They can't buy her silence

Tariq Ali · Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy is both loathed and feared by the Indian elite. Loathed because she speaks her mind. Feared because her voice reaches the world outside India and damages the myths perpetrated by New Delhi regardless of which party holds power. She often annoys the official Indian Left because she writes and speaks of events for which they are either responsible or of which they dare not speak. Roy will not allow her life to be subjugated by lies. She never affects a courage or contempt she does not feel. Her campaigns against injustice are undertaken with no view to either fame or profit. Hence the respect awarded her by the poor, ordinary citizens, who know the truth but are not allowed a voice in the public sphere. The authorities can’t buy her silence. One of the few voices in India who has spoken loudly against the continuing Indian atrocities in Kashmir, she is now being threatened. If she doesn’t shut up they’ll charge her with sedition, aping their colonial masters of yesteryear. Her response to those who would charge and imprison her is a model of clarity, conviction and refusal to compromise.


  • 26 October 2010 at 11:56am
    pinhut says:
    My word, the comments on that piece are, for the most part, absolutely ferocious.

    • 27 October 2010 at 6:26pm
      Geoff Roberts says: @ pinhut
      Do you have a link with these 'ferocious comments'?

    • 28 October 2010 at 8:39am
      aisia says: @ Geoff Roberts
      They are there on the original link, just press the 'comments' next to the 'article' button. And they are ferocious.

  • 26 October 2010 at 2:16pm
    faiz says:
    Thank you Tariq Ali for reminding us of Arundathi's courage. There is a sort of condescending hatred my fellow Indian citizens often show towards her work, more so after her eloquent and courageous support for the Kashmir struggle.

    • 26 October 2010 at 10:27pm
      CCC says: @ faiz
      Faiz..if India suffers another partition in Kashmir based on religion then the muslims remaining in mainland India will face a backlash which has never ever been seen before.Why else do you think no muslim leader in India has ever supported Azadi for Kashmir. That will be end of muslims in Hindu majority India

  • 26 October 2010 at 5:41pm
    marvisirmed says:
    Sedition? That sounds so familiar! In Pakistan we face similar charges if we speak against the established notions propagated by the establishment. But in Pakistan, the number of people not ready to conform to the ways of establishment has increased over the years due to continuous war between people and establishment in the wake of frequent dictatorial regimes. In India, things are different. Establishment does not pose itself against the people overtly, which makes a large number of people following establishment's propaganda blindly. People like Arundhati in Pakistan also face similar ordeal, but their increasing number is making it impossible for the establishment to respond to all of them in "befitting" manner.

    Having said that, we do have cases like harassment of Kamran Shafi (Vetran Columnist), torture on Umer Cheema (Invetigative Reporter) and continuous chasing of Sirmed Manzoor (Chief Coordinator SAFMA), while India has almost none comparable to these.

    Democracy does make a difference!

  • 26 October 2010 at 7:55pm
    kaal says:
    pinhut, that's because it is very self-serving to say that the lady somehow represents the "poor, ordinary citizens, who know the truth but are not allowed a voice in the public sphere". There are many tough, tenacious women fighting for poor and ordinary people of India.

    Ms Roy at best thrives on making common causes with naxalites (who kill innocent people), and people like Geelani and Hamid Gul. That is neither intellectually honest nor very wise. If we Indians wanted naxalism or maoism instead of a faulty democracy we would choose that ourselves, without her help.

    • 27 October 2010 at 5:05am
      pinhut says: @ kaal
      This seems to be something notable in the comments on TOI, that Roy is not a legitimate voice due to her high profile, and/or because she does not speak out about similar events elsewhere in India. That, finally, it is some sort of egoism on her part. But looking at the rabid (and, it must be said, many of them are hugely sexist too, betraying a clear fear of the very notion of an female intellectual) reaction, it is a particularly virulent egoism that places a person in the line of this much fire. Wouldn't it be simpler to conclude that Roy is speaking out because she passionately believes it to be right to do so, and is prepared to accept the opprobrium that comes with it, ie: she is demonstrating, like it or not, moral courage.

      It is notable that none of the commenters on TOI disputed the substance of her words, only her right to pronounce them, and what her actions constitute within the context of what looks like a fairly rabid nationalism.

      I'm no expert on Indian politics, so please, correct the points that you feel are wrong.

    • 27 October 2010 at 8:35am
      Joe Morison says: @ pinhut
      If kaal really meant "Ms Roy at best thrives on ..." (my italics), i can't take what he says seriously.

    • 9 November 2011 at 9:06pm
      kaal says: @ Joe Morison

      Returning to this blog after a long time.

      Unfortunately, Ms Roy receives from many Indians what she liberally dishes out against India and other Indians - ad-hominem attacks. Her being a female works both in her favor and against her.

      Joe Morrison

      People would need to know more about you to determine whether what you take seriously or not has any value.

