[In India, 2014 has brought many issues to the fore, not least of which is the rise of Narendra Modi as national leader, after securing his notoriety as the protector and defender of the anti-Moslem Gujarat Massacre over a decade ago. Modi’s rise, welcomed by Western imperialism and multi-national corporations, has brought further national centralization of the state’s brutal repression against oppressed peoples, tribals, dalits, democratic and revolutionary activists. And the 2014 Modi-India persona further disguises the official national culture — Hindutva excluvist, caste-ist, and xenophobic — by hypocritically and pretentiously claiming a humanitarian, peaceful, and moral charm or charisma by further invoking a mythologized Gandhi as the Father of Indian National Identity. In challenging this mythology, Arundhati Roy has provided an important counter-narrative, and has come under vitriolic attack from The Powers That Be. See the following video interview by Laura Flanders, and the magazine interview by Leena Chandran, for details on the struggle for clarity and truth about Mahatma Gandhi. — Frontlines ed.]
On The Laura Flanders Show: Author/activist Arundhati Roy on the Annihilation of Caste, B.R. Ambedkar and the Western myth of Mahatma Gandhi
Hidden in plain sight
by Leena Chandran, Manorama Online
In July, Arundhati Roy provoked outrage from many quarters by stating that the generally accepted image of Mahatma Gandhi was a lie. Speaking at the University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, she also called for institutions bearing his name to be renamed. The Booker prize winning author’s comments rekindled a long-running historical argument over Gandhi’s views on caste and catapulted hot debate in Kerala media. In this exclusive interview Arundhati Roy tells Leena Chandran why she will not be changing her views on Gandhi.
The Gandhi controversy is a belated one, I feel. It should have taken place earlier this year had people closely read ‘The Doctor and the Saint’ soon after its publication. In fact, what you said in the Ayyankali memorial lecture at Department of History, Kerala University, Thiruvananthapuram is not as inflammable as the ideas you share in’The Doctor and the Saint’…
I wouldn’t go so far as to call ‘The Doctor and the Saint’ inflammable, though of course it has generated a fair amount of controversy from many quarters, even some unexpected ones. That’s to be expected, because it’s vexed territory. Yes it does question conventional ways of thinking, mostly by quoting from the lesser known writings of Gandhi. It was written as an introduction to Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste. Ambedkar’s views challenge the established order in profound and radical ways. The controversy around Gandhi’s views on race and caste started long before I wrote The Doctor and the Saint. You could say that it started with the Ambedkar-Gandhi debate. It has been debated for years in the world of Dalit politics—but that has been carefully and successfully kept out of the establishment discourse. The mayhem in the Kerala media post my Ayyankali Memorial Lecture is just noisy posturing by some people who couldn’t be bothered to read Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, or The Doctor and the Saint, or anything much else. Not even the works of Gandhi who they are so keen to defend. There are many vested interests involved in this debate. It may be too much to expect them to change. But the young will change their views. For sure.