October 8, 2018:
Young people are being put through before they have even learnt how to think, it’s so twisted.
Booker Prize-winning author & activist Arundhati Roy has expressed concern over what she fears are historical facts being manipulated in India, creating a form of fake news in the country.
Speaking on the subject of freedom, the author of ‘The God of Small Things’ also spoke of the influences on her writing & how she viewed writing as a desire to bridge the gap between thought & language.
“What we’re living through now, maybe we can call it: history as fake news. There’s a sort of Hindu-isation, the corporatisation of education & history,” she said during a lecture titled ‘Utmost Happiness & Utmost Sadness: The Diary of India Nowadays’, a reference to her most recent book ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’, in London on Saturday.
“To me, the most dangerous thing is what young people’re being put through before they have even learnt how to think, it’s so twisted,” Roy said at the School of Oriental & African Studies’ South Asia Institute event, organised by the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust (NIKMT).
Invoking the debates between two of the most prominent leaders of India’s freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi & Babasaheb Ambedkar, Roy suggested a possible disclaimer before Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning 1980s film ‘Gandhi’ to highlight it as a “work of fiction” because it failed to capture the complexity of India’s struggle.
She said: “The debate between Gandhi & Dr Ambedkar will tell you the complication of that freedom struggle. For Dr Ambedkar, Hinduism was a form of colonialism in many ways more terrifying than British colonialism.
For Ambedkar, liberation meant trying to draft a Constitution that was far ahead of its time than society itself. He wasn’t willing to just leave it to the people, because he was a man who didn’t have to go all the way to South Africa to find injustice.”
As part of a post-lecture interaction segment with Shohini Ghosh, a documentary filmmaker & professor of mass communications at Delhi’s Jamia Millia University, Roy delved into her shuttling between fiction & non-fiction writing & the connect between her activism & prose.
“In my DNA, I am a fiction writer. I wonder why people feel there’s some bipolarity between fiction & fact. That isn’t true. Fiction is truth. I would say, particularly in the era of fake news, there’s nothing truer than fiction,” said Roy, who won the Booker Prize for ‘The God of Small Things’ in 1997.
As someone who has also authored a series of politically-charged essays such as ‘The Greater Common Good’, she explained that her non-fiction writing was never planned & was more a plea to look at things differently.
She added: “Fiction for me is the construction of the universe, the most beautiful thing that I can possibly imagine doing. Nowadays the world is becoming so harsh & rigid & reactive & twittery.
“Fiction allows you to be naughty, whimsical to give you that bandwidth which’s getting lost to us in some ways.”