of course, trying to fight many of these big dam projects in
central India. Well, what happened exactly? Where did it go
and where is it today? Is it still active? You once described
it, I think, as the greatest nonviolent movement since [India's]
ROY: Yes, I did. But I think people, including myself, are very
disillusioned by what happened. And I personally feel that we
really need to do a sort of post-mortem. The state did what's
in its nature, and it has won that battle. The Supreme Court
judgment that came out in 2001 was a devastating blow. But,
in my opinion, that should have been the time when people began
to question these institutions such as the Supreme Court. Instead,
people have gone on and on and on trying to find some embers
of hope there and have not broken the faith. I have broken the
faith. I don't look to the court for any kind of real help,
which is not to say that every single court judgment that comes
out is terrible, but there is a systemic problem with the Supreme
Court of India, with its views, with its ideologies. This is
a huge subject separate to this question and, to me, one of
the most important things that needs to be discussed.
But the Narmada movement now refuses to question itself, and
I think that's a problem. Because it was a wonderful and a magnificent
effort, but it wasn't faultless. Unless we try and think about
what is it that was wrong, we can't really just move on to something
else. In fact, as I said, I think people have felt that there
is a futility in these kind of hunger fasts and dharnas, sit-ins,
and sitting on the pavement singing songs, because I think the
government loves that. Now Sonia Gandhi is talking about satyagraha
and Gandhi in Davos. We have satyagraha fairs in Connaught Place
where they sell herbal shampoos. And when the government starts
promoting satyagraha, it's time for us to think about it.
I think it's time to radically question many things, including
what this kind of joyful freedom movement of 1947 was about
and who did it benefit and was it really a middle-class revolution
that, as usual, fired its guns off the shoulders of the poor,
which it was. The Indian elites stepped very easily into the
shoes of our white sahibs.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: Kashmir is an area of conflict, but it's largely
unreported, particularly in the United States. The framework
of the little information that is available is usually that
these are Islamic extremists, terrorists. Now, since September
11, they're labeled as Taliban and al-Qaeda. You have been going
to Kashmir. What have you learned?
ROY: Kashmir is one of those places where every time I hear
people say, "Oh, it's more complicated than that,"
I get a rash, because all you need to do is to get out of the
airport to see that here is a small valley where there are --
I keep saying that to fight a full-blown war in Iraq, the Americans
have 135,000 troops, and in Kashmir it's something like 700,000
security personnel of different kinds: the army, the police,
the paramilitary, the counterinsurgency, all the various kinds
of people that are operating there. Certainly the situation
has been made complicated with spies and double agents and informers
and money being poured in by intelligence agencies from India
But the bottom line is that it is the people's will that the
Indian government is seeking to subvert. Why is it so frightened
of a referendum? Firstly, how can you talk about holding democratic,
free, and fair elections in a place where a person isn't even
allowed to breathe without an AK-47 being stuck up his nostril?
So what is it that so frightens the Indian government that they
do not wish to assess what the people really want? In a way,
it's been complicated by the instrument of accession, genuine
or not. Supposing it was genuine. Supposing it was.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: The transfer from the princely state of Jammu
and Kashmir to the Indian union in 1947.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Right, I’m just saying that what is it
that the people want now? If we are going to be talking about
democracy as being the foundation, the keystone of democracy
being the will of the people, everybody seems to feel that they
can speak on behalf of the will of the people, but nobody wants
to ascertain what is the will of the people. Though, of course,
I think that we're not going to have an idealistic solution
to the problem of Kashmir. India is never going to give up anything.
Right now it's stronger than it ever was. So how that fight,
how that battle is joined still remains to be seen. But it's
clear that after having almost lost a whole generation of young
people, the Kashmiris are nowhere close to saying "We give
up." Of course, there is an elite that's been co-opted
that's being made to feel like its stakes in peace are huge.
But I think India is as far away from a solution to Kashmir
as America is from a solution to Iraq or Afghanistan.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: The J & K Coalition of Civil Society has
published numerous reports about human rights violations, disappearances,
torture, molestation and rapes of women, and extrajudicial executions.
What kind of attention has this attracted in civil society in
the rest of India?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Almost none.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: Because?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Because this whole rhetoric of Muslim terrorism
and so on is very deep. So you will see trucks going past that
on the back say "Doodh mango to kheer deingay, Kashmir
mango to cheer deingay." It means, Ask for milk and we'll
give you cream. Ask for Kashmir and we'll disembowel you. Every
part of the state machinery, including the press, is fully into
the propaganda. At least Kashmiris have the hope, even if it's
never realized, of freedom inside them. At least they have the
dignity that they are doing battle. What do you do for the people
in Chhattisgarh or the Muslims in Gujarat? Where are they going
to go? Kashmir is in some ways an old-world, classical battle
for freedom, like Algeria.
