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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Listening to Grasshoppers

Read a collection of essays by Arundhati Roy Titled "Listening to Grasshoppers-- Field Notes on Democracy"

Arundhati Roy must be one of the most hated figures in India, as she spares nobody, be it the govt, the judiciary or the celebrities. Always ready to court controversy, she  manages to be politically incorrect ,so consistently.  She is against free market, against US brand of democracy; and she speaks for naxals, for Afsal Guru and Geelani, people considered the enemies of the state.  She doesn't get much support from the media as well. Arnab Goswamy, in one of the debates on "Kashmir issue", fired an unprovoked salvo, "Arundahthi Roy and Bharat Bhushan ! are you listening ? we have not invited you to our studio, because we find you disgusting." Ironically, the very people she is fighting for, the farmers, dalits, down trodden, adivasis, Naxals etc would  be hardly aware of her, and even  if they do their voices are seldom heard.

It is extremely difficult to hear any views from an Indian on our own national media, speaking up  openly in favour of Kasmiri separatists or the naxals. It is easier to view / read news of 'patriotic indians kicking and punching any compatriot indulging in such open criticism.

There is indeed a very thin line between suppression of criticism and tolerence of sedition , in a democracy.

This title of the book is drawn from an essay, "listening to grasshoppers" , a lecture delivered by the author in Istanbul, on the 1915 genocide of Armenians in which more than one million people were killed. the lecture, the author says, was about the history of genocide and genocide deial and the old organic relationship between 'progress' and 'genocide'

While nobody says genocide is right, there is little critcism of 'acceptable genocides' for eg, the great genocide, in which the europeans exterminated 50-60 million native americans or australian aborigins, all in the name of development and progress. Whereever there is a western model 'development' there are victims whose cries go unheard. While holocost of jews is much talked about, there is hardly any awareness of other groups like gypsies and homosexuals, systematically annihilated by the Nazis during the period of  'nation building' in Germany, even prior to WW II. The great powers of the time were just looking on the legitimate aspirations of the German people.

Martin Niemöller was a German Pastor who became controversial by openly supporting Hitler's policies in the early stages of the Third Reich.He later expressed his misgivings about some of Hitler's acts,for which he was jailed and narrowly escaped being sentenced to death.After the war, he became active as a pacifist

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me. 

Genocide does not necessaily mean killing people; it may be achieved by systematically creating an environment for an entire people to gradually fade away. Our rural popuaion is slowly getting choked as all resources from the rural areas are appropriated by the Rich, with full support of the police and judiciary and millions of people are forced to move to the urban slums where they have few rights even to food and water leave alone the democratic rights to voice their opinion. 

The essays are published unedited, as written at various points of time; after the attack on Indian Parliament, after Gujrat riots, during the peak of uprising in Kashmir and after 26/11. 

Mostly it is an expression of  raw anger against all kinds of injustice ; for  some satire,  here's a link to a street play performed by students protesting against George Bush's visit to India in 2006.

However, bitter the ideas are, there is definitely an element of truth and it calls for a lot of soul searching on the part of every policy maker and opinion maker in the country.