Almost Genocide

This post honours a great lady who is a comrade of all those who are poor, hungry, dispossessed, oppressed and who are exploited for the sake of money.

Speaking in the School of Oriental and African Studies on 5 June 2011, the legendary Indian writer Arundhati Roy put on yet another memorable performance in rebuking India’s sham democracy (to view the whole lecture please click here and scroll down). During her two-hour talk the acclaimed writer cited a plethora of atrocities which she directly attributed to the Indian state. Roy mercilessly pilloried India’s rulers on several fronts. She said that they were “almost” guilty of “genocide”. For her nationalism, Hindu fundamentalism and unmitigated capitalism unequivocally repudiated India’s claims to being a leading democracy – or even a democracy at all.

Although the public forum with Roy was about the Adivasis (India’s tribal or aboriginal people) of Chattisgarh, she did not hesitate in chiding the Indian state’s murderous behaviour in places such as Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Kashmir, Punjab, Nagaland, Orissa and Jharkand. (This list, of course, is non-exhaustive.)

Arundhati Roy also blamed the west for being complicit in corruption and dictatorship; she also argued that had it not been for the west’s endorsement of Indian state atrocity, which arose out of greed, the Indians would have been free long ago. For Roy, the utopian India Gandhi and Nehru envisioned long years ago has all but ceded sovereignty to despotism: the country is a paper tiger run by a coterie of greedy mercenaries and capitalists.

Today – the 6 of June – is the twenty-seventh anniversary of “Operation Blue Star”. The “operation” was a deplorable act of murder. It was conducted by the Indian military against “terrorists”. However, the attack on the Harmindar Sahib (or the Golden Temple) in Amritsar has not been forgotten by the Sikh community.

In the UK the blitz on the Golden Temple is annually commemorated in London’s Hyde Park where members of the Sikh faith congregate to mourn the murder of their coreligionists and the ransacking of Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

Following the Indian military’s operation on 6 June 1984, a few months later on 31 October, the Indian Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi (as she then was) was gunned down by her Sikh bodyguards. Twenty bullets fired from officially issued service weapons riddled Mrs Gandhi’s body.

On her way to be interviewed by Peter Ustinov prior to being shot, Mrs Gandhi died shortly after being gunned down by her guards.

Subsequently, endorsing the dirty politics of Mrs Gandhi and her venal son Sanjay and his cronies, the Indian state staged what has perversely come to be described by the Indians as the “anti-Sikh riots”. In fact Sikhs with no connection whatsoever to Sant Jarnial Singh Bindrawale were burned alive and massacred in the streets of Delhi (and in other locations) as a reparative act of revenge.

The casualties were close to 15,000 dead but the Indian state, which orchestrated murder and legitimised violence, mendaciously reported 2,700 deaths (read murder one).

The perpetrators of this genocidal act were all in the Congress Party which manipulated the criminal justice system, in “the world’s largest democracy”, to legitimise violence and endorse murder. Abhorrently, the perpetrators served nominal sentences under the Indian criminal law whereas they should have received the death penalty. (This would have been the commensurate punishment for mass murder under the Indian Penal Code). Like Ratko Mladić these people should be extradited and tried at the Hague for their war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Sadly, the Sikh example, is only one of the Indian state’s genocidal tendencies.

Arundhati Roy, who is perceived by the Indian state as a seditionist, had many a “seditious” thing to say about the treatment of minorities within India’s Hindu dominated society. For her and her friends the Indian state is completely corrupt and the judiciary is no different from the executive and the legislative branches of government.

Equally, Roy described Indian democracy as comprehensively impotent because the state failed to do anything about the corruption of its political and economic elite. She explained that India’s constitutional framework was inadequate as all the country’s “independent” constitution ever did was transfer ownership of Adivasi land from the British Crown to the Indian Republic which, in a calculated move, has thus far failed to apply the safeguards set out in articles 12-30 to everyone and which insists on using “special provisions” to govern an overwhelming number of states which do not want a union with New Delhi. (But are nevertheless forced to be united with “mother” India.)

Moreover, Roy also clarified that India was a democracy of the few for the few and that it was only democratic for the rich elite, the army and for their acolytes. This clarification laid to rest the myth that India was at least a democracy in the Gramscian sense, i.e. a dictatorship of the many over the few. In Roy’s opinion India was a democracy of the haves. Thus, the country was clearly possessed by a dictatorial political elite, one which was founded on the nexus between the army, the intelligence services, crony capitalists and a corrupt business class – all of whom were keen on using violence and discrimination to maintain the state’s frittering hegemony.

All this, of course, meant that hundreds of millions of Indians suffered, and despite being selectively interpreted by Europe and America as a “democracy”, the country’s human rights record remained very appalling. And there is a lot of substance in what Roy said. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s human rights report (see below) does not mention the plight of India’s Adivasis at all. Instead the FCO’s report just picks on Central Asian, Communist, South American and Muslim countries.

Arundhati Roy categorised Gandhian “non-violence” as an outdated political tool as it required an audience and the poor of India did not have an audience to perform to. The fact that Indian democracy had failed its people meant that non-violence was no longer a viable tactic for self-rule or swaraj. She said that Indians needed to draw more inspiration from Dr Ambedkar’s ideas and politics.

She also explained that people who were starving to death could not go on hunger strikes to take political stands. Likewise those without money would not be able to boycott the free market as they did not transact in it (rather the market traded in them). For Roy, the days when one could do politics by becoming one of the poor as Gandhi had envisaged were a thing of the past.

Arundhati Roy said that India’s military were terrorists and that they murdered and occupied people’s lands. Moreover, she also lambasted the civilian government for operating perverse land laws to maintain the corrupt status quo. Interestingly, she also urged the military to stop destroying tribal people’s lives by firing rounds of gunfire into their brass pots which they used to collect water to drink and live.

When a RAW agent began to question her credibility by saying that she undermined the “unity of India” and that she would not be able to express herself so freely in China, she let him carry on for a few minutes and when he had utterly disgraced himself, Arundhati Roy very politely informed him that his monologue was contrary to India’s political, economic and social realities – which demanded inclusion of the masses in the country’s polity. She also urged India’s political masters not to preach morality as their own morals fell way short of the ideals pursuant to which the country had gained Independence.

Therefore, Arundhati Roy urged oppressed and dispossessed Indians to rise up against the state “using any means necessary”. “Any other tactic simply will not do”, she said. She also explained that she could easily afford to live in Mayfair but that she chose not to as she loved India’s music, languages and cultures. Most of all Arundhati Roy loved India’s people and it was because of this reason that she felt that she could make a difference and alleviate their suffering through her activism which could only be achieved by living with them in India.

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