Interview: Arundhati Roy

By Dinyar Godrej, New Internationalist, Issue 445

Arundhati Roy is probably the most `do something’ public intellectual of our time. In her interview with New Internationalist she offers her take on market-friendly democracy, people power and the wealth that is fed by people’s lives.

Your writings have grappled with ruthless state violence which is often at the behest of corporate interests. Much of the corporate-owned media in India shies away from covering the civil war-like conditions in many parts of the country. The establishment tends to brand anyone who attempts to present the other side’s points of view as having seditious intent. Where is the democratic space?

You’ve partially answered your own question – newspapers and television channels do not make their money from subscriptions or viewership; in fact, corporate advertisements actually subsidize TV viewership and newspaper and magazine readership, so in effect, the mass media is run with corporate money.

Some media houses are directly owned by corporations, some indirectly by majority share-holdings. Some media houses in, say, Central India, have a direct interest in mining and infrastructure projects, so they have a vested interest in the push to displace people in the huge, ongoing land-grab in which land and resources are forcibly taken from the poor and given to the rich – a process which goes by the name of `development’. It would be foolish to expect objective reporting: not because the journalists are bad people, but because of the economic structure of the organizations they work for. In fact, what is surprising is that despite all of this, occasionally there is some very good reporting.

But overall we either have silence, or a completely distorted picture, in which those resisting their impoverishment are being labelled  `terrorists’ – and these are not just the Maoist rebels who have taken to arms, but others who are involved in unarmed, but militant, struggles against the government. A climate has been created which criminalizes dissent of all kinds. Continue reading