Monday, December 22, 2008

Arundhati Roy and the voices...redux

Read here an excellent rebuttal of Arundhati Roy's '9 is not 11' piece that I wrote about earlier. There have been other forceful denunciations of her writing about 11/26, by Salman Rushdie amongst others with good arguments made about Roy's willful disregard for geo-strategic realities etc. but this piece deserves its own post.

Abhinav Kumar, a serving IPS officer has written an open letter to Roy that brings into sharp relief for me many things that Roy's piece (and her other writing in general) lacks- balance, a willingness to think one's arguments through to their logical end, a avoidance of moral relativism and a sense of the bigger picture. And he writes pretty well too.

Kumar beings by acknowledging Roy's role as a voice that prickles our collective conscience, which I think is more generous that he needs to be but that's where the familiar sense of ambivalence ends. I think he nicely and much more succintly devastates Roy.

Kumar echoes one of my previous commentators (Jai) in the thought that Roy appears to be more interested in her own brand as the Indian voice of dissent than in formulating a genuine and original response to each issue that she wants to talk about. Thus, she has an Arundhati Roy agenda with its well establishes and predictable talking points (this is me, not Kumar). For Kumar, this means that Roy ignores the moral responsibility of a public intellectual. And he directs most of his essay at Roy's callous disregard for the human loss of the Bombay attacks and her petty at best tirade against the security forces. These parts struck a particularly sour note in her piece.

His comments on the stupidity of comparing Hindutva to radical Islam are more controversial and will not please everyone but on balance, I think he's right if you have a sense of perspective and are not excessively politically-correct.

If you're at all interested in this, you should really read the whole essay but I'll leave you with two points that impressed me particularly:

You seem to passionately believe in and defend the 'right' of the Kashmiris to ethnic, cultural, religious and geographical exclusivism. If this is correct than why should we vilify Raj Thackeray or any other chauvinist who seeks to preserve the purity (however defined) of his people (however defined) from outsiders (also however defined)?...I do hope you have taken the trouble to examine the fundamental assumptions underlying all such movements based on an assertion of a cultural identity. The creation of a hated outsider, in the case of Kashmir, the Indian; in the case of Raj Thackeray, the bhaiya of UP and Bihar; and in the case of the jihadists, anyone and everyone who does not subscribe to their virulent strain of Islam, including Muslims, is common to all these ideologies but you seem to pick and choose the bigotries you will demonize and the bigotries you will defend. Is it possible to freeze identity to a moment in time and on the basis of this demand recognition, retribution and rights for all time to come?

I wonder what Roy would say to that. Actually, I have a good idea of what she would say but indeed her defense would be hollow.

and this..

The liberties you have exercised in the past and continue to do today, however gratuitously and offensively, do not exist in a vacuum. I am not sure if any of these liberties would have a place in a Naxalite Utopia or a Jihadi Caliphate or even in a self-determined Kashmiri paradise that you eloquently espoused... In any case, the liberties that you have recently taken with the sensibilities of proud Indians too exist in a cultural, political and constitutional context, a context that is ultimately safeguarded by men such as Hemant Karkare and Major Unnikrishnan with disregard for their own life.

My anti-Arundhati voice to my pro-Arundhati voice: Take that!


jai said...

Thanks for covering the open letter from Abhinav Kumar, in response to the widely disseminated, post 11/26 A. Roy thesis.

I thought the rebuttal was very well written and the author forcefully challenged Ms. Roy's views and her shallow set of sensibilities.

Seetha said...


i read ms.roy, and was rather saddened.Her long essays can be reduced to one liners"uncle sam is evil".,Indian govt is the next biggest evil and so on.

Please dont get me wrong as you have written we all have somewhere along agree with ms.roy.Infact my personal opinion on kashmir is let people living in KAShmir decide.

I cannt understand her "contextualisation",Where does contextualisation start in india?There have been so many invasions and the evidences are plenty.Now if every indian cultural group decides to takeup issues with hte wrong doings of the past where do we start?Goan hindus should remember the portugese assault on them ,hindus about muslim attacks, dravidians about 'aryan' attacks and so on.To justify bombay killings as "kashmir " related is as poisonous as a hindutva speech.

On the otherhand if we are to talk of indian military wrong doings ,why only Kashmir?Why not the northeast,theIPKF fiasco..

There is a woman on nasogastric feed forcibly in Delhi as she is on a fast unto death for the northeast cause,where our Ms roy resides.I dont remember Ms.roy ever talking of her.sadly we all respect her ?too much ,giving importance to what she writes.(we are all apologetic too, lest we be seen less intellectual and communal)

Even regarding the narmada issue, a very scholalry and informative article was written in MANUSHI few years ago.It was an open letter to Ms.Roy too.

Juat as one is tired of fighting communal forces be it the BJP or anything else, these intellectuals with a PRETTY FACE are also extremely tiring too.But bottom line is nothing can beat a pretty face..Particulalry if it is pretty for western media..