Human rights groups are condemning the Indian government for carrying out widespread torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and other crimes in Kashmir after the region’s special status was revoked in August. We speak to the acclaimed Indian author Arundhati Roy about the crackdown in Kashmir, rising authoritarianism in India and other issues.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The historic Indian city of Ayodhya is in lockdown after India’s Supreme Court ruled that Hindus could build a temple on a site considered holy to both Muslims and Hindus. In 1992, more than 2,000 people died after right-wing Hindus destroyed a 16th century mosque at the site. The Supreme Court ruling is seen as a victory for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hard-line Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, which has long pushed for building a temple on the contested site. Modi hailed the court’s decision.
PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: [translated] There should not be any place for fear, bitterness and negativity in new India. During the hearing on this case, the Supreme Court heard all sides with a lot of patience, and it is a matter of happiness for the entire nation that the decision came with the consent of all.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile, India’s crackdown on Kashmir continues. Over the summer, massive protests erupted after Modi revoked the special status of the Indian-controlled part of the Muslim-majority region. Human rights groups say Modi’s government then carried out widespread torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and other crimes in Kashmir. On August 5th, a complete communication blackout was imposed on Kashmir. The internet is still cut off, and only some phone lines have since been restored.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk about these and other issues, we’re joined by the award-winning writer Arundhati Roy. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, The God of Small Things. Her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, was longlisted for the prize in 2017. In 2002, she received the Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize. Her most recent book is a collection of her nonfiction essays, titled My Seditious Heart.
Welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s always a pleasure to have you with us.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you for spending this time with us before you give this major address in New York, the Jonathan Schell Memorial Lecture. Let’s start with Kashmir. Especially for people outside of the region who don’t follow what’s happening, lay out for us why this is an issue that is so close to your heart, why it is so critically important right now.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I don’t — I mean, my heart doesn’t have much to do with it. But, so, today is the hundredth day of the sort of information and internet shutdown in Kashmir. It’s been under curfew for most of these hundred days. Now the curfew has been lifted. Schools have been reopened. Markets have been declared open. But Kashmiris are refusing to accept a sort of normalcy, you know, because what happened on the 5th of August was the striking down of what was known as Section 370, which really incorporated in the Indian Constitution the special conditions on which the sovereign kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India. And so, by striking that down, they struck down — they demoted Kashmir from being a state to being what’s known as a union territory. They trifurcated it. But most important that they dissolved a law called 35A, which made Kashmiris the stewards of their own land. So now, you know, Kashmir can be overrun by Indians. That’s the way they see it. I mean, India, you know, earlier, used to say Kashmir is an integral part of India. But now they say now it’s really an integral part of India, you know? So —
AMY GOODMAN: Why is it so important to Modi?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, it’s been important. You know, the thing is that Modi — more than the BJP, Modi belongs to the RSS, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is a sort of the mothership of the — the cultural mothership of which the BJP is a political arm. And the striking down of this section has always been on the agenda of the RSS, you know? So, it was — one by one, these things are being done, which are things that they have sworn to do. There’s nothing impulsive or sudden about it. It’s just unconstitutional and probably illegal, but it’s not impulsive.
AMY GOODMAN: To express Hindu supremacy?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yes, yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, earlier this year, you wrote an opinion piece on Kashmir for The New York Times headlined “The Silence Is the Loudest Sound.” In the piece, you wrote, quote, “While Partition and the horrifying violence that it caused is a deep, unhealed wound in the memory of the subcontinent, the violence of those times, as well as in the years since, in India and Pakistan, has as much to do with assimilation as it does with partition. … What’s unfolding today on both sides of the border of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is the unfinished business of assimilation.” You wrote that in The New York Times in August. Can you talk about what you meant by that?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, what I meant was that, you know, we tend to forget that at the time of Partition there were more than 500 independent sovereign territories, kingdoms, princely states, regions. And when the British left, since then, in fact, since 1947, there has been a continuous process, a military process, to assimilate these areas. I mean, Jammu and Kashmir was one of them, but across the northeast — you know, Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, all these place. And all of them have very specific and unique terms and conditions on which they acceded to the union. So, that’s what I meant, you know, by the the violence of assimilation, in that, I mean, whether it was the princely state of Junagadh or Hyderabad or what happened in Nagaland, hundreds, maybe tens of thousands — they don’t do body counts, but thousands of people have been killed. I mean, just in Hyderabad alone, it was 40,000, a new report says, you know? In Nagaland, it’s been more than that. In Kashmir, it’s 70,000 people that have died in this conflict. So, the numbers are huge and hidden by the sort of noise and music and sounds of democracy. But, so, these battles, like in Kashmir, the struggle has been — for freedom has been militant since 1990. And today it’s the densest military occupation in the world, made more dense in August, on the 5th of August, by another 50,000 troops that were flown in to deal with the possible fallout of what would happen after this abrogation.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what does this blackout mean? And how many people have been arrested? Have you heard about torture? And what has been Pakistan’s response?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, thousands of people have been arrested. The remarkable thing was that the leaders across the spectrum have been arrested, including three chief ministers, all pro-India politicians, carrying India’s water right from 1947.
