NEW DLEHI (APS) – Following the longline of writers, scientists and filmmakers who are returning their awards to the government in wake of the ‘rising intolerance’ in India, acclaimed writer and political activist Arundhati Roy has also added herself in the movement by returning her 1989 National Award she got for Best Screenplay.
However, the writer adopted a different stance in her statement issued in The Indian Express describing the reason due to which she has opted to return the award.
“Although I do not believe that awards are a measure of the work we do, I would like to add the National Award for Best Screenplay that I won in 1989 to the growing pile of returned awards. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not returning this award because I am “shocked” by what is being called the “growing intolerance” being fostered by the present government.”
She went to explain the causes in a three point agenda; “First of all, “intolerance” is the wrong word to use for the lynching, shooting, burning and mass murder of fellow human beings. Second, we had plenty of advance notice of what lay in store for us — so I cannot claim to be shocked by what has happened after this government was enthusiastically voted into office with an overwhelming majority. Third, these horrific murders are only a symptom of a deeper malaise. Life is hell for the living too. Whole populations — millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians — are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come.”
Arundhati while referring to the Dadri incident where a Muslim man was beaten to death over rumours he had eaten beef said, “Today, we live in a country in which, when the thugs and apparatchiks of the New Order talk of “illegal slaughter”, they mean the imaginary cow that was killed — not the real man who was murdered. When they talk of taking “evidence for forensic examination” from the scene of the crime, they mean the food in the fridge, not the body of the lynched man. We say we have “progressed”, but when Dalits are butchered and their children burned alive, which writer today can freely say, like Babasaheb Ambedkar once did, that “to the untouchables, Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors”, without getting attacked, lynched, shot or jailed?”
Criticizing the absence of right to freedom of speech, the writer goes on saying, “If we do not have the right to speak freely, we will turn into a society that suffers from intellectual malnutrition, a nation of fools. Across the subcontinent it has become a race to the bottom — one that the New India has enthusiastically joined. Here too now, censorship has been outsourced to the mob.”
Expressing her contentment on returning the award and equally being ashamed of the ongoing scenario she said, “I am very pleased to have found (from somewhere way back in my past) a National Award that I can return, because it allows me to be a part of a political movement initiated by writers, filmmakers and academics in this country who have risen up against a kind of ideological viciousness and an assault on our collective IQ that will tear us apart and bury us very deep if we do not stand up to it now. 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. I am so proud to be part of it. And so ashamed of what is going on in this country today.”
She summed up her statement by asking her critics to spare her from the old Congress-versus-BJP debate by clarifying that she also turned down the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2005 when the Congress was in power.