Celebrated and award-winning author Arundhati Roy appeared on BBC’s flagship show Newsnight on Monday to talk about her new book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. A small clip of her video interview, posted by BBC, has now gone truly viral.
In the video, broadcast on BBC 2, Roy is seen slamming Prime Minister Narendra Modi conceding that, politely put, she was not a fan of him. To justify her criticism for Modi, the Booker prize winning author pointed out the complete breakdown of law and order under the current BJP-led government and taking over of India’s ‘elite institutions’ by him.
Referring to her book, the BBC’s Evan Davis asked, “You mention Modi, you’re not a fan.” Roy interrupted saying, “To put it politely.” Davis went on complete his question, “He (Modi) does not come out of the book well. Has he been as bad as you would have feared?”
Roy replied, “Yes, because today you’re looking at a situation where the Muslim community has been ghettoised. You’re looking at people being lynched on the streets. You’re looking at them being pushed out of economic activity they participated in earlier, you know meat shops, leather work, handicrafts, all of this under assault.
“The violence in India is terrifying. You all must have followed the rape of the little girl in Kashmir. That happened but thousands of people marched in support of the rapists including women, in support of the alleged rapists let’s say. But the point is there was an attempt to change how that trial was going to take place. So the polarisation is so frightening.”
Davis then asked if Roy thought that Modi was worse than ‘a Trump or the other nationalistic’ leaders around the world. Roy said, “So the difference is that Trump, look at Trump, I mean he’s out of control, but all the institutions are so worried about him, you know, the media is worried, the judiciary is worried, the military is worried, people are trying to manage him. Whereas in India all the elite institutions have been in some ways taken over by this. So you have school textbooks, I mean the New York Times did a story, school textbooks of great world leaders with Hitler on the cover. (Davis’s expression changes to display incredulity and utter shock.)
“You have four Supreme Court judges who came out, the senior most judges below the chief justice, who came out. It’s never happened in India, they came out and held a press conference, and said democracy is in danger, the courts are being fixed. That was what they were implying.”
This is not not the first time that Roy has expressed her grave fears over the rapidly deteriorating situation under the Modi government. Speaking at an event in May 2016, the celebrated author and activist had said that that the situation in India today was worse than the time the country was ruled by British.
Speaking at the release of the Tamil translation of her annotated book on BR Ambedkar’s essay Annihilation of Caste, Roy had said that she was not able to speak freely because of the criminal case against her.
Last year, during the Gujarat assembly elections, Roy had contributed Rs three lakh to fund Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani’s election campaign. Mevani, a fierce critic of Modi, subsequently went on to get elected as an MLA in the Gujarat assembly.
Her criticism for India’s prime minister on Newsnight, a show which is incredibly popular among the British policymakers, will further affect Modi’s reputation abroad particularly when he had faced mass protests during his last visit to London in April this year.