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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Democracy in India?

From Democracy Now:

Author Arundhati Roy on the Human Costs of India’s Economic Growth, the View of Obama from New Delhi, and Escalating US Attacks in Af-Pak

We’re joined from the Indian capital of New Delhi by the Booker Prize-winning novelist, political essayist and global justice activist Arundhati Roy. Her books include the Booker Prize-winning novel The God of Small Things and her latest essay collection, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. We speak to Roy about India’s conflict with Maoist rebels, the occupation of Kashmir, ongoing Indian-Pakistani tensions, Obama’s war in “Af-Pak,” and more. [includes rush transcript]

Arundhati Roy, world-renowned Indian author and global justice activist. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997. Since then she has written numerous essays on war, climate change and the dangers of free market development in India. Her new book, published today by Haymarket Books, is called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. An adapted introduction to the book is also posted on
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to a woman the New York Times calls India’s most impassioned critic of globalization and American influence, Arundhati Roy, world-renowned Indian author and global justice activist. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, won the Booker Prize in 1997. She has a new book; it’s called Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. An adapted introduction to the book is posted at, called “What Have We Done to Democracy?” Arundhati Roy joins us now from New Delhi, India, on the country’s biggest national holiday of the year.
Arundhati, we welcome you to Democracy Now! And as you listen to this report from the streets of G-20 by our producer Steve Martinez, talk about globalization and what has happened to democracy.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, that’s a huge subject, Amy. And I think my book—in my book, I discuss it in some detail in terms of what’s happening to India. But as we know now, because of the way the global economy is linked, countries are not—you know, the political systems in countries are also linked, so democracies are linked to dictatorships and military occupations and so on. We know that. We now that some of the main military occupations in the world today are actually administered by democracies: Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir.
But what I think is beginning to be very clear now is that we see now that democracy is sort of fused to the free market, or to the idea of the free market. And so, its imagination has been limited to the idea of profit. And democracy, a few years ago, maybe, you know, even twenty-five years ago, was something that, let’s say, a country like America feared, which was why democracies were being toppled all over the place, like in Chile and so on. But now wars are being waged to restore—to place democracy, because democracy serves the free market, and each of the institutions in democracy, like you look at India, you know, whether it’s the Supreme—whether it’s the courts or whether it’s the media or whether it’s all the other institutions of democracy, they’ve been sort of hollowed out, and just their shells have been replaced, and we play out this charade. And it’s much more complicated for people to understand what’s going on, because there’s so much shadow play.
But really we are facing a crisis. And that’s what I ask. You know, is there life after democracy? And what kind of life will it be? Because democracy has been hollowed out and made meaningless. And when I say “democracy,” I’m not talking about the ideal. You know, I’m not saying that countries that live in dictatorships and under military occupation should not fight for democracy, because the early years of democracy are important and heady. And then we see a strange metastasis taking over….

S.M. KRISHNA: As you are aware, we do have serious and continuing concerns about terrorist and extremist groups in Pakistan, which are—which are a national security risk for us and for our people. Foreign Minister Qureshi conveyed to me the seriousness of his government in bringing to book, through their legal process, those responsible for the terrorist outrage in Mumbai ten months ago.

ANJALI KAMAT: Meanwhile, inside India, the focus has shifted to a different adversary. The stage is set for a major domestic military offensive against an armed group that the Indian prime minister has repeatedly called the country’s, quote, “gravest internal security threat.”
Operation Green Hunt will reportedly send between 75,000 and 100,000 troops to areas seen as Maoist strongholds in central and eastern India. In June, India labeled the Naxalite group, the Communist Party of India—Maoist—a terrorist organization, and earlier this month India’s home minister came to the United States to share counterterror strategies.
The Indian government blames the deaths of nearly 600 people this year on Maoist violence and claims that Maoist rebels are active in twenty out of the twenty-eight states in the country. The Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh outlined the threat to a conference of state police chiefs earlier this month.
PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH: In many ways, the left-wing extremism poses perhaps the gravest internal security threat our country faces. We have discussed this in the last five years. And I would like to state, frankly, that we have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace.

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