Editor’s Note: Arundhati Roy is the author of “The God of Small Things,” which won the Booker Prize in 1997 and “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2017. Her collected political writing has been published as “My Seditious Heart” (2018) and “Azadi” (2020). She lives in New Delhi. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion at CNN.
When two spokespeople from India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammed last month, it prompted an international firestorm.
The incident led to protests among India’s Muslim minority in several states. Some Muslim-majority nations summoned their India ambassadors. India’s foreign ministry said the comments did not reflect the views of the government, and the officials involved – one of whom later withdrew her remarks – faced disciplinary action.
But for India’s 200 million Muslims, these comments were not an isolated incident.
Rather, they were the culmination of the BJP’s “engineering hatred of a common enemy,” says bestselling Indian author Arundhati Roy.
Arundhati Roy: ‘The damage to Indian democracy is not reversible’
“India’s tragedy is not that it’s the worst place in the world – it’s that we are on our way there. We’re burning down our house. India is an experiment that is failing dangerously,” she told CNN.
“Many, many of my beloved friends – poets, writers, professors, lawyers, human rights activists and journalists – are in prison, most of them charged under a dreaded law called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, all of them for speaking up for minorities, Dalits and forest-dwellers facing displacement and state terror.
“Among them are people I consider to be India’s most important minds. It makes one wonder what living as a free person in the time of fascism means. What does it mean to be a bestselling author when the world is breaking?” writes Roy.
In this email interview with CNN Opinion, Roy says Indian politics has something in common with the US Capitol riots, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is stoking hatred, and talks about who the real power in India lies with. https://cnn.it/3yhH71w