Ms Roy, Bharat existed before the British Map of 1899 !

via Dr. Vijaya Rajiva published on December 3, 2010

After the speech grandiosely called the ‘seditionist speech’ , the one where Arundhati Roy is seen smiling broadly in the company of her friends and allies, Syed Shah Gilani of Islamic fundamentalist fame (his hopes of establishing an Islamic republic in Kashmir after the manner of the Khomeini revolution alone should raise questions of Ms Roy’s good taste and judgment) and Maoist leaders who uphold the beheading of everyday policemen and villagers, chopping off their arms and slitting their throats etc., one begins to wonder at her sanity.

The modulated English in which she speaks disguises this insanity. A well known journalist recently made a sensible observation : she should not be prosecuted for this speech, because that is feeding into her craving for publicity. Better that someone advise her to hold her peace .  She has become that nuisance that the long suffering Indian public has to put up with.                      

In a way he is right. However, it might be better to have  her spend some jail time  (where no doubt she will be given all the comforts possible under the circumstances). Ofourse, she will miss her posh bungalow in New Delhi. A friend from abroad expressed concern for her safety because a few irate women  threw a flower pot or two at her house. In that house she could lead a comfortable lifestyle while she held forth on Mahatma Gandhi or Nehru or Ambedkar et al ( of whom she probably knows very little, if her speeches are any indication !) And now comes the news that her husband is in illegal ownership of a swanky bungalow, built on tribal land in Madhya Pradesh !  So much for the advocate of tribal rights !

There was always something dubious about Ms. Roy’s well advertised little jaunt into
tribal territory quite recently, with plenty of photo opportunities, pictures with her holding a pen and notebook etc. Outlookindia was chastised by Dr. Chandan Mitra of The Pioneer for publishing all of her articles and giving her undue publicity. The present writer has already pointed out in an earlier article that Outlookindia is not a charitable organization.  Commercial interests will always be a part of the enterprise. Secondly, as with the Radia tapes, the nation must get access to these writings.

On the other hand, there is a silver lining to the cloud of a possible stint in jail time. She could be handed a comprehensive history of India which  she can peruse at leisure, and where she will not have to take her periodic narcotic of an ill informed attack on the Indian state. She has become dependent on that particular drug and a good rehab program would be the study of Indian history.During this period of study she will learn that the British came to India first through the East India Company in 1600 which had received a Charter from Elizabeth I of England but that Bharat was there long before that period.

She does have something of a degree from a university(in architecture we are told) but surely her high school education would have taught her that Bharat’s history goes back some 5,000 years plus.  The Sanskrit word Rashtra denotes a cultural and national entity that had a geographic spread from Kanya Kumari in the southern most tip to Afghanistan and slightly beyond etc.

Hence, the British map of 1899 is indeed  a product of the colonial imagination(as she says) but not with the  meaning that she gives to it:

“ . . . . . that colonized country that became a country because of the imagination of
its colonizer  – the British drew the map of India in 1899. . . . .”

( the seditionist speech has been published in full in Outlookindia,Wed. Dec,01,2010)

The truncated British map is Roy’s starting point. From those “commanding heights” she goes on to indulge in her favourite past time, the attack on the ‘ Indian state’. Needless to say, her arguments are all muddled. The angry Kashmiri Hindus who had lost their kith and kin in that brutal rape and murder of the same in 1989 were not thinking about her faulty history that evening at the meeting. They were incensed with her sharing the dais with Syed Shah Gilani whose supporters had been engaged in that murderous rampage.

She spoke contemptuously about a Kashmiri Hindu organization having falsified the picture of their plight in 1989. But here is liberal historian Ramachandra Guha’s account in his book India After Gandhi:

                 “ These women and men were not killed in the crossfire, accidentally,
                    but brutally targeted. Many of the women were gang raped before
                    they were killed. One woman was bisected by a mill saw. The bodies
                    of the men bore marks of torture. Death by strangulation, hanging,
                    amputations, the gouging out of eyes , were not uncommon. Often
                    their bodies were dumped with notes forbidding anyone- on pain
                    of death – to touch them.”

(India After Gandhi, 2007,p.642)

The present writer believes that a brief stint in jail will be a welcome relief to the Indian public which has become weary of her shenanigans. Many serious activists and NGOs who are doing good work for the disinherited of the earth are being forgotten by the oxygen Roy takes up. It will also provide her  with some time and leisure to continue her education which has been cut short by her ill starred venture into a political situation she does not understand.

It might, just might, help her to understand the richness of the tradition that she so despises because of her enormous ignorance of its origins and it ongoing robustness.
True, she will be deprived of the financial input from her various trips abroad and the
sources, which some reports claim, are financing her attacks on the Indian state.

Here, the Indian state must surely take active steps to find out the links and sever them without hesitation. That will surely be in her own interest. It will certainly be in the national interest. And it will give space to those activists and serious interlocutors of the Indian state the opportunity to be heard. They are not in the business of overthrowing the Indian state, but they are in every way concerned with the problems that have beset the nation. They deserve to be heard, while Ms Roy can give them a chance and go quietly to that place where she can educate herself once again.

Who knows she might even write that second novel ?


( The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).

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