Friday, June 16, 2006
India not democratic: Arundhati Roy
NEW YORK: In an explosive expression of her views, celebrated Indian writer Arundhati Roy told an audience here that India is not a democratic country. The biggest PR myth of all times is that India is a democracy. In reality, it is not Roy, the author of The God of Small Things told the 1,000-strong audience at a book reading function she attended along with Eduardo Galeano, one of Latin Americas most distinguished writers.
With her aggressive speech, Roy, the 1997 Booker winner, dominated the event with Galeano playing second fiddle.
She surprised the jampacked Town Hall as she stopped reading The God of Small Things midway and said she wanted to speak on an issue, which had been bothering her for quite some time.
She said she was confused, as India was passing through a terrible time.
Amidst frequent clapping, she blasted the Indian government and the Bush administration. She did not spare even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There is no real democracy in India. Several states in India are on the verge of civil war, she said.
Challenging the much-acclaimed views of columnist Thomson Friedman praising India, a democracy of a billion population, for conducting peaceful elections year after year, she said, He probably needs a new tour of India... Does Thomas know that in Kashmir Valley alone, some 80,000 people have been killed? In Iraq, there are 1,50,000 military personnel, whereas in Kashmir Valley there are some 7,00,000.
Referring to the visit of President George Bush to New Delhi in March, she said, without elaborating: Bush visit was the most humiliating experience of my life. As the venue for Bushs address changed from Parliament to Vigyan Bhawan to Metro Park, he finally ended up addressing India from a Zoo. I am not joking. This is reality and the giraffes were disappointed, she said amidst laughter from the audience.
She did not agree with Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs views in his lecture at the Oxford University praising Britain for all the good things that India has, like its democracy, judiciary and bureaucracy. India, she said, was a free market meant to steal from the poor and subsidise the rich.
Later, during her dialogue with Galeano, she urged the Americans to oppose the occupation of Iraq by the US and allied forces. She said Iraq and Afghanistan were not the only nations occupied by the US. The others were controlled by checks and public diplomacy, she said. The audience gave her a standing ovation.
The Booker Prize-winning author recently took part in a meeting organised to demand the withdrawal of criminal charges framed against CPI(M-L) general secretary Dipankar Bhattaccharya by the Jharkhand government.