Arundhati Roy turns 50 today.
She probably was not expecting a PIL in a Jammu court for her comments on Kashmir as a birthday present. But being Arundhati Roy, she is probably not too surprised.
If she read the weather report, somebody would find some reason to be upset about it. But on her birthday here are five reasons to be thankful for Arundhati Roy.
She is an equal opportunity offender: Arundhati Roy always speaks her mind even when she knows it will win her no friends. Over the years with every cause she’s taken up, every essay she has written, she has probably lost friends. She is not afraid to be the person everyone loves to hate. She annoys us and forces us to stop sitting on the fence. She has lambasted Bush, Kerry, Congress, BJP, Anna Hazare, fundamentalists and liberals. ” She spares no one.
Except, her critics say, militants, Maoists, terrorists. She is accused of being a hypocrite, taking on the Indian state in Kashmir but not the plight of the Pandits. But she has spoken about it in an interview with Tehelka and not shied away from assigning responsibility.
It is the duty of the leaders of Kashmir’s present struggle to get the Pandits to return. That needs more than rhetoric. Apart from it being the right thing to do, it would give them enormous moral capital. It would also help shape their vision of what kind of Kashmir they are fighting for.
But she says there is a difference between Godhra and the riots in Gujarat. She always, unequivocally, draws a distinction between “a state-assisted pogrom against a people in a country and something that militants have done.
She is strident, unapologetic, shrill. And these are her virtues. She is not afraid to be the last protester standing.
She takes responsibility as a citizen: You may not agree with her. But in a democracy we always need that person who is willing to take the unpopular view. She is, writes Manu Joseph, Neo in The Matrix.
She is, more than anything, an anomaly that completes the system, a system that not only made her but also needs her for its own balance and survival.
Arundhati Roy can be accused of being uncompromising, of making the perfect the enemy of the good. But she takes responsibility for her country in a way few of us have the courage to.
At a time when everyone wants to point fingers at everyone, from the UPA government to bureaucrats to the media for the malaise in the country, Roy is not afraid to look into the mirror. As we pat ourselves on the back endlessly about being the world’s largest democracy, Roy asks the uncomfortable question in an interview with India Currents:
But when I am a citizen of a democracy, I have to take responsibility for what the state I voted for does. Are people in a democracy more responsible for the acts of their elected government?
Continued on the next page