Arundhati Roy ‘invited censure’ by calling Gandhi the “first corporate sponsored NGO of this country” at the opening of the tenth Gorakhpur film festival where she spoke as chief guest. Ironically, this year’s festival commemorated Govind Pansarey and Avijit Roy amongst others—examples of what ‘inviting censure’ entails today.
She went a step further to add: “It was one of the greatest falsehoods in this country to worship him (Gandhi) who wrote horrible things about dalits, women and the poor.” This led to Congress workers burning effigies of her while the other favourite saint of the BJP, Yogi Adityanath, called her a traitor-worshipper of Yasin Malik. She has, of course, said this and much more in “The Doctor and The Saint”, her introduction to the annotated Annihilation of Caste.
At the Gorakhpur event that has now run “ten marvellous years without any sponsorship,” she quipped: “There was much talk of free speech at the Jaipur literary festival. Writers like Salman Rushdie advocate free speech there but the corporate houses that fund the event are opposed to the idea of free speech.”
Turns out, Arundhati Roy is also number six this year in the top ten of Prospect magazine’s list of ‘World Thinkers 2015’. In this linear hierarchical silliness, she is a spot ahead of Jürgen Habermas. Based on votes channelled through Twitter and Facebook and then represented in a pithy graph, the list “rewards impact over the past twelve months”. For Roy, the past year included almost being booked for sedition on delivering the Mahatma Ayyankali lecture at Kerala University where she outlined Gandhi’s views on Blacks and “bhangis” (dalits).
Being the only other woman to make the cut, and one in the five picked for the long list, seems to convey to the Prospect editors that “a feminist critique of various kinds is experiencing a resurgence.” Now whatever that may mean.
It looks like Roy-bashing and inane top ten lists are both thoughtless annual rituals.