India’s world renowned author, critic, speaker and human rights activist, Arundhati Roy has just joined the list of over hundred of Indian academics, authors, artists, journalists, etc. who have returned their national awards in protest to Hindu extremism under prime minister Modi’s Hindutva government.
On November 5, 2015, in an Op-Ed at The Indian Express, she explained why she decided to return her 1989 National Award for Best Screenplay.
“Today, we live in a country in which, when the thugs and apparatchiks of the New Order talk of “illegal slaughter”, they mean the imaginary cow that was killed – not the real (Muslim) man who was murdered. When they talk of taking “evidence for forensic examination” from the scene of the crime, they mean the food in the fridge, not the body of the lynched (Muslim) man. We say we have “progressed”, but when Dalits are butchered and their children burned alive, which writers can freely say, like Babasaheb Ambedkar once did that “to the untouchables, Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors”, without getting attacked, lynched, shot or jailed. Which writer can write what Saadat Hassan Minto wrote in his “Letters to Uncle Sam”? It doesn’t matter whether we agree or disagree with what is being said. If we don’t have the right to speak freely, we will turn into a society that suffers from intellectual malnutrition, a nation of fools. Across the subcontinent it has become a race to the bottom – one that the New India has enthusiastically joined. Here too now, censorship has been outsourced to the mob,” she wrote.
On November 2, the ruling BJP threatened to behead Karnataka state’s chief minister Siddaramaiah if he dared to eat beef. BJP leader SN Channabasappa said that he would love to use Siddaramaih’s head as football to play. The chief minister said that he would eat beef if he wished and that BJP did not have the right to question him on that.
Several BJP leaders have said that producer-actor of Bollywood masterpiece, My Name is Khan, Indian-born Shah Rukh Khan is a traitor and should migrate to next-door Muslim-majority Pakistan.
On March 2, 2015, BJP religious preacher, Sadhvi Prachi, called upon India’s 840 million Hindus to boycott movies by Bollywood Khans as they promote Love Jihad (Hindu girls’ Muslim preference over fellow Hindus).
Arundhati Roy said that she was proud to return her national award – not because she was shocked by Hindu extremists’ intolerance toward other religious communities, because word intolerance doesn’t describe fully what’s going on in India now. She also said that she warned this was going to happen if Indians voted for BJP.
“I cannot claim to be shocked by what has happened after this government was enthusiastically voted into office with overwhelming majority,” she said.
Arundhati Roy, who refused to accept India’s Sahitya Akademy award from Congress government in 2005, said: “Spare me from old Congress vs BJP debate.”
In response to this mass award returning campaign, India’s culture minister, Mahesh Sharma, suggested that unhappy writers should stop writing if they found country’s cultural climate not conducive to their work.