Arundhati Roy calls Modi upswing "slightly dangerous"

Our leading public intellectual criticises the Congress equally harshly

GN Bureau | April 17, 2014


even today there are people who still can`t believe that Narendra Modi is a prime ministerial candidate—that this is really happening, says author-activist Arundhati Roy.
PTI/ file photo

Good days are round the corner, says one of the BJP advertisements. Arundhati Roy, of course, disagrees. Her view? “I think that we are poised in a momentous and slightly dangerous space.”

In an interview with Siddhartha Deb for the Bookforum magazine [read it here], Roy has commented at length about the elections in India. Talking about the man widely tipped to become the next prime minister, Roy speaks of the 2002 Gujarat riots, and then adds: “And now people are saying, ‘Oh, why do you have to go on about that? Put it in your past. We need a development chief minister.’ Of course, now even that idea of Gujarat as being a state at the front of progress and development has been taken apart. Look at the human development index, the levels of malnutrition, it's all there on the Internet for anyone to see. But I think the reason he's been backed is that he shows himself to be a man who is able to be brutal. And the brutality is not going to be against Muslims. It's going to be against those who are resisting ‘development’ …”

Roy thinks “even today there are people who still can't believe that Narendra Modi is a prime ministerial candidate—that this is really happening. But now the Establishment—the corporations—are hoping that his ability to be ruthless will be turned against those who are fighting these big corporate projects in the villages, in the forests; this is what the corporations are backing Modi for.”

The other leading player in the fray, the Congress, too comes in for equally harsh criticism: “If you go back to the turn of the twentieth century, you had, in the freedom movement, two factions in the Congress known as the Naram dal and the Garam dal, the militant and the moderate. Now they just happen to be two different political parties; they're playing out the same trajectory. The BJP sells Hindu nationalism and the Congress sells secularism, though actually if you look at the wars that the Indian army has fought since 1947, mostly years of Congress rule, they are always fought against the ‘other’—Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Adivasis. It's an upper-caste Hindu state at war with the ‘other’.”

According to Roy, the only difference between the two main parties is that “one does by day what the other does by night”.

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