Arundhati Roy 3-pack
States have their iconic heroes. Founding Fathers. Jinnah in Pakistan, Ataturk in Turkey, George Washington in the U.S., Gandhi in India. To criticize them is risky business as they have been elevated to god-like status. Gandhi is no exception. He is revered and honored. His portrait hangs in many buildings and homes. His statue graces many public squares. And he is on the rupee note. The adulation extends outside of India. The British government recently announced that his statue would be placed in Parliament Square. But all people have cracks in their armor. Gandhi supported the highly elaborate Hindu caste system of social segmentation and stratification, and hereditary class division. While deploring discrimination and oppression of Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, Gandhi did not see the hierarchical caste system as morally wrong and undemocratic.
During the worst years of the dirty war in Argentina, thousands of people were disappeared by the junta. In response, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo was formed. Their weekly vigils demanding answers brought global attention to the situation in Argentina. In some instances a modicum of justice was achieved. Half a world away in parts of India, such as Chhattisgarh, poor indigenous women have taken up arms to defend their communities and land against predatory corporations. In Kashmir, state security forces picked up a teenage boy. His mother, Parveena Ahanger, an illiterate woman,never heard from him again. She founded the Association of Parents of the Disappeared Persons bringing together those who have lost loved ones. They hold demonstrations and insist on accountability. In these, and other cases, women are moving from being passive victims to active agents. It’s not easy. Sexual and other forms of violence are used as weapons to terrorize women. Interview by David Barsamian.
The news item was brief and buried in the back pages: “India: Maoists Ambush Patrol, Killing 7 Soldiers. The attack occurred in a rebel stronghold in Jharkhand State. Thousands of people have been killed in the past decade in violence involving Maoists, who claim they represent India’s dispossessed, particularly indigenous tribal groups.” You may wonder, What’s going on? Isn't India a democracy? In India, the U.S. and other countries the actual functioning of democracy has largely been hollowed out. Yes, there are elections and people vote but the nexus of decision-making power lies elsewhere. Corporations dominate the political process. With their fistful of dollars they are able to exact outcomes that benefit them. As environmental destruction continues unabated we must reimagine a different world. One in which people and the planet are more important than profits.
Arundhati Roy is a world-renowned writer and global justice activist. The New York Times calls her, “India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence.” She is the author of the novels The God of Small Things, for which she received the Booker Prize, and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Her book of interviews with David Barsamian is The Checkbook & the Cruise Missile. A collection of her essays My Seditious Heart is published by Haymarket.