  • 26 October 2010 at 10:49pm
    tanyajeffrys says:
    No, kaal. Contrary to what you and RAW say Ms Roy does not defend the killing of innocents. On the contrary she denounces it while at the same time tries to explain why there are huge mass movements in India led by Maoists (as in Nepal) and why the government has, despite its repression, failed to crush them. In other words there is a reason for their existence. As for the charge that she makes 'common cause' with Hamid Gul[former chief of Pakistan's ISI] it's so grotesque that even Indian intelligence has resisted from making this link. Of course there are many men and women fighting with the poor in India but few of them can be heard. Ms Roy uses her prominence as an internationally-known writer to speak for them. That is why she's disliked, including by the official Communists who search desperately for coalitions with the Congress or the Right, but denounce Roy ad nauseam.

    • 27 October 2010 at 10:42am
      CCC says: @ tanyajeffrys
      She will be more believable when she stands with the Kashmiri pandits and blasts the speratist leaders who have resulted in genocide of that community in Kashmir.
      Till then she is nothing but a hypocritical liberal.

    • 9 November 2011 at 9:15pm
      kaal says: @ tanyajeffrys
      Thanks for informing us about RAW's stand on Ms Roy.

      Ms Roy supports Naxalites. She calls them Gandhians with guns. How does she not support the killing of innocents?

      Coming from a fairly poor background in India myself I can assure you that India survives as a democracy precisely because Indian poor and Ms Roy have nothing to do with each other.

  • 27 October 2010 at 4:07am
    chengiz says:
    Dear Tariq Ali,
    the world, as many on the left have realized a long time ago is not a binary black & white but a bewildering spectrum that is capable of clouding the judgment of the best of us. Ms. Roy is not simply "loathed and feared" by the Indian elite. There are many of us who occupy the middle ground between the two and watch with amusement or bewilderment as she pronounces on one 'burning' issue or the other with utter disregard to history or political complexity. She belongs to the best tradition of sophomoric revolutionaries: Down, down with the edifice! And never mind who gets hurt and what will come up in its place? Well, er, we'll come to that after the revolution.
    And this is some of us whom you describe as the Indian elite. As for those who don't fit that description (which would be, I'd reckon a small 950 million people) Arundhati Roy means, Arundhati who?

    And please don't believe everything you write. No one is arresting anyone for sedition (this wasn't even applied to arrest Kashmiri separatists who are allowed to own palatial homes in New Delhi, meet diplomats and hold public meetings in the capital). Ms. Roy is going to be allowed to bask in her 5 minutes of glory before she gallops off to find another windmill to tilt at.


    Chengiz J. Khan

    • 27 October 2010 at 10:20am
      Joe Morison says: @ chengiz
      Having googled your name, i find this in Wikipedia. "Operation Chengiz Khan was the code name assigned to the pre-emptive strikes carried out by the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) on the forward airbases and radar installations of the Indian Air Force (IAF) on the evening of 3 December 1971 and marked the formal initiation of hostilities of the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971."

      Is this a coincidence, or have you named your online self after it? If the latter, that just seems very weird.

      Like pinhut, i don't know much about Indian politics; but justifying atrocities with 'history' and 'political complexity' is an old reactionary ploy which i have never come across a sound example of.

    • 27 October 2010 at 10:24am
      Joe Morison says: @ chengiz
      And what on earth does 'please don't believe everything you write' mean? That he should write things he doesn't believe? Again, weird.

    • 27 October 2010 at 12:33pm
      outofdate says: @ Joe Morison
      I thought that was quite a good joke, about journalists and journalism and commentators and their comments. Bear in mind that the story was 'Roy could face charges of sedition', or as the Guardian puts it once you're past the 'faces arrest' headline: 'India's home ministry is reported to have told police in Delhi that a case of sedition may be registered against Roy.' Reported to have told may. By the usual miracle of transformation we're already picturing her chained to a dungeon wall.

    • 27 October 2010 at 1:12pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ outofdate
      But the more it gets protested, the less likely it will happen (maybe).

    • 27 October 2010 at 1:27pm
      Yah. Since it would be very undignified of the gentleman to explain his own joke: Chengiz (Genghis) H.Khan as in Jesus H. Christ, you see -- or it may really just be his name.

    • 27 October 2010 at 3:12pm
      outofdate says: @ outofdate
      J, sorry.

    • 28 October 2010 at 7:32am
      Oops! Apologies to Chengiz J. for that (tho' naming yourself after one of the most bloodthirsty and ruthless characters the world has ever known doesn't inspire confidence as to your pacific intentions).

    • 28 October 2010 at 7:34am
      chengiz says: @ Joe Morison
      Dear Joe Morison, I googled your name too and got Jim Morrison who seems to be some sort of drugged out rockstar who died an early death. Is this a coincidence or is your user name taken from him. Very, very strange indeed.

