Arundhati Roy is an Indian writer-activist who deals with issues related to social justice and economic inequality. She won the prestigious Booker Prize in 1997, for her novel ‘God of Small Things’. She has however, been controversy’s favourite child for her outrageous remarks on a variety of issues.
In an interview with Times of India published in August 2008, Arundhati Roy expressed her support for the independence of Kashmir from India. She was criticized by Indian National Congress (INC) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for her remarks. She responded by saying, “When I was in Kashmir.. what broke my heart on the street of Srinagar was when people say "Nanga Bhukha Hindustan, Jaan se Pyara Pakistan" (India is naked and hungry yet we adore Pakistan). The situation in Kashmir has been volatile since 1989 and the issue cannot be solved till one side (either India or Pakistan) decides to give up. Arundhati Roy feels for the people in Kashmir and wants their ‘azadi’ (freedom). This was reflected in her statements when she said “You have to look beyond stone pelting and how the state is using people. ...You have to know your enemy and you have to be able to respond by aligning tactically, intelligently, locally or internationally.”
Arundhati Roy visited Kashmir in October 2010 for a seminar and re- iterated these sentiments along with Geelani. There was widespread discontent in the country regarding her statements. There were demands that she be charged on grounds of sedition. However this did not happen. She reacted by saying, “Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds.” She believes that what ordinary citizens face everyday in Kashmir is nothing less than torture. Through her statements she echoed the demand for ‘azadi’ (freedom) that every individual in Kashmir wants. It is the unspoken truth that she bought to the forefront.
Roy has criticized Government's armed actions against the Naxalite-Maoist insurgents in India, calling it "war on the poorest people in the country". According to her, the Government has "abdicated its responsibility to the people. This statement sparked yet another controversy. In other statements, she has described Naxalites as "patriot of a kind" who are "fighting to implement the Constitution, (while) the government is vandalizing it".
Arundhati Roy has been accused of romanticizing Naxalism. Her heart bleeds if a Naxalite dies but when State Officials and innocent civilians are killed; she terms the Maoists as ‘Gandhians with Guns’. ‘If the tribals have taken up arms, they have done so because a government which has given them nothing but violence and neglect now wants to snatch away the last thing they have—their land.” The government hasn’t tried to negotiate with the Maoists and even when it has, the effort has proved to be futile. Roy is standing at the crossroads of a very complex problem which will only get solved when the Government and the Maoists decide to resolve it. Roy’s hysteria and glorification of the Maoists will not provide solutions.
Arundhati Roy with The Maoists.
India is a democracy, where we have freedom of expression but Roy decides to take on the role of a moral police and tries to offer solutions to problems that are much more complex than they look at the outset. Manu Joseph in Open magazine describes Arundhati Roy in an article has said, “She is the creation of the very system she wants to dismantle; she is the anomaly that completes the system.”