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World

September 20, 2017

Indian atrocities in IHK shameful: Arundhati Roy

Says Kashmiris struggle can’t be suppressed even if army increased from 0.7m to 7...

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India is now colonising itself, says Arundhati Roy

BERLIN: The große Saal (big hall) of Haus der Festspiele was jampacked as the clock struck 7:45 in the evening; the reading session was supposed to begin at 7:30. Considering German punctuality, it was late. The audience was waiting anxiously, clapping every now and then to encourage organisers to start the program. Lights got dimmer as the head of ILF, Berlin Ulrich Schreiber proceeded to make the announcement about the most awaited guest of 17th Internationale Literaturfestival Berlin. Arundhati Roy, human rights activist and a literary sensation, was cheered like a Hollywood superstar.

A leading critic of Hindu nationalism in her home country India, Arundhati Roy showcased darker sides of the shining India in Berlin, in stark contrast to when Indian PM Modi ambitiously presented the world’s largest democracy as the best place for investment three months ago in Berlin.

Roy was invited at 17th International literature festival Berlin to give a talk about her second novel ‘The ministry of Utmost Happiness’s publication in the German language.

“India is now colonising itself”

Roy doesn’t like the term ‘writer cum activist’. She believes the market creates these labels. Roy doesn’t want to be the person who lived between bestseller lists and literature festivals. Her non-fiction books include ‘The End of Imagination’, and ‘Capitalism: A Ghost Story’ in which she speaks out against the consequences of globalisation, multinationals, and hierarchies of global politics.

“All economic superpowers became superpowers by colonising other countries and India is now colonising itself. The army, the paramilitary is out, making war against the poorest people, the indigenous people in the central-forested areas, which have all been given to mining companies.”

I have walked with those comrades and here are people who don’t know from one day to the next whether they will live or die. But we spent three weeks just laughing.

It is an extremely dangerous situation,” she said.

In 2010, she faced a possible arrest on sedition charges after publicly advocating Kashmiris’s right to independence and challenging India’s claim that Kashmir is an integral part of the country. A fellow writer with similar views to Roy was shot outside her house in Bangalore on the eve of September 5. Arundhati remembered her comrade journalist Gauri Lankesh with grief, saying that “if you look on Twitter, people are saying killing her was not enough and they have a list that who should be next.”

She told the audience that the ruling party has WhatsApp groups on which fake videos and incendiary fake news are deliberately made viral. ‘It’s just a regular drip feed of absolute hatred. Absolutely no regard for what is true or not. It is an extremely dangerous situation.’ said Roy.

It has been 20 years since the publication of her debut novel. Now, Arundhati Roy has returned to fiction and published her second novel ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’.

The novel is established in traditional old Delhi to modern New Delhi. It is centered around ‘Jantra Mantra’ a place where all the dreamers gathered for resistance movements. The book reveals the amount of atrocities on minorities like Dalit and Muslims, who are living in millions in India. “Every time a Muslim or Dalit is lynched by a mob those videos are boastfully put up on YouTube. That community is moved further and further into fear.” She said.

Roy also tells the truth of Kashmir in fiction. When asked if she is scared after standing against the odds in such fragile situation, she says, “it's stupid not to be scared, it's stupid not to be fearful but it’s important to be tactical but we know that if these things are not pushed back we lose everything”.

In the end, hundreds of admirers of her writing were standing in a long queue to get a signature on their personal copy of ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’. Although, here I must admit I didn’t follow the line to get my personal copy of the book signed.

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