Current uproar about Arundhati Roy’s comments on Kashmir and the ensuing reactions to it kept me thinking. Not much about the issues raised as much, but regarding our ways of responding to views which are in dissonance with that of ours. And its relation to the context and architect of the views.
Why is it that most of the reactions to Roy are so hostile? I am not talking only about the Sang Parivar, or the beaurocracy or the politicians. I am talking about the general public and media. Is it just that her diatribes against ‘the Nation state’ is something too abrasive for a patriotic Indian? May be so. One criticism that is consistently leveled against her is that she takes a bite in every fight, every affray against the Indian government while enjoying the freedom and space offered by the Indian state (Reminded me about similar indignation against Noam Chomsky in US).
But I don’t think that it is the only reason or the central problem. Why is it that Medha Patkar is not hated like Arundhati Roy? Why is that even with all the blood bath, the big Maoist leaders are still shadow figures for us? And look at the last straw. Azad Kashmir. Is Roy the first Indian to offer support for the independent Kashmir? What about all the Geelanis and Abdullahs before?
The difference is probably how Arundhati Roy is perceived in the overall scheme of things. She is viewed as a popular icon who is an outsider to all these issues. So the sentiment is that her swinging her weight into any argument gives an abnormal validity to certain groups in the dispute in an international arena. I think the indignation and fury against her is because she came out with ideological inclinations which were not only unacceptable but also blasphemous for the same general public who had taken her up in their shoulders as a ‘celebrity’ when she won Booker prize. Everyone feels being stabbed in the back after decorating her edifice.
Another crucial element could be her writing style. Arundhati Roy basks in the sheer brilliance of her convictions incorporated in her vitriolic words. She doesn’t leave space for ‘ifs’ and ‘buts.’ Everything is cut and dry and wobbly facts (if any) are plastered well by the sheer power of the lampoon. So among the intellectuals (if she could be called one), she sticks out because she draws blood.
One thing that is noticeable is that despite all the hue and cry, there is no attempt any where to really counter her point by point laying out the inanities in her arguments (or rather proclamations). Why is that every one is so convinced about the vacuousness of her ideas and still every one’s reaction some how boils down to a longer or smaller version of ‘ she is insane?’ Is it because responding to her rationally is in itself vulgar? Or is it is too much trouble to collect one’s thoughts, dissect one’s own long held convictions and develop (or fail to develop) shockproof counter arguments?
Some have blogged that the sharp reactions she invoke is more related to jealousy because of the success she enjoyed. I don’t believe that. In India no one is jealous of their Gods. But they would kill their Gods if they extend their favors to rival devotees.