Salute to Arundhati Roy !
Earlier this year Arundhati Roy, a prolific writer and a political activist, famous for The God of Small Things has been awarded the Sahitya Akademi award by the Indian government. But Ms. Roy refused the prestigious award because of her very public disagreements with policies (both domestic and international) espoused by the Indian government. This is her letter of refusal to the Chairman of the Akademi:
"I thank the jury of the Sahitya Akademi for giving me this year's Sahitya Akademi Award for my book `The Algebra of Infinite Justice.' I am proud that the jury felt that a collection of political essays deserved to be given India's most prestigious literary prize.
These essays, written between 1998 and 2001, are deeply critical of some of the major policies of the Indian State — on big dams, nuclear weapons, increasing militarisation and on economic neo-liberalism. However, even today this incumbent government shows a continuing commitment to these policies and is clearly prepared to implement them ruthlessly and violently, whatever the cost.
In the last few months, apart from the growing numbers of farmers' suicides [now running into tens of thousands] and the forcible eviction of people from their lands and livelihoods [in the hundreds of thousands], we have witnessed the police brutalisation of industrial workers in Gurgaon, the killing of a dozen people protesting against a dam in Manipur, and the killing of another dozen people protesting their displacement by a steel plant in Orissa. Even as we call ourselves a democracy, Indian security forces control and administer Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland — and the numbers of the dead and disappeared continue to mount.
The `Algebra of Infinite Justice' is also critical of U. S. foreign policy, particularly in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. This present Indian government too has seen it fit to declare itself an ally of the U. S. Government, thereby condoning the American invasion of Afghanistan and its illegal occupation of Iraq, which, under the Nuremburg principles, constitutes the supreme crime of a war of aggression.
I have a great deal of respect for the Sahitya Akademi, for the members of this year's Jury and for many of the writers who have received these awards in the past. But to register my protest and re-affirm my disagreement — indeed my absolute disgust — with these policies of the Indian Government, I must refuse to accept the 2005 Sahitya Akademi Award."
Arundhati Roy , as far as I am aware of, remains the only public voice against the unfair international and domestic policies of Indian government - something other Indians, I wish, should start to follow. Her refusal to accept the award only shows her strong moral character in a rather immoral and messy world. Salute to Arundhati Roy for rasing her voice and speaking out against the crimes of the Indian government !