Sunday, November 28, 2010

What is the need to speak for Arundhati Roy?

Medusa does not want to have to defend Arundhati Roy- and there are two reasons for it. One: she is perfectly capable of defending herself (just take a look at the impassioned note from Kashmir after the first rumours of sedition charges started- and ignore the overtly sappy nature of the thing); second: Medusa does not always agree with her.

In fact, more than disagreeing, as someone who is constantly trying to figure out the meaning of what is it to be an academic and an activist, an intellectual and a participant in mass movements, Medusa finds Roy's positions to be more often than not, disconcerting. She is like the Shahrukh Khan of people's movements: lending her star presence to movements while not being organically connected to any of them. She has been to Narmada, to Nandigram, and now, to Kashmir.

Given that, being an organic intellectual, is not the sine qua non for having an opinion, and expressing it. And if you are as beautiful, articulate, and famous as Roy is, it at times becomes a moral imperative to express it, because if you do it, it makes news. Prime time, English daily news.

And that is what makes it imperative on the Delhi High court to cry for charges of sedition. It gets quickly sidelined that they implicate Geelani- one who has been talking about Kashmir for ever, and one who gets the shoe thrown at him, as well. Roy makes the headline, and both her supporters and detractors cry themselves hoarse. As a fellow curly- haired person medusa is stunned at the comicality of it all- after all "sedition"? Is this the same Indian state whose fervent attempts to decolonize its past, nevertheless provides it with a blinkered vision where colonial laws are good while it keeps out the "deviants"?

The "Sesh Kotha" by Suman Mitra in the latest issue of Desh advises the readers that "It is best for Democracy to ignore them (the likes of Roy)". The page-long article compares Roy to Jane Fonda who was "rightly" ignored by Richard Nixon when she kept on protesting against the Vietnam war. By conflating Kashmir with Vietnam, and the Indian government with Nixon, the writer make his ideological underpinnings clear; but he leaves medusa wondering, why is it so easy for the champions of the nation-state, of textbook-ish understanding of democracy and the supposed anti-fundamentalists to be so righteous all the time? Who answers for the fundamentalism of self-righteousness: both in Roy and her detractors like the one just mentioned?


  1. Sharukh Khan! I like that!

  2. Anonymous10:51 AM

    Not being organic is not a criticism the majority of us (urban, upper class-caste, elite, university hopping academic/intellectual types) can make against anyone else, is it?

  3. "Given that, being an organic intellectual, is not the sine qua non for having an opinion, and expressing it".
    this means, not being organic is NOT a criticism.

  4. Much needed one for the showering of one-sidedly accentuated voices...