What did Arundhati Roy say on Kashmir that prompted Paresh Rawal's obnoxious tweet?

The BJP MP and Bollywood actor said the Booker-winning writer should be tied to an Army jeep.

 |   Long-form |   22-05-2017
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[Editor's note: The story link to Arundhati Roy's comments on Kashmir has been found to be false. Roy has confirmed with the portal The Wire that neither has she visited Kashmir of late, nor has she issued such a statement. DailyO regrets linking the fake story to this article. However, we are happy that we got a chance to revisit Roy's old writings, and share her essays and criticism with our readers.]

 

Veteran Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal has earned the ire of Twitterati with his tasteless, misogynist tweet on Arundhati Roy. Rawal, who’s a BJP MP, made the comment on the micro-blogging site, insinuating that the Booker-winning author should be used as a human shield by tying her to an Army jeep.

Rawal tweeted:

Earlier, Rawal had commented:

This was with reference to Roy’s recent statement that even if India increases its military footprint from seven lakh to 70 lakh in Kashmir, it wouldn’t be able to wrest Kashmir where it matters, that is in the hearts and minds of ordinary Kashmiris. Roy has always maintained a strong, anti-establishment view on Kashmir, which is a far cry from the centrist liberal, mainstream view of Kashmir being an integral part of India.

Exactly as India gets ready to welcome Arundhati Roy’s second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, written after two decades since her first novel, The God of Small Things, was published to electrifying, instant international fame, going on to win the Man Booker Prize in 1997, this controversy is looking to tarnish all the good press that has been bestowed on the writer.

But it’s her determined, strong, and unequivocal political eviscerations – both of the neoliberal Congress-led camp, particularly under the former UPA government, as well as of the BJP-Modi-NDA-Sangh Parivar brigade, the espousers of Hindu Rashtra – that make her a longstanding foe of successive ruling regimes.

Let’s look at what all Arundhati Roy said/written in the past that made her a routine target of virtual assassination, governmental threats as well as intellectual assaults from those threatened by her outspoken analysis of the deep-rooted malaises ailing India.

On Kashmir

Arundhati Roy has always maintained that India is an “occupying force” in Kashmir, and is wielding power through the barrel of the gun. In 2010, an FIR alleging sedition was filed against Roy by a Kashmiri Pandit for holding a seminar with the Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and saying that “Azadi” was the only way for Kashmir solution. Later, the Union home ministry decided not to pursue the charges, and the matter was dropped.

Roy has written a number of essays on the Kashmir question, analysing with searing honesty that wretched existence of the ordinary Kashmiri caught between Pakistan-backed militancy and India’s military occupation.

In a piece titled The Dead Begin to Speak Up in India”, she wrote in 2011:

“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.”

Roy always maintained that the ultimate right over Kashmir belonged to Kashmiris, and independence was what they wanted, their choice must be respected. That made her a “cheerleader of Kashmiri separatism”, and Roy took on the barrage of criticism that was directed at her with gusto.

Roy famously said that if sedition charges were to be filed against her for speaking her mind on freedom for Kashmiris, then a posthumous sedition charge should be filed against Jawaharlal Nehru as well.

On Afzal Guru

Arundhati Roy was one of the staunchest supporters of Afzal Guru, who was convicted for the December 2001 Parliament attack. Roy always maintained that Guru’s conviction was based on flimsy evidence, and reflected more the demands of the “collective conscience” than real justice. Others like scholar Nandita Haskar, filmmaker Sanjay Kak, and journalist Sunetra Chaudhry, have all analysed the Afzal case and found the conviction to be hasty, inadequate and unjust.

roy_052217081237.jpgPhoto: Indiatoday.in

When Afzal Guru was hanged on February 9, 2013, by the UPA government all too scared by Narendra Modi’s rise to national political horizon riding the Hindutva wave, Arundhati Roy penned a heart-wrenching raging piece published in Indian and foreign newspapers. She called it a stain on Indian democracy in The Guardian, while in The Hindu, she said it’s about the “usual cocktail of papal passion and a delicate grip on facts.

She wrote:

“In a moment of rare unity the Indian nation, or at least its major political parties – Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist party of India (Marxist) – came together as one (barring a few squabbles about "delay" and "timing") to celebrate the triumph of the rule of law. Live broadcasts from TV studios, with their usual cocktail of papal passion and a delicate grip on facts, crowed about the "victory of democracy". Rightwing Hindu nationalists distributed sweets to celebrate the hanging, and beat up Kashmiris (paying special attention to the girls) who had gathered in Delhi to protest. Even though Guru was dead and gone, the commentators in the studios and the thugs on the streets seemed, like cowards who hunt in packs, to need each other to keep their courage up. Perhaps because, deep inside, themselves they knew they had colluded in doing something terribly wrong.”

On Maoism and the war in India’s ‘Red Corridor’

One of the most famous essays penned by Roy which gained her tremendous notoriety among India’s centrists and pro-Congress centrists, libertarians as well as the well-heeled Lutyens’ media, was the one she wrote on India’s Maoists, or Naxals, as they are called. She called them “Gandhians with guns”, and took on the might of then all-powerful Union home minister and the architect of India’s national security apparatus, P Chidambaram.