So, what has happened is now there is no voice that’s coming out of Kashmir. That’s why I said the silence is the loudest sound. Everyone, whether it’s the major politicians, whether it’s boys who throw stones on the street, whether it’s businessmen, lawyers — everyone is in jail, even now. You know, then they cut off phones. They cut off the internet. I mean, can you imagine? When has it been done before, 7 million people, communication lockdown? People don’t know whether their children have died, whether they’re alive. At night, police and soldiers are going into people’s houses, arresting them. You know, so the — we actually don’t even know the level of horror that has happened. And now the fact is that some lines — some phone lines have been restored, but still the internet has not been restored, in a country where, until now, they were boasting about Digital India. Everything works on the internet, you know, whether you’re — I mean, whether it’s hospitals or medicine supplies or — you know, the Kashmiri media is completely censored. So, it’s a bit like those those pamphlets that the Americans used to drop in Vietnam during the war saying how great this war is for you. The newspapers in Kashmir have these big front-page advertisements about how great this annexation is for Kashmir and how wonderful a time they are having now, you know? So —
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I’d like to go to another state in India that’s under siege, and that’s the northeastern state of Assam, where nearly 2 million people are at risk of being rendered stateless after the government published its National Register of Citizens earlier this year. The highly contested register was first created in 1951 and lists people who are able to prove they came to the state by March 24th, 1971 — a day before neighboring Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, declared independence from Pakistan. The Indian government says the list helps identify Bangladeshi migrants who are not legal residents. Critics say it’s an attempt to deport millions of Muslims. Residents suspected of being foreigners can be rounded up and sent to prison camps. As many as 10 mass detention centers are now being built in the area to incarcerate these so-called stateless people. So, Arundhati, you were recently in Assam. Can you talk about what the situation there is now, and these detention centers that are being built?
ARUNDHATI ROY: See, the situation in Assam is really complicated, you know, because, like you said, Assam is a state that borders Bangladesh. Earlier, it was part of what was then known as East Bengal, which then became East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh. And it has a history of migration which goes back to like 1826 or earlier. When the British basically took over Assam, they more or less invited the kind of robust peasants of East Bengal to come in to this state, which they thought was, like the British thought in Australia, you know, terra nullius. They did not pay attention to the fact that it was actually populated by very many tribes. There’s something like 200 different tribes, languages, communities. There’s a history to the National Citizens Register in Assam which can’t be simplified, you know? It wasn’t what people in the Indian mainland like to think of as, “Oh, some Hindu-Muslim problem.” It was not. It was more, actually, a resentment of the Assamese, or people who thought they were Assamese, against Bengalis. And then there was a linguistic problem there of the British declaring Bengali to be the language.
But the situation now is, of course, that the current bigotry is kind of grafting itself onto a genuine problem of millions of — you know, millions of refugees coming in from Bangladesh. And now they’ve been settled — people have been settled there, as I said, for more than 150 years, and suddenly they’re saying, “Produce your legacy papers” — not suddenly, I mean, this has been going on since the '50s. The real danger is: What are they planning to do? I mean, even these 2 million people, they say that they have to appear before tribunals. I visited some of these islands, which are called the Char islands. The poverty, the illiteracy — there's no health, education, no school. And suddenly you’re like casting these people into this labyrinth of bureaucracy and lawyers and terror by other means, you know?
AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean if you lose your citizenship?
