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Arundhati Roy on the Rise of Fascism & Trump’s Embrace of India’s “Robber Barons”

Web ExclusiveMay 04, 2018
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Extended conversation with award-winning author Arundhati Roy. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel “The God of Small Things.” In 2017, 20 years after the publication of her first novel, she published another work of fiction, just out in paperback, titled “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.” The novel was longlisted for the Booker Prize and nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. The book has been hailed as “an elegy for a bulldozed world.” Arundhati Roy received the 2002 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize, and her journalism and essays have been collected in several books, including “The End of Imagination,” “Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers” and “Capitalism: A Ghost Story.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, with Part 2 of our discussion with Arundhati Roy, whose book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, her second novel, has just come out in paperback.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: In Part 1 of our discussion, we talked about Arundhati Roy’s new book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. But now I want to turn to President Trump’s business partnerships in India. A recent investigation in The New Republic by journalist Anjali Kamat, headlined “Political Corruption and the Art of the Deal,” found that the Trump Organization has entered into more deals in India than in any other foreign country. These deals are worth an estimated $1.5 billion and produced royalties of up to $11 million between 2014 and 2017. Anjali appeared on Democracy Now! in March and talked about the partnerships the Trump Organization has with businesses in India.

ANJALI KAMAT: Almost all of the partners have a long history of legal entanglements, have a long history of being investigated for tax evasion by the government. At least three of them are very closely connected to very powerful political officials. Two of them are—have close connections to powerful political officials who are in the ruling party right now, who are part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, the BJP, which is the party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. One of his partners is actually a political official himself. He’s a five-term state lawmaker in Bombay, now called Mumbai. And Mangal Prabhat Lodha is one of the wealthiest men in the country. He’s also a lawmaker. And he shares the same kind of ideological and political vision, in some ways. They’re both right-wing politicians, both developers who turned into politicians. His campaign slogan, a couple of years ago, became “Making Mumbai great again.” And both the Lodha Group and the other—another group in North India, in Gurgaon, called IREO, both of whom have ties to the ruling BJP, have also been under investigation on allegations of money laundering. So, these are—you know, these might be close friends of Don Jr., but there’s a lot of questions about how exactly they were vetted and what their reputations are.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s journalist Anjali Kamat, talking about the problems with the Trump Organization’s partnerships in India. Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr.—that’s President Trump’s eldest son—has made repeated trips to India, most recently earlier this year. During his visit, following his sister’s visit, Ivanka Trump, he was asked about corruption in India at the Global Business Summit in New Delhi.

SUPRIYA SHRINATE: Are some some sections of Indian industry willing to bend rules where it suits them?

DONALD TRUMP JR.: Well, listen, I think there’s an entrepreneurial spirit here that is, you know—again, it needs no further explanation, though the media will say that I said something totally different. But, so, there’s an entrepreneurial spirit here, you know, that is different than elsewhere in the world. … You know, I have seen changes come. You know, once I got with the right people and understood, I have seen reforms—though I’m not talking policy. I’m saying, as an outside businessman coming in, over the couple years, you know, I have seen changes. You know, some of the reforms probably hit everyone, but they also weeded out in the real estate sector, which was—you know, if you were a developer, it was a four-letter word. OK? There was no trust, because you were promised X, and you were delivered X-minus, if anything at all. And that doesn’t work in the long term. So I think there’s been, you know, a burden imposed on all developers. The ones who have done a good job, the ones who are well-intentioned, the ones that I’m now, you know, truly friends with, they’ve done a good job. And they’ll rise to the top anyway. It will weed out the bad players. And that needed to happen.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Arundhati, that’s Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s eldest son, speaking in Delhi in February. Could you respond to, first of all, the organizations that Anjali Kamat spoke about in her piece, the businesses in India, and what impact it’s had, the fact that the president of the United States, his organization, has such close links with these businesses, many of whom the leaders of whom have been accused of corruption?

ARUNDHATI ROY: See, I read Anjali’s piece. It was extraordinary. And what is happening in India, obviously—in many other countries, but India, you know, again, lauded as this great democracy—the fusing of business. And most of the time, business does mean land. You know, land is the goal there, land and information, so the fusing of these two interests. It’s not in the least bit surprising that people like Modi and Trump and their empires are fusing their interests.

