A voice against fascism and for freedom
Arundhati Roy (1961-) is one of the foremost Indian writers in English who is often considered a “militant writer” for her clear and stern stand against all manner of disorder and injustice. It can be best described in the words of Naomi Klein who says, “Arundhati Roy is one of the greatest writers of our time. Roy won the Booker Prize in 1997 for his very first novel The god of little things (1997) and his recent novel The ministry of the greatest happiness (2017) had long been on the Man Booker Prize list.
Azadi is a collection of essays published by Penguin Random House in 2020. It is a collection of nine essays with fairly similar themes. The predominant issues addressed in the essays can be described as a protest against the discriminatory treatment of the minority in India by the government, a voice against racism, oppression and abuse committed in the name of democracy, depriving the people of their rights. fundamental and human rights. , the fascist attitude of the Indian government towards the people of Kashmir, the attacks on universities and the government’s failure to deal with natural crises like the Covid pandemic.
The first essay in this collection is “In what language does rain fall on troubled cities?” It refers to the identity crisis and inner torments that the author herself undergoes for choosing English as her medium of writing. Writing in English by writers from former British colonies is often regarded by critics as “a tribute to the British Empire”. Arundhati believes that “… language is the most private and yet the most public thing. Affirm that language is a property common to all and that it can be manipulated in any way an author understands it. Roy says sternly, “India as a country, nation-state, was a British idea. So, the idea of English is as good or as bad as the idea of India itself. Based on reading these essays, the above critical position regarding English writing by writers from former colonies can be reversed. Specifically, Roy’s essays belies this stereotypical assumption. Rather, it is the appropriation of opportunities. The title of the essay is adapted from one of the lectures by Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), who in one of his lectures asks the question “In what language does rain fall?” it over tormented cities? Roy’s answer to this question can be noted at the end of the essay: “I would say, without hesitation, in the language of the translation.”
The second essay “Election Season in a Dangerous Democracy” is actually the written version of Roy’s speech at a press conference in New Delhi on August 29, 2018. She opposes the inappropriate and illegal decision by Modi government in India. , their discriminatory treatment of the minority and the manipulation of education in India. Roy says, “In today’s India, belonging to a minority is a crime. It highlights the political scenario existing in India where, in the name of democracy, governments still direct the cogs of oppression and preserve a fascist perspective in all aspects of state affairs or protest against the lynching of minorities. , supporting the cause of the poor, claiming fair treatment and justice for all citizens, regardless of their religion and ethnicity, are called a plot to overthrow the government. From this she concludes that there might be changes and changes of government in India, but their attitude towards the “wretched” remains the same.
In “Our Captured, Wounded Hearts”, the third essay, the author focuses on the plight and agony of the people of Kashmir whose lives are constantly threatened by the bombs and weapons of the Indian army. She holds India’s defense ministry accountable, identifying it as the “most corrupt ministry” for the violence and atrocities inflicted on Kashmiris. The author asks the world to find a way out for Kashmir, which according to her “is the real theater of unspeakable violence and moral corrosion”.
Azadi’s fourth essay, “The Language of Literature” is the one Roy presented in “The PEN Arthur Miller Freedom to Write”. The essay addresses some of the fundamental questions of contemporary literary discourse such as the nature of language in literature, the relationship between facts and fictions, the role of autobiographical aspects in novels, and the potential for Indian writers to voice their voice against the ruling forces. Freedom of the press and freedom to write are in high demand in India. This assertion can be supported by quoting Roy; she says: “In India, it is not possible to talk about Kashmir with a certain degree of honesty without risking bodily harm.”
The fifth essay “Silence is the Loudest Sound” written on the eve of India’s 70th independence anniversary focuses on the impact of partition on the lives of the Indian people in general and Kashmir in particular . In her own words, it is unforgivable what India has done to the people of Kashmir, what the ruling forces often refer to as “the unfinished business of partition” over the past seventy years.
The sixth essay “Intimations of an End: The Rise and Rise of the Hindu Nation” is derived from one of Roy’s previous lectures entitled “The Jonathan Schell Memorial Lecture Series on the Fate of the Earth”, delivered at Cooper Union Great Hall, New York on November 19, 2019. He criticizes the terms of the Indian government’s National Registry of Citizens (NRC) which attempts to deny and question the citizenship of Muslims living in India. An anti-Muslim slogan is frequently echoed in India by those who support the idea that India is only for Hindus and “the only place for the Muslim – the cemetery or Pakistan”. Roy openly criticizes the BJP-led Indian government for its endeavor to make India a Hindu state that consistently denies the rights of others.
“The Graveyard Talks Back: Fiction in the Time of Fake News” is the seventh essay of the book. This is a composition of ‘The 2020 Clark Lecture in English Literature’, instituted by Trinity College, University of Cambridge ‘, by Roy. Here, Roy defines Azadi for which the Indians were protesting. It clearly affirms the fact that Azadi means respite from poverty, discrimination, patriarchy and repression and for that the trampled people have a lot to do in the future to win a world for them.
The eighth essay “There is fire in the pipes, the system is failing” denounces the Modi government for its autocratic and unnecessary public policies it has taken like the CAA, NPR and NRC. She urges educated people, especially writers and artists, to come forward to speak out against the collapsing systems and undemocratic procedures of government taken under the guise of democracy.
The latest essay in this collection, “The Pandemic is a Portal”, addresses some of the most critical contemporary issues. This essay deals with the ongoing pandemic and its aftermath, the lack of preparedness of the human world to deal with such natural revenge, and the futility of the so-called world powers that have utterly and frustratingly failed to mitigate the impacts of the crisis. pandemic. Superpowers only know how to fight and destroy the world, but either know nothing or are visibly and undoubtedly helpless in the face of any real music on earth created by Mother Earth herself. Roy very strongly and severely criticized and pointed out the irrationality of the sudden decision of the Modi government to lock down all of India within four hours without considering the practicality of the decision and without taking into account the plight of the people who have no way to live. The pandemic has, Roy said, revealed the true face of the Indian government. To quote Arundhati: “Some believe this is God’s way of bringing us to our senses. In reality, the opposite has happened.
Roy’s Azadi is a great read. Roy discusses very vividly issues of democracy, human rights, the right to live in one’s own homeland, the nature of fascism under the umbrella of democracy, religious fanaticism, the envy of the wronged and incarcerated to have freedom. However, the book ends with the hope for a world where people have disease-free and terror-free lives for themselves and for generations to come.
Alamgir Mohammad is a professor at the Bangladesh International Army Science and Technology University in Comilla.