‘Intolerance Is the Wrong Word for the Lynching and Mass Murder of Human Beings’ in India
BRICS, 9 Nov 2015
5 Nov 2015 – The respected author has issued a statement about her decision to return the national film award she won in 1989 for writing the screenplay of ‘In which Annie Gives It Those Ones’.
Although I do not believe that awards are a measure of the work we do, I would like to add the National Award for the Best Screenplay that I won in 1989 to the growing pile of returned awards. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not returning this award because I am “shocked” by what is being called the “growing intolerance” being fostered by the present government.
First of all, “intolerance” is the wrong word to use for the lynching, shooting, burning and mass murder of fellow human beings. Second, we had plenty of advance notice of what lay in store for us – so I cannot claim to be shocked by what has happened after this government was enthusiastically voted into office with an overwhelming majority. Third, these horrific murders are only a symptom of a deeper malaise. Life is hell for the living too. Whole populations – millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come.
Today we live in a country in which, when the thugs and apparatchiks of the New Order talk of “illegal slaughter” they mean the imaginary cow that was killed – not the real man that was murdered. When they talk of taking “evidence for forensic examination” from the scene of the crime, they mean the food in the fridge, not the body of the lynched man. We say we have “progressed” – but when Dalits are butchered and their children burned alive, which writer today can freely say, like Babasaheb Ambedkar once did that “To the Untouchables, Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors,” (Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 9 pg 296) without getting attacked, lynched, shot or jailed? Which writer can write what Saadat Hassan Manto wrote in his “Letter to Uncle Sam”? It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree with what is being said. If we do not have the right to speak freely we will turn into a society that suffers from intellectual malnutrition, a nation of fools. Across the subcontinent it has become a race to the bottom – one that the New India has enthusiastically joined. Here too now, censorship has been outsourced to the mob.
I am very pleased to have found (from somewhere way back in my past) a National Award that I can return, because it allows me to be a part of a political movement initiated by writers, filmmakers and academics in this country who have risen up against a kind of ideological viciousness and an assault on our collective IQ that will tear us apart and bury us very deep if we do not stand up to it now. I believe what artists and intellectuals are doing right now is unprecedented and does not have a historical parallel. It is politics by other means. I am so proud to be part of it. And so ashamed of what is going on in this country today.
P.S For the record, I turned down the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2005 when the Congress was in power. So please spare me that old Congress vs BJP debate. It’s gone way beyond all that.
Arundhati Roy, born Nov 24 1961, is an Indian novelist and political activist best known for her first novel, The God of Small Things, which won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. She was also awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2004. Roy has concentrated on penning down political issues being a critic of neo-imperialism and linked to anti-globalization movements. Roy’s subversive nature has made her accustomed to criticism. “Each time I step out, I hear the snicker-snack of knives being sharpened but that’s good. It keeps me sharp”, she said when interviewed by an Indian magazine.
DISCLAIMER: The statements, views and opinions expressed in pieces republished here are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of TMS. In accordance with title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. TMS has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is TMS endorsed or sponsored by the originator. “GO TO ORIGINAL” links are provided as a convenience to our readers and allow for verification of authenticity. However, as originating pages are often updated by their originating host sites, the versions posted may not match the versions our readers view when clicking the “GO TO ORIGINAL” links. This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.