ARUNDHATI ROY: I mean, like Hannah Arendt said, you know, what is citizenship? It’s the right to have rights, you know? You lose that, you lose everything. But, you know, so, the conflict in Assam has been happening for a long time. For example, in 1983, there was the Nellie massacre, where, you know, officially, it was, I think, 2,000 people. Unofficially, up to 10,000 Muslims were killed. Now, again, you can’t just place it directly in the same sort of debate that goes on in the mainland.
But today the real danger is that the home minister, Amit Shah, the day he took office, he declared that they were going to first — first, they said, they were going to allow the NRC all over India. He allowed district magistrates and state governments to set up these foreigners’ tribunals and detention centers all over India. And now the danger that they feel with the NRC in Assam, the National Register of Citizens, is that of those 2 million people, actually, not all 2 million are Muslims. More than half are supposed to Hindus or people who have not managed to prove this uninterrupted legacy since 1971. So, the BJP, in order to get over that problem, is planning in the next session of Parliament to pass a citizenship amendment bill, in which it then amends this whole process to explicitly say that those who are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, refugees, persecuted refugees from other countries, from the countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, will eventually be given citizenship — so, leaving out Muslims — and then using the bogey of the Bangladeshi or the Muslim refugee or infiltrator, who the home minister calls “termites,” to actually ask the entire population of India to produce legacy documents. What does that mean? You know? The only thing — the last time that was done is in 1935 in Germany, you know, when the Reich said that only the papers that we give you will decide whether you’re a citizen or not. So it’s a very, very dangerous situation.
AMY GOODMAN: And then you have this latest development of India’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hindus in a decades-long dispute — how did The New York Times describe it? — over a holy site contested by Muslims, handing the prime minister and his followers a major victory in their quest to remake the country as Hindu and shift it further from its secular foundation. Explain the significance of this holy site.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I mean, it’s a pretty unholy dispute, I’ll have to say, you know? So, the Babri Masjid was built in the 16th century. And in 1949, after independence, the Hindus claimed that the actual physical idol of Ram Lalla, the young god Ram, was founded. They’ve always said that this was the birthplace of Lord Ram. And then, in the late '80s and early ’90s, as the BJP was rising, it led a huge campaign saying that we want a Ram temple to be built there. And in ’92, a mob, led by the BJP and an organization called the Vishva Hindu Parishad, basically hammered that mosque into dust. And since then — and after that, around 2,000 people were killed in riots, mostly Muslim. And since then, it has been the cauldron that is brought to the fore every time the BJP has campaigned for an election: “We need to build this temple,” and so on. So, now, in a way, the resolution is because these other issues have come which are going to be permanently on the boil — you know, Kashmir and the National Register of Citizens. And so it's time for them to establish this one great victory.
And the Supreme Court judgment, I mean, I haven’t read it, because it came out yesterday, but it was a thousand pages long. And I’ve only read, you know, excerpts from it. But it seems to be — its logic seems to be a little untenable, because, on the one hand, it says that there’s no evidence that there was a Hindu temple underneath this mosque. It says that there was sort of an illegal desecration of the mosque on two occasions: one when this little idol was put in, and the other when it was demolished by a mob. But then it says that Muslims have been unable to prove that they worshiped at this mosque uninterruptedly for all these years. I don’t know what else they were doing in the mosque, if not worshiping. And even though there wasn’t a temple, and even though there’s no proof, the Hindus have been able to prove that they have had uninterrupted possession of it, and so the land was handed over to a trust, which is going to build this temple. So, it seemed a little twisted to me, the whole thing.