You know, this, the project that they were trying to do, the Trump Jr., it involved really evicting thousands of poor people to build apartments for—you know, exclusive apartments for a very few very rich people. There’s nothing new about that. But, honestly, you know, the level of thievery that’s going on. As you know, Nirav Modi, who was photographed with Modi at the World Economic Forum, is now, I think, here in New York City, having run away after robbing a public bank of millions and millions and millions, you know? So, these are robber barons now. That’s what we’re talking about.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, in fact, Nirav Modi, whom you mentioned, when his flagship store opened on Madison Avenue, which is still there, Donald Trump Jr. attended the opening.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah. So you can see these are—I think of them just as people who are—you know, it’s literally like they have these gigantic straws, and they’re just sucking the wealth out of. And it’s brutal, because it doesn’t matter that people are starving, people are broken, demonetization happened. All of this, it just—they live in a bubble. I mean, I was looking at those visuals, and I’m thinking, you know, these are the people, including the people in the audience, who control—who control the economy, who control the wealth. I actually don’t think that they even know how to go to a village anymore in India, like they don’t actually physically know how to go to a village.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the relationship or the similarities between Modi and Trump, who both embrace each other. Modi will run again for prime minister next year. President Trump already began. He’s campaigning regularly to run for president in the United States. But, you know, you talk about the fascist policies of Modi. Talk more about what that means.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, the thing is that I feel that there’s a difference between the two, inasmuch as Trump—you know, I see him being treated like a lunatic in the White House. All the elite institutions, including the military, the CIA, the FBI—the media, too—is against him. And yet your democratic principles don’t have a means of dealing with a lunatic in the White House, like you don’t know what to do about that, you know? Modi is not a lunatic. You know, Modi is somebody who has, as I said, been born from a process that began—well, the modern part of it began in the 1920s. The older part of it began at the turn of the century. And in India, what you’re seeing is a situation where the media is terrified, people are terrified, bureaucrats are terrified. The Supreme Court is crumbling. I mean, for the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, four senior judges came out and held a press conference. You have a—

AMY GOODMAN: Saying what?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Saying that democracy is in danger. Saying that the chief justice of the Supreme Court is a man of the government who’s fixing benches. You know? Recently there was a situation—it’s unbelievable—that in—I think it was in 2008. There was a killing of a man called Sohrabuddin, claimed to be a terrorist in Gujarat. He was killed. His wife was killed. Later it was found that they were taken off a bus, held in custody and killed. His wife was killed. The witness was killed. And then—and one of the persons implicated in the murder is now the chief of the BJP and Modi’s closest confidant and lieutenant, Amit Shah. He was in jail for a while, released. Then there was a CBI court listening—hearing the case. The judge was sudden—one judge, who asked Amit Shah to appear, was transferred. The next judge who came asked Amit Shah to appear, suddenly died. And now a magazine has exposed a trail of extremely mysterious facts, which point to something terrible happened, right? The three friends of the judge, co-judges, who knew that this judge was under pressure, two of them died mysteriously. All that people were asking the court was: Can there be an inquiry? The Supreme Court said no.

So, you’re looking at—you know, you’re looking at, of course, the massacre in Gujarat. You’re looking at assassinations now. And you’re looking at institutions that will just refuse, just now, because the elections are coming. People who have been convicted as mass killers in the Gujarat massacre have all been released. People—a man called Swami Aseemanand, who was convicted in the Samjhauta Express blast, has been released. There’s a chief minister of UP, Swami—Yogi Adityanath, who openly talks about the fact that “I’m just going to kill anti-social elements.” So, something like 400 people have just been shot down. So, there is a history of all these institutions colluding, you know? You have here a situation where Trump—Trump has come out of what I think of—he’s emerged from the sewage system of something that has gone terribly wrong, you know? But he is a shock to the system here, whereas Modi is embraced by the system. And the media is absolutely terrified.

AMY GOODMAN: And let’s talk more about the media. There was a Washington Post headline, “In Modi’s India, journalists face bullying, criminal cases and worse.” And then you have, in an especially high-profile case last September, the editor and publisher of a Bangalore weekly, Gauri Lankesh, murdered. Since the 2014 election of Modi, India reportedly becoming one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a reporter. According to the 2017 Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, India was ranked 136 out of 180. To give some context, the same index ranks Zimbabwe, before the fall of Mugabe, at 127 and Afghanistan at 120. And you have India at 136 of 180.