I experienced one of the most beautiful moments of my life recently
in Kerala. I heard that four thousand Dalit and Adivasi families
captured a corporate rubber estate, about two hours away from
where my mother lives. So I went there. It was amazing to me
to watch the place that I had grown up in, to see a kind of
nation rise up before me of people who are just disappeared
by our society. It was just an amazing sight. It was the opposite
of Nandigram, where the corporates are grabbing people's land.
Here the people are grabbing corporate land. Each of them has
a little blue plastic sheet that they've made into a hut under
a rubber tree. They've been there for something like three hundred
days. There are twenty thousand people, women and children,
and each of them says that they have a 5-liter can of petrol
in their house, and "If the police come, we are just going
to immolate ourselves, because we have nowhere else to go."
When I heard them speak and I saw that civilizational rage in
them, it makes things very simple. They just said, "Look,
this corporation has thirty-three estates. It has some 55,000
to 60,000 hectares of land. I have nowhere to sleep. I'm taking
it." And I suddenly thought, someone like myself—I
write, I've got all these figures and footnotes and statistics—am
I turning into a clerk? Is this the way I want to fight? Because
eventually who is one trying to convince? These people who read
these things are never going to give up what they have. They
have to be forced to.
That is the battle that's coming here in India. The government
is spawning these private militias. In Chhattisgarh you have
the Salva Julum. In Gujarat you have the Bajrang Dal. In West
Bengal you have the CP(M) cadre police. In Orissa the corporates
have their own thugs. That's what's going on. And never mind
that they are not even talking about what's happening in the
northeast of India, an ongoing situation since 1947, which is
worse than Kashmir.
Frederick Douglass once said, "Power concedes nothing without
a demand. It never has, it never will."
For myself, I think it's very important for us to also continue
to question ourselves and what we do and our role in it. Today
in India it's very easy for everybody to keep saying the Maoists
are terrible, the government is also terrible, all violence
is bad, one is the other side of the coin, these platitudes
that are being mouthed. But today, unless I'm prepared to take
up arms, I'm not in a position to tell others to take up arms.
But unless I'm in a position where I'm at the other end of this
battering ram, I'm also not going to sit around saying, "Let's
go on a hunger strike" and "Let's go and sing songs
outside the Ministry of Water Resources." I'm through with
DAVID BARSAMIAN: At the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul in
June of 2005, you made some comments about resistance and the
right of resistance that raised a few eyebrows. Have your views
on that evolved since then?
ARUNDHATI ROY: My views on that have not changed since then.
Maybe they've evolved. I think that it's very important for
us to understand that every day people are being decimated now.
I was one of the people who said that the globalization of dissent
was the way to fight the globalization of corporate capital.
But that was the era of the World Social Forum. But I think
things have changed since then, because the World Social Forum
has been taken over. So what has happened is a kind of corporatization
of dissent. And the globalization of dissent then ends up creating
hierarchies, where you pick and choose your genocide or you
pick and choose the worst thing that's happening. Is what's
happening in Nandigram worse than what happened in the Congo?
Of course it's not. Everything gets slotted in and people locally
Everyone is looking for star recommendations from the superstars
of resistance. Even someone like me. I'm always being asked
to say something about things I don't know enough about. I feel
that it's very important not to disempower people who are fighting
and not to tell them how to fight. For example, in India it's
come to a stage where the only thing that people can do is to
really do what the people in Nandigram did, dig the roads up
and say "You can't come in," because the minute they
go in, the minute they start taking over, they co-opt, they
pick off the leaders, they buy off someone, it's over. There
is a certain amount of brutality now that even resistance has
to have, because the co-optation is amazing, the NGO-ization
I'll tell you a very interesting story. A lot of the royalties
from my work I put into a trust. A few of us, friends, activists,
run it. The only money that comes into it is the money from
my writing and so on, because it's not about trying to raise
money, it's just trying to give it out in solidarity to people
who don't know how to write proposals and work the system. It's
called Zindabad. Long live. We got a letter recently from the
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, which is an institute that
sometimes is like the post office to disburse funds given to
various activists and movements by the Tata trusts. So on one
hand you have Tatas, the capitalists, and on the other hand
you have these trusts, as I told you, who are funding all these
activists and so on. The letter says, "Dear Zindabad Trust,
The tribals of Madhya Pradesh are grateful to the Tatas for
having supported their struggles for rights and livelihood."