But I think, you know, the more interesting thing is that in the days in the run-up to this, there was, you know, Section 144, which prohibits public assembly. Police were out. Riot police were out. The social media was being watched. The prime minister came out and said, “We want peace,” because it’s, in a way, a very — it’s the peace of victory. You know, the victors want peace now. But it shows you how, when they want to control a situation, they can, and when they want to allow the riots, the lynchings, they suddenly appear helpless, you know?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, earlier this year, during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S., President Trump appeared alongside Modi at a Houston, Texas, rally billed as “Howdy Modi.” About 50,000 Indian Americans attended the event, chanting “Modi! Modi!” as he appeared on stage to introduce Trump, calling him, quote, “my friend, a friend of India, a great American president.” The Howdy Modi event was the largest event of its kind with a visiting leader in the U.S. Just days before the rally, a pair of Kashmiri citizens filed a lawsuit in the U.S. against Modi for carrying out extrajudicial killings and other crimes in occupied Kashmir. Trump also praised Modi in his remarks at the event.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: In November, the United States and India will demonstrate a dramatic progress of our defense relationship, holding the first-ever tri-service military exercise between our nations. It’s called Tiger Triumph. Good name. It’s a good name. … Both India, the United States also understand that to keep our communities safe, we must protect our borders.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, that’s Trump speaking at the Howdy Modi event earlier this year. So, can you talk about the relationship between Trump and Modi, and also these series of events in India, which all seem to be kind of successes for the Modi government? We just talked about Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens, and now this Ayodhya judgment.
ARUNDHATI ROY: See, these are — like I said, you know, they are all very linked, and they’re all part of the RSS agenda. So, actually, you know, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or Aryan supremacists, all of them must look at India’s RSS with great envy, because they do — none of them can match that kind of history and organization right now. They have something like 600,000 volunteers, you know, trained paramilitary. Modi, of course, is a member of that organization. They have some 57,000 branches across the country. They run schools where millions of students study. It’s all very — so, as you can see, Trump is almost ingratiating, in his own country, you know, being gifted this massive audience. I mean, I should tell you that while we were —
AMY GOODMAN: Being gifted this massive audience of people of color.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Of people of color. And he, of course, Trump, within two days of this, was being — you know, the whole impeachment news had come in.
But, you know, what is happening in India and all these victories that are accruing one by one, also you’re forgetting that demonetization, which was Modi’s first announcement — I think today is the three-year — third-year anniversary of it, when Modi came on TV and announced that 80% of India’s currency was no longer legal tender. Today economists say that it was the equivalent of shooting the tires off a racing car. The Indian economy is tanking, you know? Economists say that it’s actually in recession, that the figures are not correct.
And if you come to India, you’ll see how terrifying the situation is, because you can’t say whether this massive loss of jobs is a 45-year low of — high, of unemployment, whether all these jobless people are now just getting the cocaine high of building a Ram temple and, you know, making fascist videos, or whether that is going to go against Modi. I can’t say yet, you know? But these victories are going to be Pyrrhic victories. I just don’t know how long it will take for them to go down. I don’t know how many of us will pay the price for it. And I don’t know how India can survive this, because India is a country — is not a country. It’s a continent. It’s a continent with 780 languages and more religions than all of Europe. You know, this kind of thing can only be temporary. And then there can be something very awful that happens, unless people understand what’s being done to them. But they’re living in a kind of hothouse of propaganda and event management and a kind of costume ball that passes for government.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you talk about how people can survive it. What about you, as a very outspoken writer, critic of Modi? How vulnerable do you feel?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, you know, I think all of us who — you know, when they won the election this time, in April, the first thing that — in his election speech that evening, after the vote was counted, you just wondered, “Why aren’t you happy?” You know, the speech was again full of anger. And he had destroyed the opposition. He had destroyed all the old parties that represented the disadvantaged castes, the Dalit caste. All of that had collapsed. But he went after the intellectuals, the writers, the — you know, this kind of gang, he called us, of people who he simply can’t seem to control. But now, one by one, I look around, and there are empty chairs. You know, people are in jail. People are being killed. It’s really terrifying.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you’ve come to this country. In fact, you were a little late to our studio because you had to make your way around a Trump rally. It’s rare in the middle of New York City, I’ll say. Early this morning, scores of massive garbage trucks were lining up, I guess, to line the route. And we’re doing this interview on Veterans Day, and many servicepeople were brought in, because I don’t think there would be many others who would come to a Trump rally, and he spoke behind glass or plastic, whatever that material was, in the middle of New York City. But can you talk about Trump in the United States, how you view what’s happening here now and how you view the elections that are taking place and the candidates who are challenging him, from Joe Biden to Bernie Sanders to Elizabeth Warren?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I mean, often when people have asked about Trump, you know, I’ve said this, that Trump seems to be — seems to me to be the kind of effluent of a system that is collapsing, whereas Modi is the system. You know? He has the backing of the media. He has the backing of the Army, the courts, a majoritarian popular vote. Here, I see the fight is on, you know, which I hope to God is going to be won by this fightback against Trump, you know? And I — personally, to me, when I listen to Bernie Sanders speaking, I think it’s great that these things are being said finally on a mainstream platform in the U.S., you know? Earlier, it would have been just inconceivable that someone is coming out and saying the things that he’s saying about healthcare and about, you know, minimum wages and all of that. So, I’ll just say that here the fight is on, and for us in India, it would matter that someone like Trump loses, although I’ll say this, too, that we’ve seen that quite often Democratic governments are more aggressive internationally, you know? So, I hope that doesn’t happen. I doubt it will happen if someone like Bernie Sanders wins, you know?