ARUNDHATI ROY: And these are probably statistics that are gathered from journalists who have been killed or incarcerated, you know? But look at the fact that the most—most great journalists don’t have jobs. They are just out of work, because nobody wants reporting. The mainstream media doesn’t really want reporting, you know? And this is what is terrifying, apart from the fact that you have the social media now, you have WhatsApp, which is perhaps the biggest influencer of public opinion now, which is putting out, deliberately—I mean, the BJP, many people have written about their WhatsApp farms, you know, where they just put out so much vitriol. So—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And false news, in fact, yeah.

ARUNDHATI ROY: False news. Fake news, for example, now is something we all have to live with, because fake news and real news are like fruit that you can buy in a supermarket. Which one do you want? You know, you can believe—and it’s lovely, because you can then believe whatever you want to believe. The rape of this little girl in Jammu, the Satanic rituals around her rape and murder, you know what happened. One person put out a story in a newspaper, called The Sunday Guardian, giving a completely fake account of what happened. And underneath, it said it’s fake. But now that is tweeted and reported as real news. So you have a situation where, building now, oh, the girl was not raped, oh, the Gujarat killings did not happen, and everybody is plotting against us, you know?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, let’s go back to that, that issue, elaborate on it, the recent incidents of rape in India and in Pakistan, which received widespread attention in the international media. Last month, India’s Cabinet approved the death penalty for rapists of girls below the age of 12, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an emergency meeting in response to nationwide outrage in the wake of recent rape cases. According to government officials, the order also amends the law to include more drastic punishment for a convicted rapist of girls below the age of 16. This comes as there were 40,000 rapes reported in 2016, and the victims in these cases were—40 percent of them were children. This is the mother of a young victim, responding to the change in the law.

ASHA DEVI: [translated] I am not satisfied with this law, because it is fine for the minors under 12 years of age, but what about the rape victims or above that age? So, I feel that there is no more hideous crime than rape. There is no larger pain, no bigger accident. So I think every rapist should be hanged.

AMY GOODMAN: And then protests erupted last month over the gang rape of an 8-year-old Muslim girl, that you, Arundhati, were talking about, in a Hindu-dominated area of the state of Jammu in Kashmir. One of the three suspected rapists is a police officer. Authorities say the motivation for the kidnapping, rape and murder of the girl, named Asifa Bano, was to drive her Muslim family out of their village. Two lawmakers with the ruling BJP party were forced to resign, after they helped organize rallies in support of the accused rapists, sparking widespread outcry. Meanwhile, earlier this year, there were also mass protests in Pakistan following the rape and murder of Zainab Ansari, a 7-year-old girl. The perpetrator, Imran Ali, was given four death sentences. He was linked to murders and sexual assaults of other girls in the region by police. So, talk about what this—what is happening in India and Pakistan, because, of course, it’s not alone in India, but what Modi, the Legislature, what people are doing about this.

ARUNDHATI ROY: See, the thing is that, you know, it’s not that Modi had an emergency meeting and called for the death penalty because he was concerned about the protests and so on. What happened was that he did not respond when the rape actually happened, when the protests began. It’s only after he went to England and realized it was a big issue internationally, and, again, had to make a spectacle, an appearance of doing something. But the truth is, first of all, I’m against death penalty, you know—the death penalty. But what actually happens is, of course there’s a death penalty for mass murder. All the people who were involved in mass murder in Gujarat were sentenced to death, very dramatically, and then released. You know? So, really, it’s a question of gathering evidence, of making a really strong case, of taking—of doing things because you really want to do them, not because you want to perform on some international stage by making these empty declarations, you know?

So, the trouble is that, you know, you have rapes, you have these brutal men who are raping women. Of course Hindus are raping girls, Muslims are raping girls, everybody’s raping girls, and so there’s no question of it belonging to only one community. But what is new over here is that, aside from the fact that the girl was not just raped and killed, she was held in a temple—according to the police reports, held in a temple, drugged, raped and then bludgeoned to death. There’s a sort of ritualistic, Satanistic part to it, which is terrifying, you know. But leaving aside the criminals, the fact that people are marching in support of the rapists—men and women, you know, are marching in support of the rapists, marching, demanding the charges be withdrawn. This is what is frightening.