And now, in order to expand their base, they want to have a
seminar in the India International Centre to which judges and
bureaucrats and activists and Adivasis will be invited.
there is a budget where, obviously, the bureaucrats' and judges'
travel allowances are huge and the Adivasis' and activists'
is very small. And there is a list of the activists and Advisis,
all of whom are funded by the Tatas. They are asking us to fund
that seminar. It's like a frog open on a dissecting table. You
see how the world works. And I said, Let's write to them and
say basically we can't afford to fund the seminar, but why not
call the survivors of the people that were shot in Kalingnagar
and Singur for Tata projects to put their views across and disseminate
DAVID BARSAMIAN: In the last couple of years, India has had
an expanding military relationship with the United States and
Israel. What are the implications of that?
ARUNDHATI ROY: After being part of the nonaligned movement,
India is now part of the completely aligned movement. The government
of India never tires of saying, Israel and the U.S. are its
natural allies. So the nuclear deal, joint military exercises,
the Indo-U.S. knowledge exchange, all these are ways of tying
itself intricately to America by governments that have no idea
of what has been the history of America's non-white allies.
I just find it insane that they don't just do a quick Google
search on the various despotic regimes that have been supported
and then deserted by the United States.
But the thing is, in India we know that, for example, before
the coup in Chile the Americans actually had a whole posse of
young Chilean students taken to the Chicago school under Milton
Friedman and taught free-market economics. In India, they don't
have to do it. We are willing to do it. The Indian elite are
just wagging their tails and lining up. Because, as I keep saying,
the most successful secessionist movement in India has been
the secession of the elite into this kind of global community.
Almost every bureaucrat, every politician, every senior member
of the judicial, of industry, of the business class, of the
academic, everybody would have a very, very close relative,
as in a son or a daughter or a brother, in America. So we are
organically tied and linked.
Singh, the Indian prime minister, has never won an election
in his life, has no imagination outside that of the IMF and
the World Bank. He doesn't sound to me like he's ever read a
primary textbook on history. He's probably the only prime minister
in the history of the world of a former colony that goes to
Cambridge and in his speech thanks colonialism for democracy
and thanks the British for every institution of state repression
that India has today—the colonial police, the bureaucracy,
everything. So it is a country that's run on the lines of a
colonial state, equally extractive, except that the colonizers
are the upper caste.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: This is something Frantz Fanon wrote about
in The Wretched of the Earth, that the old colonial
masters would be replaced by their native equivalents.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Absolutely. It’s just like a comic book
DAVID BARSAMIAN: What is the nuclear deal that you referred
to that would tie India to the United States? And you didn't
mention Israel in terms of its growing relationship with India
ARUNDHATI ROY: We know that Israel is the largest beneficiary
of American aid, and it's like the American outpost in the Middle
East, so I don't think that you need to see the two, Israel
and America, as conceptually separate. I think it's a package.
And it also helps to understand it because of the huge anti-Muslim
feeling in the majority in India, the huge communal animosity
toward the Muslims and terrorism, which just dovetails into
all of that beautifully.
The nuclear deal, just to put it simply, ties India's civil
nuclear program entirely to America. Nuclear energy being the
answer to India's energy problems is not something that's ever
been studied in any kind of detail. Right now it's almost as
good as nothing, civilian nuclear energy's contribution to the
power grid. So what we're talking about is a situation in which
India invests hugely into civilian nuclear reactors and then
is held to ransom. Even if the nuclear deal only purports to
deal with the supply of fissile material and so on, actually
what it does is puts India itself in a position where it's entirely
held to ransom on anything. If you don't sign this, we will
renege on that. How absurd to put yourself in such a position.
Unfortunately, all the criticism of it has been very unprincipled,
even within India, even, say, the Communist Party, which once
opposed nuclear weapons. Now its criticism is to say that we
are a nuclear state and we mustn't surrender our sovereignty.
It's almost standing on its head.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: I remember your saying it is dangerous to be
a tall poppy. One such tall poppy was Hrant Dink, an Armenian
Turkish journalist who was murdered by a Turkish nationalist
in the streets of Istanbul in January of 2007. You've been asked
to speak on the occasion of his death anniversary [Speech published
in ISR 58, March-April 2008]. I know you're bombarded with requests
from all over the world. What factors go into your making a
decision? Why go to Istanbul?