But there’s been — I mean, the devastation of the world after 9/11 is just — I mean, Modi, let’s just — let me just say this. Everyone forgets, and there’s a sort of sponsored amnesia over this, that how did Modi enter Indian politics. Weeks after 9/11, when Islamophobia became a world — you know, sanctioned across the world, weeks after that, the BJP removed the sitting chief minister of Gujarat and installed Modi, who was at that time not even an elected member of the Legislative Assembly. And within months of that, you had this fire of the railway coach in which 59 Hindu pilgrims were burnt. Nobody knows yet what that fire was caused by. And then you had the famous 2002 pogrom, in which 2,500 people were massacred, slaughtered, raped, burnt alive. And within a very short time —
AMY GOODMAN: Muslims.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah. And within a very short time, Modi announced elections and won. And even in 2014, when Reuters asked him, during his — during his campaign, where he was going to be the prime-ministerial candidate for the BJP, the Reuters asked him if he regretted what had happened under his watch in Gujarat. And he basically said, “I wouldn’t regret it even if a dog came under the wheels of my car.”
AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, he was banned from the United States. He was not allowed to enter because of what happened there.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, you know, what happens in the U.S., you know, sometimes you don’t even realize the ripples that it causes and the waves of death and destruction that are created by the actions of this country, you know? And Trump — I mean, it’s awful to to see what’s happening here, and it’s embarrassing to see what’s happening here. But I just don’t — I just don’t think that every single institution has collapsed in the way it has over there. Every single institution has fallen in line. The media and the Supreme Court could have stood in the way of what is happening in India. It hasn’t, you know? So, we are in very, very serious trouble there.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, why do you say, though, Arundhati — why would it make such a big difference to India if Trump is elected or Trump is not?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Why would it make a difference? Because, you see, this kind of ideology, you know, the Ku Klux Klanism of Trump, the white supremacy that is growing all over Europe, and the ideology of the RSS, VHP, they all interlock, you know? And many of the far-right individuals have personal connections with each other, you know? So, that’s why I say that it would — and the point is, I don’t know. You know, like, I don’t know what more I can say or do, because I really don’t — I really don’t think that anybody can help India except the people. And one is beginning to be scared of the people, you know, of the things that are being said in the open, of the lynching, the crowds gathering, making videos while people are being beaten to death, you know? Since 2015, I think it’s like 120 people have been lynched.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you careful when you walk?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah, I mean, I think that whatever will happen will happen. I can’t do anything about it, you know? Like, I can’t go around being fearful. I know that there are a lot of great things. You know, the sad — the real tragedy for me is that everything that was beautiful about India, whether it was the music, whether it is the craft, whether it’s the poetry, whether it’s the literature, whether it’s the language — everything that’s beautiful about that place comes from that infinite complexity, the compositeness of it. And everything that’s beautiful is being turned into acid, you know? Everything that’s beautiful is being turned inside out. And, I mean, just as a writer or a artist or a person who loves poetry or language, you know, it’s just unthinkable what is being done. How can you tell a country that has 780 languages and Sikhism and Buddhism and Christianity and various indigenous gods and goddesses and all of that, that you want one language, one constitution, one religion, one nation. It’s suicidal.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, speaking of a different kind of acid, I wanted to ask you about the pollution in India, about climate change. You come to the United States just a week after President Trump announced the final plans to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, the only country in the world to withdraw. You come from New Delhi. Government authorities have warned that New Delhi has turned into a gas chamber, with toxic smog blanketing one of the world’s most populated cities. Officials have declared a public health emergency and distributed over 5 million masks to residents, who are worried about the physical and psychological impact of the pollution.