I mean, in the course of one year, there was a godman called Ram Rahim who was sentenced to—convicted of rape. His supporters created havoc. You know, this rape, the Hindu Ekta Manch, the Hindu Unity Manch, is marching in support of rapists. Asaram Bapu, another godman—both these godmen very close to Modi—convicted of rape. They had to have a security lockdown in three states, because the people who are going to support the rapists are going to create trouble. So, this is something we’ve got to wrap our heads around, you know? It’s gone beyond just the little girl that was raped and the maniacs who raped her.

But the politicization of this, you know, what is it? What is going on? After all, we are in a society where it has been allowed for upper-caste men to rape Dalit women. It is their right, seen as their right. You know, we live in places like where—places like Manipal, Nagaland and Kashmir, army’s officers and soldiers who have been accused of rape are protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, you know? So, it is a bit naive to say, “You know, let’s not politicize it.” But it is political. It is political. And it has to be looked at in that way.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I mean, sexual violence against girls and women has reportedly increased since Modi came to power in 2014. So, could you, you know, elaborate on that? I mean, you’ve given some indication now, but do you think that, under his administration, there is somehow a more permissive attitude towards this kind of sexual—

ARUNDHATI ROY: There’s a more permissive attitude to all forms of violence. Right? People know that they will be protected in the end. I mean, rape, yes, but lynching, too, hacking someone to death because they suspected of eating beef, hacked—flogging somebody because they are—flogging Dalits because they are transporting dead cattle. You know, every kind of violence is being support. Often the victims have cases filed against them.

So, as long as the perpetrators belong loosely to this Hindu family, as they call it—the Hindutva family, rather—they know that even if they go in for a few days to jail, when they come out they will be greeted as heroes. And as we come up to the elections, you’re seeing a situation where, for example, just two days ago in Gurgaon—this is just outside of Delhi—a group of thugs went and prevented Muslims from saying the namaz outdoors.


ARUNDHATI ROY: Right. And then they were arrested for a few days. There was huge protests asking for them to be released. Then they gave a decree saying that, “From now on, we will decide where Muslims are allowed to pray. They cannot pray outside, unless it’s more than 50 percent of the local population. But we’ll decide.” And it’s being allowed. And all these burners are being turned up, because now, given the fact that demonetization and the new goods-and-services tax has broken the back of all small enterprises and local people, the only way that they’re going to drum up support is through polarization.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Let me just go to that, the issue of demonetization. This was implemented in November 2016 and became one of the more unpopular policies implemented by the Modi government. In a surprise television announcement then, Prime Minister Modi declared that all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be, quote, “legal tender.” The move, which came to be called demonetization, applied to 86 percent of the value of all currency in circulation. The Modi government said the initiative was aimed at eliminating black money—that is, unaccounted, untaxed wealth—as well as targeting fake currency and terror financing. The move was widely condemned. And in response, the Modi government said demonetization would also help India switch from cash to digital money. Demonetization impacted, in particular, hundreds of millions of people employed by India’s vast informal sector, that deals predominantly in cash. It also had ruinous consequences for the primarily cash-reliant rural economy.

AMY GOODMAN: And last year, the former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, also criticized the decision, saying, “Anybody who knows India knows that very quickly, we find ways around the system. … Essentially, all the money that was demonetized came back into the system and it didn’t have the direct effect that a lot of people would fess up and pay taxes,” unquote. So, can you elaborate on the impact of this demonetization, who it helped, who it hurt?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, the thing is that that announcement was made very soon just before the UP election, the Uttar Pradesh elections. Uttar Day is the largest state in India, and the elections and who rules Uttar Pradesh usually means who rules India. So, what it did was to suddenly become a body blow to every single other political party. Only the BJP had money. And today, that is the truth, that no political party has any money, or hardly any money, except for the BJP. So, in the coming elections, it is going to be, you know, one party with all the money versus everyone else who’s scrabbling around for some sort of monetary foothold. But apart from the economics of it—as we know, the economics of it were—it was just nonsense, you know. I mean, even the finance minister doesn’t seem to have known this was going to happen, although certainly people in the BJP seem to have known and have taken steps to protect their own wealth. But look at the implications. I mean, this has never been done ever in history that somebody can come out and, overnight, declare all—86 percent of the currency illegal. Currency is a social contract between the government and its citizens. So, it was like breaking the spine of every Indian and seeing whether you can break it.

