Arundhati Roy on Occupy Wall Street, Empire, Obama, and Walking with the Comrades

Democracy Now, November 15, 2011

AMY GOODMAN: We return now to the renowned Indian writer, global justice activist, Arundhati Roy. She has written many books, including The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize. Her journalism and essays have been collected in books including An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire and Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. Arundhati Roy’s latest book, just out, is called Walking with the Comrades, a chronicle of her time in the forests of India alongside rebel guerrillas who are resisting a military campaign by the Indian government.

Last week, I sat down with Arundhati Roy when she came to New York—she had just visited Occupy Wall Street on her first day in New York—to talk about the significance of this, but also we spoke about the Arab Spring. We talk about her walk with the Maoists in India. Tomorrow, she will be speaking at Washington Square Park, part of a national day of action. First, Arundhati discusses Occupy Wall Street.

ARUNDHATI ROY: You know, what they are doing becomes so important because it is in the heart of empire, or what used to be empire, and to criticize and to protest against the model that the rest of the world is aspiring to is a very important and a very serious business. So I think that it makes me—it makes me very, very hopeful that after a long time you’re seeing some nascent political, real political anger here.

It does—I mean, it does need a lot of thinking through, but I would say that, to me, fundamentally, you know, people have to begin to formulate some kind of a vision, you know, and that vision has to be the dismantling of this particular model, in which a few people can be allowed to have an unlimited amount of wealth, of power, both political as well as corporate. You know, that has to be dismantled. And that has to be the aim of this movement. And that has to then move down into countries like mine, where people look at the U.S. as some great, aspirational model. Continue reading

Arundhati Roy, transcript of Q and A at CUNY Graduate Center, New York, 11/9/2011

By Sarahana, Impose Magazine

arundhati roy speaking at CUNY graduate center[Arundhati Roy at CUNY Graduate Center. All photos by Sarahana]

14 years ago, Indian author Arundhati Roy made her debut with The God of Small Things, a novel that won the Booker prize and went on to sell more than 6 million copies worldwide. But the world of fiction was quickly abandoned when she turned to full time activism, churning out fiery political essays, and generally getting into trouble with the Indian government and religious fundamentalists.

Most recently, she spent time with Indian Maoist insurgents — at their invitation — in the jungles from which they operate. The essay she’s brought back has been published as Walking with the Comrades, from which she read a few excerpts at an event hosted at City University of New York’s Graduate Center (despite the center’s further slashed, and quickly depleting, funds).

This is a transcript of the Q&A that followed the reading.
Some redundancies have been removed and friendly titles have been added.

—– TRANSCRIPT OF Q&A —–

(Love Makes Our Battle Ferocious)

Ruth Gilmore (CUNY): Thank you Arundhati for that amazing reading and the thoughts that you brought to my mind and all of our minds as you described this war against the forest people. One thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot having read some of your work over the years and listening to you read now is how much beauty you put into a story [..?] and I think all the time about how you help people to think about the worst things that are happening in the world so that we can do something about it. And I wonder if you would talk, if you’d be interested in talking, a little bit about the sort of political project and the aesthetic project and finding all of the beauty in moments of the greatest hurt[?].

Arundhati Roy: Well I don’t actively look for it because it’s there. You know if you read the rest of the essay that I read from, actually we spent so much of our time just laughing, you know, inside [the forest], because I always sense that when you’re outside the immediate area of resistance, it’s much easier to feel despair because you have that choice. You can always say, “Okay, doesn’t matter, I won’t study politics, I’ll do interior design” or something whereas people who are in there, they don’t have a choice, you know. Even despair is not a choice because whether you’re a pessimist or whether you’re an optimist, no one is asking you, like you have to fight that battle some way or the other and there’s a sort of clarity there. And a lot of beauty, and a lot of hope.

I think for me it’s not a strategy, the way I write. It’s just the way I write. Or it’s just the way I think. Continue reading

Arundhati Roy on Indian Democracy, Maoists

The Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2011

By Krishna Pokharel

Writer and activist Arundhati Roy, winner of the 1997 Man Booker prize for “The God of Small Things,” is undoubtedly India’s iconoclast no.1. During the launch of her two latest books—“Broken Republic” and “Walking With the Comrades” —on Friday evening, she came to the defence of the military tactics of India’s Maoists in her polemical best:

“When you have 800 CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force, a paramilitary force deployed to fight country’s internal insurgencies] marching three days into the forest; surrounding a forest village and burning it and raping women, what are the poor supposed to do? Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Can people who have no money boycott goods? What sort of civil disobedience we are asking them to adhere to?”

She backpedaled a little saying: “But at the same time what goes on in the forest in terms of resistance cannot go on outside the forest.”

In “Walking With the Comrades,” Ms. Roy recounts time she spent last year in the forest with the banned Maoist insurgents, who are active in large swathes of central and eastern India. In “Broken Republic,” she writes about the character of Indian democracy. Both books are published by Penguin India. Continue reading