NEW DELHI RESIDENT: [translated] Apart from breathing issues, pollution is also pressurizing us psychologically. That’s what’s happening now. It’s not winter, so it’s definitely not fog. We’re walking around with masks.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Arundhati Roy, you live in New Delhi. Everything from Trump being a climate denier to where does Modi stand and what do you think needs to happen?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, you know, sometimes some of us feel like the pollution in Delhi is somehow representative of the politics, too, you know? It’s just so filthy. I drove from Delhi to a town in Punjab called Jalandhar last week. It was like seven hours. It was like dystopia, you know, just burning, smoke. You couldn’t tell whether it was night or day. See, Modi, again, he stands up and says things which people want to hear about the climate, but at home he’ll appear and talk to children and say things like, “Oh, the world is not warming. It’s just that we are feeling warmer,” you know, like — or stupid stuff like that. And, in fact, when we’re talking about Assam and we’re talking about Kashmir, in some ways it does have to do with climate change, because there is a prediction that India’s greatest crisis in the very near future is going to be a water crisis. And, of course, as you know, I mean, I have spent a lot of time writing about water and dams and development and crop patterns and all of that.
AMY GOODMAN: The battle against the Narmada dam and others.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah. He gave himself the full-to-the-brim reservoir of the Narmada dam on his 69th birthday, five days before he came to America for the Trump —
AMY GOODMAN: What did he give himself?
ARUNDHATI ROY: He filled the reservoir of the Narmada dam, you know, a reservoir that’s, I guess, larger than the size of Rome or something. And so the people who had been fighting the dam just watched their homes go under. This was his birthday present to himself. But, you know, the thing is that even like I’m saying about Kashmir and Assam, underneath all this, there is also calculations about climate. For example, there are five rivers that run through Kashmir. And to commandeer that water to have proper access to it is very, very important.
And the other thing is, what is this business of declaring people stateless or asking people to present their legacy documents? You’re not going to be able to really expel millions of people. I mean, Bangladesh is not going to take them. So, the idea is to create a kind of tiered citizenship in which some people have rights and some people don’t, like a new caste system that exists alongside the old one, but now with legal provisions in which Muslims are the new Dalits, you know? So, as we —
AMY GOODMAN: Dalits being the formerly untouchable people.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah. And so, you have a situation where resources are shrinking, water is disappearing, and the economy is shrinking, too. So, there are very terrifying coats underlying this. It’s like you’re reaching back into some odious past to come up with a modern management system for a modern crisis.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, before we conclude, Arundhati, I’m sure you’re aware that your Booker Prize-winning book, God of Small Things, was listed by the BBC as one of the hundred novels that shaped the world. Are you working on another book of fiction?
ARUNDHATI ROY: No, not right now. You know, I’m very disturbed, you know, by everything that’s going on, so I’m hoping that after a few months I’ll retreat somewhere. But it’s very — I don’t know. It’s very hard to communicate the the scale and the shape of this shadow that is taking India over. You know, like, I know that what happened in Germany happened because people thought those who were raising the early warnings were too emotional, and Anglo-Saxon macho world doesn’t like emotion, you know? But the truth is that it’s a very, very serious problem that we have, and it comes at us from every direction now. And so, yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know how to communicate this. And I don’t know how — what anyone can do about it, except us, you know, but still — I’m a writer. I just have to write it.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, clearly, your book — your books have had tremendous effect on the world. But for it to be named one of the hundred books that have shaped our world, your thoughts?
ARUNDHATI ROY: They should have said the hundred English books. I mean, you know, there are so many languages. I don’t know. It’s flattering, but, you know, I always find these lists subjective. And it’s fine, it’s sweet, but you know.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you so much for spending this time with us, Arundhati Roy, award-winning writer, won the Booker Prize for her first novel, The God of Small Things. Her second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. In 2002, she received the Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Prize. Her most recent book is a thousand-page collection of her nonfiction essays. It’s titled My Seditious Heart. On Tuesday, November 12th at 7 p.m., she’ll be speaking at Cooper Union in New York City, giving the Jonathan Schell lecture, and then she will sit down with a conversation with Naomi Klein. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Thanks so much for joining us.