ARUNDHATI ROY: First, a bulk of the bombardment of interviews
has recently had to do in some slimy way or another with the
promotion of India, and just on principle I am not prepared
to do that. We are re-creating India in such-and-such a town
and such-and-such a place. And it's all to do with corporate
capital and it's all to do with this cuddly toy, teddy bear
we have, this wonderful, colorful, bumbling nation where we
have cricket and Bollywood, and even the queen of dissent, Arundhati
Roy. We actually are really a happy family sort of thing.
But about why I agreed to go to Istanbul. Partly because I think,
once again, I am partial to going to places that are not just
Europe and America, because that, too, can become a supermarket
show—that we have everything, and everyone comes to us.
Secondly, I think Turkey is fascinating, because it's so similar
to India in terms of its aggressive secular elite, its religious
fundamentalism, its ugly nationalism. I think it's far less
subtle in some ways in its present-day self. It needs to take
some lessons from the Brahmins. But it doesn't have this sort
of hippy paradise bit.
It fascinates me. How do you survive as a writer in a society
like this? Recently in India, when this whole Nandigram issue
erupted, one of the clever things that the CP(M) thought it
did was to conjure up a protest against Taslima Nasrin, whose
book Dwikhondito had been published four years ago and was on
bestseller lists, and no one had anything to say about it.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: The Bangladeshi novelist?
She was sort of thrown out of Bangladesh and moved to Calcutta.
The first people to ask for a ban were the CP(M). Then the high
court lifted the ban. The book was published. Nothing happened.
And then just at the time when massive protests erupted against
the CP(M) for the first time in thirty years -- because of Nandigram,
where the bulk of the peasants to be displaced were Muslims,
suddenly everything was sought to be distracted by suddenly
saying "Taslima Nasrin insults Islam" and "Get
her out of here." It was just a piece of currency put into
the democratic negotiations that were going on.
how do you function in societies like Turkey and India as a
writer? How do you continue to say the things you say? How do
you try your best not to get killed? How do you understand that
the countries that speak loudest and longest and have the most
complex legislation about free speech, such as America, don't
have any real free speech but have managed to hypnotize people
into thinking that they do. All these things interest me.
Obviously, the denial of the Armenian genocide is so blatant.
Why do they deny it? Is it an admission that it's such a horrendous
thing to do that you need to deny it? Is it the best form of
acceptance, denial? That you can't bear to think that there
was such a thing in your past? It's interesting.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: Maybe it has some analogy with the Indian government's
stand vis-à-vis Kashmir.
I don't think it has an analogy, because the government is quite
proud of what it does in Kashmir. I don't think we've come to
the stage where the government feels bad about it.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: I meant in terms of denying history and denying
self-determination and those kinds of issues.
The government is not denying its cruelties in Kashmir. The
press doesn't report much and doesn't know much, but there's
pretty proud parading of how we are dealing with the terrorists,
even amongst people in India. For example, I was talking about
Gujarat. There is a proud owning up to that killing. There is
a proud thing about "This is what these Muslims deserve."
So it's quite interesting, the psyche of these things. Which
is what I was saying. When you deny something, inherently that
denial is the acceptance that it's a terrible thing, which is
why you're denying it. But in Gujarat it's not thought of as
a terrible thing right now. It's thought of as a great thing.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: You continue writing your political essays.
What about fiction? Have you gotten back to it?
I'm trying to. As I said, I don't really want to continue to
do the same thing all the time. And I feel a bit of a prisoner
in the footnotes department right now. One is constantly being
co-opted. I could be forever on mainstream TV in India debating
people and putting across my point of view, but eventually you're
just adding to the noise. That is part of the racket here right
now, this wonderful, messy, noisy, argumentative, cutesy stuff
that's going on. I'm not denying the fact that we need very
incisive collections of things, but personally, as a writer,
I feel that much of my writing was for myself to understand
how it works. And now, if I were to write, it would be a reiteration
of my understanding. I want to do something that does something
with that understanding rather than just collates it. So fiction
I think is that place. I want to surprise myself. I want to
see what comes out without knowing in advance.
DAVID BARSAMIAN: What was that comment you made about fiction
That fiction is the truest thing there ever was.
Play in the Garbage Fields of the Lord
Shape of Rape in Pakistan
Games in India
Women: an Infinite Down