AMY GOODMAN: So your money is worthless.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah. And once—it’s worthless.

AMY GOODMAN: Your physical money is worthless.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Is worthless. You have to go to the bank, deposit it. I was, in fact, in rural India when this happened. It was just awful, you know, to see. And people don’t have bank accounts. Women, who have collected money in their, you know, saris and folded it away. Everything, you know, just— it was just devastating. But what I’m saying is, apart from all of that, even if it had been a great economic policy, how does a democracy allow someone to do that? And once you’ve done that, today look at Indians. Everyone is wondering, “What is he going to do next?” He can do anything. If he can do this, he can do anything.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, wait, can I just—can we just understand, in a parliamentary system, the parliament doesn’t have to approve the moves, massive policy changes, by the prime minister?

ARUNDHATI ROY: I mean, I just don’t understand how this was allowed to happen. But, of course, they had such a huge majority, so it went through. I mean, he just came up and announced it, mocking people, you know, saying, “Oh, well, you know, now there is a wedding in the family, but, sorry, there’s going to be no cash,” and laughing about it, you know? But this is what I mean, you know, about a—it’s a kind of microfascism, you know? Can I just control the very individual at every stage? And having done that, you have put the fear into people of what is going to happen next.

The other big thing, which we haven’t spoken about, is the government’s idea of the Aadhaar card, the unique identity card.


ARUNDHATI ROY: Biometric, where every piece of private information is going to be stored in this database forever, whichever [inaudible] comes or doesn’t come, available to be hacked by anybody. I mean, the whole world is reeling about how data is being hacked and stolen. And here, this is how you’re going to control everything and everyone, at an individual level, you know?

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, what’s the government’s explanation for Aadhaar is needed?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Oh, they are saying that this is—you know, so that we can rations to the poor. I mean, everyone has an election card. You don’t need biometric data to distribute rations, if you really want to distribute rations. But as we know, you’re destroying the livelihood of the poor, and then pretending that collecting data is some missionary service. It’s ridiculous, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: We wanted to end, Arundhati, by asking you a little more about Edward Snowden and your trip to Moscow. But with the latest news, this voter-profiling system, Cambridge Analytica, is going bust now. They’re closing down. They gained international attention after Facebook revealed it acquired the personal information of 87 million Americans, without their permission, as part of an effort to push for the support of President Trump. Now, Edward Snowden just recently made comments about media surveillance and new technologies that are combining to target people and influence elections. He called this “the greatest redistribution of power since the industrial revolution.” Talk about your trip to see him. You have a book out, Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations. You went there with the renowned whistleblower Dan Ellsberg, famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers, and the actor John Cusack.

ARUNDHATI ROY: It was really not something that I had planned or anything. You know, Dan and John were going, and they asked me to come, and I went along. And it was fascinating, because Edward was ahead of the curve, I think, in terms of understanding that data is the new wealth, data is the new gold. You know, information is worth everything now. And, of course, you know. having lived in Kashmir and—I mean, having visited Kashmir and being to Bastar, I know—I know how much surveillance. In India, we are very aware of the fact that our cellphones are our coordinates, and, you know, people are listening in, and every militant that’s killed and every assassination that happens, the court hearing is just full of IMEI numbers and SMSes and cellphone messages and so on. But I—

NERMEEN SHAIKH: What are [IMEI] numbers?

ARUNDHATI ROY: The unique identity of a cellphone.


ARUNDHATI ROY: The instrument itself, you know? But I think that Ed—Edward Snowden really understands, and I do agree with him. And I wish he listens to this show, and I want him to pay attention to Aadhaar. He has tweeted about the UID Aadhaar. It will be the biggest data-gathering centralization of data the world has ever seen. You know, now we’re talking about 1 billion people’s data—bank accounts, medical. Everything will be on record. And recently, the state government to Andhra Pradesh actually released, by accident, all the Aadhar numbers of its citizens. You know, so anyone could browse the net and look up their personal data. You can block me, but you can do anything. And it’s not just governments that can do it. People can do it to each other. It’s just a nightmare from hell. It’s like a science-fiction film.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, what kind of opposition has there been to this?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, right now, the court hearing is on. But the trouble is that, you know, it’s so hard for people to understand the depth of this. You know, like always. I mean, even when we were fighting on the issue of the dam, until the dam is built, the lands are flooded, the irrigation isn’t working, only then people realize what it really means, you know? So, in a way, to alert people in advance to something like this, that you can’t really wrap your head around, is still very difficult, you know?

