[Reader-list] Reg: The problem with Arundhati Roy

Rakesh Iyer rakesh.rnbdj at gmail.com
Sat Nov 6 23:17:36 IST 2010


I have tried to read all (at least tried, not successfully though) the views
of people on this forum regarding Arundhati Roy, both for and against. And
based on that, I have had my own feelings.

In my view, there are two problems associated with Arundhati Roy, one on the
side of those who read her views, and one on her own side:

a) From our side, we tend to concentrate more on Roy rather than on the
issue itself. Be it the building of dams, the nuclear testing at Pokhran
(1974 or 1998), or even Naxalism, we tend to look more at Roy's support or
condemnation of these issues rather than actually looking at the points she
has raised on the issue itself.

Why should we be concerned with Roy's romanticization of Naxalites? Our
focus should be the reasons why Naxalism is gaining roots in India, or the
reasons why mega dams should not be built in India.

This has been the case not only with Roy. The support or opposition to
Sardar Sarovar dam is not at all related to facts, it is instead related to
useless arguments like 'development v/s environment', Gujarat v/s the rest
of India and all that. Some people on this forum talk about Modi or others
in Gujarat as being the only ones concerned about development, while all the
rest of us don't bother about it one bit. And Roy therefore gets portrayed
as anti-development, or even Medha Patkar for that matter.

Even in the case of nuclear testing, Naxalism or other issues, facts are
instead replaced by polemical arguments which don't help one bit. And we
must concentrate on facts rather than nonsense.

b) From Arundhati's side, there are two issues I have:

1) Firstly, when I look at Arundhati, I do understand she is asking for an
alternative way of living in the world. I do know that while the current way
is more leaning towards the rightist way of economic and political
understanding, the leftist way (at least in India) does look at an
alternative way of living in India. Some politicians of the Leftist hue in
India have called it 'alternate economics' also.

And in a sense Arundhati may be more extreme in it. But when I read her
articles, I don't get one bit about how this alternative bit should be. At
least reading the articles or views of the Left politicians (or even
Naxalites) in India, we can get an idea of how they want the world to be.
Even P.Sainath makes sense to me, but when Arundhati says 'Can't we leave
the bauxite in the earth?', I want to know whether this means bauxite will
never be mined at all (or will be never mined in India). And I get no

Moreover, I know for certain that Left is against globalization in certain
ways, and would go for trade protectionism, but will argue for globalization
in terms of strengthening worker movements. Sainath on the other hand is
against globalization. But Roy's views seem like going nowhere. She will
stop something from happening, which in itself is not bad, but I have no
clue what she will support. And there it goes.

Even beyond all this, she calls the Indian state neo-liberalist, but does
not specify what kind of state it must be. Is it a Maoist state?

2) The other big problem what I have with Roy is in terms of her hyperbole.
I agree the Indian state has not been good in terms of many commitments it
has made through the Constitution. If we look at reduction in poverty, it
has been abysmal. If we look at the four basic aspects of human life
required for every human being: food, education, health and employment, the
Indian state would reach the lowest possible depths of performance (or
probably it would be bottomless). And yes, the state has ensured the
benefits of the elites who have captured the space for it, inflicting one
injustice after another on the people, which we can see in our day-to-day

But the Indian state does have a few (very few, but yes few) achievements to
its credit. This is a democratic state among people divided on the basis of
caste, creed, language, religion and region-based lines. This is a state
residing in a neighborhood where dictators rule the roost (or have ruled the
roost mostly), be it Pakistan, Bhutan, China, Myanmar or Nepal.

The destruction of the Indian state would not necessarily lead to a big
change in the lives of the people. Infact, it will lead to only further
chaos. A better thing to do will be to improve the functioning of the state
while competing and clashing with the view of the elites who think they can
get away with earning billions while the rest of the countrymen suffer
because they are poor and the rich thrive on the inequality in the society.

Roy is not dong the first in any way, except may be in the case of Dec. 13
Parliament attacks, but there again the facts were collected by others, and
she just put it (or one can say, edited it). As for the second, she is doing
that, but one must have an alternative vision to fight for, otherwise one
will not be able to change anything much at least.

And destroying the Indian state is not going to achieve that. Capturing the
Indian state may achieve that. What can have a greater say is to expose the
situation before the people, and that is only possible through facts, rather
than hyperbole.

In other words, yes, things are indeed bad, we are fucked up, we are in a
deep crisis, but to declare oneself as a mobile republic like she does, is
the complete nonsense. And if I want to learn from a Roy, I would rather it
be Aruna rather than Arundhati.


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