In Walking with the Comrades”, Roy wrote:

“The antagonists in the forest are disparate and unequal in almost every way. On one side is a massive paramilitary force armed with the money, the firepower, the media, and the hubris of an emerging Superpower. On the other, ordinary villagers armed with traditional weapons, backed by a superbly organised, hugely motivated Maoist guerrilla fighting force with an extraordinary and violent history of armed rebellion. The Maoists and the paramilitary are old adversaries and have fought older avatars of each other several times before: Telangana in the ’50s; West Bengal, Bihar, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh in the late ’60s and ’70s; and then again in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra from the ’80s all the way through to the present. They are familiar with each other’s tactics, and have studied each other’s combat manuals closely. Each time, it seemed as though the Maoists (or their previous avatars) had been not just defeated, but literally, physically exterminated. Each time, they have re-emerged, more organised, more determined and more influential than ever. Today once again the insurrection has spread through the mineral-rich forests of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal—homeland to millions of India’s tribal people, dreamland to the corporate world.

It’s easier on the liberal conscience to believe that the war in the forests is a war between the Government of India and the Maoists, who call elections a sham, Parliament a pigsty and have openly declared their intention to overthrow the Indian State. It’s convenient to forget that tribal people in Central India have a history of resistance that predates Mao by centuries. (That’s a truism of course. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t exist.) The Ho, the Oraon, the Kols, the Santhals, the Mundas and the Gonds have all rebelled several times, against the British, against zamindars and moneylenders. The rebellions were cruelly crushed, many thousands killed, but the people were never conquered. Even after Independence, tribal people were at the heart of the first uprising that could be described as Maoist, in Naxalbari village in West Bengal (where the word Naxalite—now used interchangeably with ‘Maoist’—originates). Since then, Naxalite politics has been inextricably entwined with tribal uprisings, which says as much about the tribals as it does about the Naxalites.”

On caste and Ambedkar

Roy famously wrote the brilliant, 120-page-long introduction to a new edition of BR Ambedkar’s anti-cast manifesto The Annihilation of Caste, called The Doctor and the Saint. It had a searing analysis on entrenched caste prejudices in India, the writing off of caste by India’s capitalist, neoliberal blindness to caste oppression, the overruling of Ambedkar by the Gandhian intellectual hegemony, and the newfound love for the Sangh Parivar-driven love for a Brahminical wet dream in consolidating an unabashed Hindu Rashtra.

Roy wrote:

“Of his many volumes, Annihilation of Caste is his most radical text. It is not an argument directed at Hindu fundamentalists or extremists, but at those who consider themselves moderate, those whom Ambedkar called “the best of Hindus”—and some academics call “left-wing Hindus.” Ambedkar’s point is that to believe in the Hindu shastras and to simultaneously think of oneself as liberal or moderate is a contradiction in terms.

When the text of Annihilation of Caste was published, the man who is often called the “greatest of Hindus”—Mahatma Gandhi—responded to Ambedkar’s provocation. Their debate was not a new one. Both men were their generation’s emissaries of a profound social, political and philosophical conflict that had begun long ago and has still by no means ended.”

On Azadi and sedition

In early 2016, as the JNU students agitation over “azadi” rocked India, what started as Rohith Vemula’s suicide note snowballed into a whirlpool of marches, slogans, and reclaiming of the constitutional idea of India, of liberty, equality, fraternity and justice. As sedition charges were slapped against the then JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, and his fellow students Umar Khalid and Anirbhan Bhattacharya, the country witnessed how a mighty government was threatened by a bunch of students daring to speak their minds.

In May last year, Roy wrote a throbbing, explosive essay titled My Seditious Heart and tore into the heart of the Sangh-RSS-driven bigotry that fused the Big State with Hindutva and was demolishing every shred of freedom of thought that stood in its wake. Roy proudly added her name to the growing list of “anti-nationals”, who were hated and targeted by the Narendra Modi government and its online vicious troll army.    

On nuclear tests

Yet, the seeds of Arundhati Roy’s intrepid heart and mind could be found in her first essay that she wrote right after her ecstatic literary superstardom. In the wake of the 1998 Pokhran tests under the Atal Bihar Vajpayee government, Roy penned The End of Imagination, an essay of blazing insight and terrifying plainspeak. Roy, a staunch oppose of any nuclear weapon and nuclear proliferation, said that nuclear deterrence was a big sham and the collective liberal hysteria over India conducting nuclear tests was disgusting.

We sign off with one of the most beautiful and sublime paragraph from the essay:

“If protesting against having a nuclear bomb implanted in my brain is antiHindu and anti-national, then I secede. I hereby declare myself an independent, mobile republic. I am a citizen of the earth. I own no territory. I have no flag. I’m female, but have nothing against eunuchs. My policies are simple. I’m willing to sign any nuclear non-proliferation treaty or nuclear test ban treaty that’s going. Immigrants are welcome. You can help me design our flag. My world has died. And I write to mourn its passing. India’s nuclear tests, the manner in which they were conducted, the euphoria with which they have been greeted (by us) is indefensible. To me, it signifies dreadful things. The end of imagination.”

Also read - Paresh Rawal tweeting Arundhati Roy should be tied to Army jeep is plain inflammatory

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