NEW DEHLI: Renowned South Asian writer Arundhati Roy on Thursday issued a statement explaining her decision to return the 1989 National Award she received for Best Screenplay, saying, “I want to make it clear that I am not returning this award because I am ‘shocked’ by what is being called ‘growing intolerance’ being fostered by the present government.”
“I cannot claim to be shocked by what has happened after this government was enthusiastically voted into office with an overwhelming majority,” she says.
“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,” Roy says.
“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 that 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,”
“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,’ (Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume 9 pg 296) without getting attacked, lynched, shot or jailed?”
“It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree with what is being said. 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.”
“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.”
The author’s decision to return her award comes as a series of Indian intellectuals and artists do the same in an effort to protest against “intolerance” in India.
Up till now, 42 writers have returned their awards in a gesture of protest regarding growing intolerance.