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News > World

Arundhati Roy Returns Prestigious Prize over Religious Violence

  • Arundhati Roy is the latest activist to return her prestigious prize for the screenplay of In Which Annie Gives it Those Ones.

    Arundhati Roy is the latest activist to return her prestigious prize for the screenplay of In Which Annie Gives it Those Ones. | Photo: AFP

Published 6 November 2015

India’s intelligensia has started a movement of symbolically protesting their government’s silence in the recent cases of religiously-inspired murders.

Arundhati Roy became the latest Indian writer on Thursday to join a national movement of returning awards to protest the "intellectual malnutrition" of a murderous India.

Several dozen actors, artists and scholars have repeated the gesture in the last two months, which Roy called, "unprecedented," and, "politics by other means," in a column for The Indian Express.

Roy's award for Best Screenplay was granted in 1989 by the Sahitya Akademi, the country's most prestigious literary institution, which has not publicly condemned the recent murder of three secular activists by Hindu extremists. Two were rumored to be carrying beef, and another had spoken out against Hindu superstition.

Since the election of Indian President Narendra Modi last year, intellectuals and civil society have been denouncing the leader's militant Hindu past and silence regarding sectarian violence.

In her column, the famous novelist wrote that she is not only appalled at the normalization of religious violence, but also that "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."

Heated right-wing rhetoric and censorship "outsourced to the mob" have a long history in the world's second-largest nation, but Roy justified her move by writing that despite the "advance notice" of such extremism, the New India promoted by Modi's government has seen exceptionally high support. She added in a postscript that when she returned a similar award in 2005, the current opposition, the long-serving secular Congress party, was in power.

“The entire purpose of these protests is to derail the development agenda of the Narendra Modi government,” urban development minister, Venkaiah Naidu, told The Guardian. “The country is being subjected to damage and unnecessarily wrong information is being given about political intolerance.”

Roy's political move was met with both admiration and the feeling that she was late to the game, which previously saw similar decisions by "King of Bollywood" Shah Rukh Khan and prominent novelist Salman Rushdie.

Most famous for writing, “The God of Small Things,” Roy has increasingly become a public voice on various political issues, including separatism, caste and the war in Afghanistan.

RELATED: Arundhati Roy talks to Tariq Ali on teleSUR’s The World Today about the state of India.

For part two click here.

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