Tags: AS | India | Intolerance

India Writer Arundhati Roy Joins Protest against Intolerance

Thursday, 05 November 2015 06:15 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy has joined the growing number of writers, filmmakers, scientists and historians voicing alarm over what they describe as a climate of religious intolerance and violence in India.

Roy, most famous for her 1997 novel "The God of Small Things," said in a sharply worded editorial published Thursday in The Indian Express newspaper that millions of minority people including Muslims, Christians and members of low-caste or tribal communities "are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come."

Already dozens of writers have returned awards to the country's top literary institution, the Sahitya Academi, over disappointment that it has not condemned the recent killings of atheist activists who campaigned against religious superstition or Muslims rumored to have slaughtered cows or eaten cow meat.

Among India's majority Hindu population, cows are considered to be sacred.

Roy said she was "so ashamed of what is going on in this country" and was pleased to return her 1989 national screenplay award and "to be a part of the political movement."

"I believe what artists and intellectuals are doing right now is unprecedented, and does not have a historical parallel. It is politics by other means," said Roy, who in recent years has become a fervent civil rights activist.

Many of those protesting have also criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party for not speaking out against religious attacks, saying their silence has encouraged Hindu hard-liners to justify the attacks and assert Hindu superiority.

Communal violence and prejudice are nothing new for India, born as a secular democracy in 1947 amid deadly Hindu-Muslim riots that killed an estimated 1 million people as Muslim-majority Pakistan was carved out of mostly Hindu India with the end of British rule. Since then, horrific riots and clashes have erupted at intervals, mostly between Hindus and Muslims.

Yet, India has largely been seen as overwhelmingly tolerant, with a cacophony of cultures that have lived side by side for centuries.

Some voiced concern with Modi's meteoric rise and landslide election victory last year, warning that his support was grounded in the party's Hindu base and noting that he had come up through the militant Hindu fundamentalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which translates as the National Volunteers Association.

Modi, having dodged allegations of responsibility for deadly 2002 riots in Gujarat, insisted during his election campaign that he would be prime minister for all of India and guaranteed protection for minorities. He has said little on the subject since taking office.

Modi's government has dismissed the growing protest as a political ploy to tear down the governing party. On Thursday, a separate group of writers, academics and artists came out in support of that stance and accused their protesting colleagues of political vengeance.

"India has witnessed a curious spectacle these last few weeks. A section of the nation's intelligentsia has expressed outrage at a perceived mounting intolerance in society," said a statement signed by 36 pro-Modi writers, including the president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. "The target is clear and explicitly stated, none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who much to their dismay led his party to a clear majority in Parliament. Failure in the elections is now sought to be avenged by other means."

Follow Katy Daigle on Twitter at twitter.com/katydaigle

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Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy has joined the growing number of writers, filmmakers, scientists and historians voicing alarm over what they describe as a climate of religious intolerance and violence in India.Roy, most famous for her 1997 novel "The God of...
Thursday, 05 November 2015 06:15 AM
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