    • 28 October 2010 at 8:52am
      Joe Morison says: @ chengiz
      His spirit lives within me (but please, baby, don't light my fire).

    • 9 November 2011 at 9:20pm
      kaal says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      Thanks to the international furore caused by the report, Ms Report remains safe and sound, more than a year later, railing against bad Indians like Anna Hazare. :)

  • 27 October 2010 at 9:33am
    MaidMarion says:
    I don't know all that much about Arundhati Roy except that she won the Booker Prize for a novel many years ago. I do know Kashmir. Some years ago a Kashmiri colleague, a refugee and doctor by profession, now working in Britain told me that torture was used by the Indian army as a routine weapon to extract information and wipe out 'subversion'. A team of meticulous assassins and torturers specialised in raping girls in front of their fathers and brothers (there are rigorously confirmed cases of this), torturing and killing young men in groups of 11 or 13 and burning their bodies, etc. If Ms Roy is exposing all this, more power to her.

    • 27 October 2010 at 3:36pm
      CCC says: @ MaidMarion
      Did your Kashmiri colleagues also tell you about the Kashmiri pandits who were chased out of the Kashmir valley through large scale massacres?

      We should have dealt with Kashmir as China dealt with Tibet..just bring in mainland Indians and change the demography using brutal force.

    • 28 October 2010 at 7:34am
      Joe Morison says: @ CCC
      Good old brutal force, few problems it can't solve.

    • 28 October 2010 at 9:56am
      pinhut says: @ Joe Morison
      If only it could solve the problem of itself.

    • 28 October 2010 at 11:59am
      outofdate says: @ pinhut
      The War on Violence, has that got under way yet?

    • 28 October 2010 at 10:17pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ outofdate
      In Norwegian, -vold, or violence, is found as a suffix in several last names. Hanevold, for instance, the name of a well-known biathlon champion, literally means "Rooster violence". Just saying.

    • 29 October 2010 at 3:10pm
      outofdate says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      Might be one of those big vague Nordic words that once occupied the whole lexical field from 'power' to 'agency'. Maybe like the German 'walten'. [exit, pursued by a Viking]

    • 29 October 2010 at 4:19pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ outofdate
      Thanks, that's interesting. No one here can give me a satisfactory explanation.

    • 9 November 2011 at 9:27pm
      kaal says: @ MaidMarion
      "A team of meticulous assassins and torturers specialised in raping girls in front of their fathers and brothers (there are rigorously confirmed cases of this), torturing and killing young men in groups of 11 or 13 and burning their bodies, etc."

      Yes, in India, we do those sorts of things. We rape mothers, sisters, brothers and maids. Sad, really. LRB readership does appear to be exceptionally intelligent, though, not to be taken in by Indians.

  • 29 October 2010 at 12:54pm
    blackmongoose says:
    Whatever else Roy might be mistaken or silent about, the Kashmiri Pandits are not one of them. E.g. in the Times of India article linked to in the blog post:

    'Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice ... for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland ... '

    • 9 November 2011 at 9:35pm
      kaal says: @ blackmongoose

      Ms Roy's complete silence about the horrid treatment of Kashmiri Hindus by Kashmiri Muslims - even as she hobnobs with people like Hamid Gul and Gilani - is one of her many weaknesses. Her sense of justice appears to differ from that of most Indians.

      In I

    • 9 November 2011 at 9:39pm
      kaal says: @ kaal
      In India she is respected as a writer of great fiction. Only people who have little knowledge of India and who for some reason hold bigoted views against India accept her blindly as a great social thinker and truth teller.

  • 30 October 2010 at 4:19am
    Hemraj Muniram says:
    Arundhati Roy is an Indian woman who thinks more than many Indian men, who speaks her mind more than many Indian women are supposed to. Naturally, her principled condemnation of longstanding glaring human rights abuse in Kashmir is an affront to the male chauvinists who misrule India, who boast they're guardians of the world's largest democracy while brutally strangling the democratic dreams of Kashmiris. Pity them, indeed!

    • 9 November 2011 at 9:43pm
      kaal says: @ Hemraj Muniram
      If you think that most Indians dismiss Mr Roy's stand on Kashmir because of male chauvinism, then your pity is fully reciprocated. Cheers.

  • 31 October 2010 at 6:20pm
    jambro says:
    In the tradition of Gutama Buddha, Ghandi & other men and women who dedicated their lives to the people, Ms. Roy upholds the greatest tradition of the Indian subcontinent ... to serve the people is to serve the gods ...

  • 9 November 2011 at 9:50pm
    kaal says:

    Not only Gutama and Ghandi, but also Mother The Reesa, Prophet Moo Ahamad, Lord Jesse Kryst - Ms Roy bests them all.

    All that remains is her official beatification by the Roman Catholic Church for us Indians to learn the truth about her.

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