But there is opposition. I mean, people, especially groups of young people, are working very, very hard to convince the court not to make it compulsory. But the court has, again, you know, been playing this game of delaying the hearings. And while they delay the hearings, the government is saying, “Well, you need an Aadhaar card for your gas connection. You need an Aadhaar card for your phone connection.” The bank goes on messaging you 10 times a day, saying, “Please link your account with this.” You can’t get X, Y or Z services without an Aadhaar card. You know, people who are starving, who need rations from the government, are told to produce Aadhaar cards. They don’t have internet connections there. They don’t know—you know, someone is standing in line, and their fingerprints are worn because they’re peasants. So they say, “OK, why don’t you give your print?” It’s just anarchy, you know? And to try and discipline an ocean like that, to digitize an ocean like that, that lives in several centuries simultaneously, is going to cause violence of an unimaginable level.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati, Edward Snowden told you in Moscow, “If we do nothing, we sort of sleepwalk into a total surveillance state where we have both a super-state that has unlimited capacity to apply force with an unlimited ability to know (about the people it is targeting)—and that’s a very dangerous combination. That’s the dark future,” he said.

ARUNDHATI ROY: It’s true. And the thing about it is that it’s permanent. It doesn’t matter then whether it’s Trump or Obama or Modi or Rahul Gandhi or whoever. That data is there, to be used by people with all kinds of intentions, good and bad. But it is an absolute calamity.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, just the description of meeting with Ed Snowden in Moscow—how did you do it?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, we we were speaking to each other on an encrypted chat. And, in fact, when I was spending some time with John Cusack, and we spoke, and so we just decided to go. And it was all set up by the civil liberties folks here. And we went and met him. I mean, I—

AMY GOODMAN: With Dan Ellsberg.

ARUNDHATI ROY: With Dan. And it was—I think they were very pleased to meet each other—John and I were more like the wallpaper—because they had all this spy talk going on, you know? And it was really fascinating. In fact, there’s much more to our encounter than was published in this little book, Things That Can and Cannot Be Said. And I hope it’ll come out at some point, because—

AMY GOODMAN: And how did Ed talk about being in Moscow and wanting to come home to the United States, what that would mean?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, at that point—at that point, I think he was still hopeful that something would happen, and he would be able to come back. He’s a very level-headed person, you know, for his age. But I think—you know, I think he probably knows that he’s—you know, he’s a person surrounded by, you know, the oligarchs of Russia and the oligarchs of America and the—you know, he lives on a hope and a prayer, you know. And he’s a very brave, brave person and a very smart person, but in a very difficult place right now. I think he will be always in a very difficult place. But whatever he did is something which the world is just beginning to catch up with now, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: The title of the book is Things That Can and Cannot Be Said. Can you say something about what cannot be said?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, you know, at that point, when I met him, I wasn’t just going there as an acolyte, you know? I had some questions, which were to do with, I suppose, you know, people who live in that world of the internet. You know, there’s another world that I live in, which has smells and mud and earth and bullets and whatever. And I was sort of having a conversation about: How, after the history of what America has done, you know, starting with the bombing of Hiroshima, could you still have faith in it and join the CIA, given how you think now? So there’s a lot of talk about that, you know, whether the war in Iraq was genocidal or not. And I do believe it was genocidal, based on fake news, really, you know?

And so, I think maybe there were—it was wonderful to talk to him. I asked him what he meant by being wrapped up in that American flag, you know, which means—which means different things to different people. And how did the politics of what he was saying gel with doing something like that? And, you know, it was quite charming. He said, “Oh, you know, these photographers, they just brought it, and I just did it.” I was really like, I don’t know if I would just do it, you know, wrap myself in the Indian flag or something. So, there were things, and I think, at that point in time, when he was still trying to negotiate a return, there may have been things that he agreed with me about, which would have been detrimental to those negotiations.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Arundhati Roy, we want to thank you so much for being with us. Arundhati Roy, author of the novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. It’s just come out in paperback. She is winner of, among many honors, the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, The God of Small Things.

To see Part 1 of our discussion, go to And to see a more extended discussion of the book, you can go there, as well, when the hardcover first came out. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks so much for joining us.

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