Corporate power, women, and resistance in India today
Arundhati Roy interviewed by David Barsamian Part-II
ARUNDHATI ROY is the celebrated author of The God of Small Things and winner of the prestigious Booker Prize. The New York Times calls her, “India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence.” She is the recipient of the Lannan Award for Cultural Freedom. Roy is the author of many books including The Checkbook & the Cruise Missile, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, and Walking with the Comrades. She spoke to DAVID BARSAMIAN of Alternative Radio in Chicago on March 17, 2013.
But the violence that you’re seeing in cities is not coming from those people. The violence is coming from the new rich, like, say, in Delhi, people who have sold their land to the malls and suddenly have acquired a lot of money because of political status, and a kind of aggression that comes with it. Whereas, for example, when the famous incident of the girl who was gang-raped and murdered in Delhi happened, Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram and all were very quick to say, “We must be very careful of these unanchored poor.”
Basically, that idea of criminalizing the lower classes immediately comes up, that these are the violent people. Whereas actually they are the ones against whom tremendous violence is perpetrated in the cities—by the police and by the building contractors. There are ten million people or more, living on the outskirts of Delhi, working like slave labor in terrible conditions. But they are not the violent people. They have occasionally burst out, in the Honda factory or in the Maruti factory. After a lot of provocation something has happened. But at all times they are really the victims of violence. They are the victims of slowly having the oxygen pressed out of their lungs, of having lower and lower wages, of having to pay more and more because prices are rising so fast. And they literally live in circumstances which I don’t think people could even fathom in America and Europe how workers are living in India.
Every time something happens—and that something, as I keep saying, they are not the ones that are perpetrating the violence, they are the ones that are the victims of that violence—the government uses it as an opportunity. Like in the Delhi situation, where the girl was raped and then killed, it immediately becomes, “We need more police stations, we need more surveillance, we need more cameras.” That whole idea of the citizen as a criminal. When, if you actually were to inquire into any case that happened, I think the chances are much more that behind almost all criminal activity in cities is the police.
CERTAINLY THAT mid-December 2012 incident in Delhi garnered global attention. The BBC in a report said that “the case raised questions about how India treats its women.” What kinds of questions were raised in the aftermath of this attack and killing?
THAT’S a very vast subject which troubles me a lot in terms of how to present my anxieties over it. If anyone needs a background, a young girl was gang raped brutally and then murdered on a private bus in Delhi. The rapists were caught, the murderers.
To be continued…..