“State is a necessary evil,” when said by Thomas Paine, sounded like a quote which in times sounded true and was often put into question sometimes.
How much evil? In what terms? In controlling the liberty of citizens? Or in terms of controlling what citizens expect and ask for from the state?
This definition of ‘evil’ is better described in the book titled AZADI by Arundhati Roy. A writer, essayist, human rights activist and a Booker prize winner, also known for being vocal for her opinions and her fictional and non-fictional genre of literature. This work of her is a collection of her articles that gives us a clear insight about the current regime of the Modi government in forms of the lectures delivered by her at different countries, as such criticisms in her country can land her in jail under today’s government as they are known not to be very tolerant with intellectuals and scholars.
Arundhati Roy’s latest collection of essays, which takes its name from the Urdu word for freedom, is an eloquent and scorching indictment of the growing authoritarianism and Hindu nationalism, which has taken hold of India under Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The book which comprises nine essays written between 2018 and this year, shows the pace at which freedom is being eroded in India and the effects of the hatred being stoked up by those in power.[Sullivan Rory, Azadi by Arundhati Roy, review: an eloquent and scorching indictment of the growing authoritarianism of Hindu nationalism (2020) https://inews.co.uk/culture/books/azadi-arundhati-roy-review-hindu-nationalism-657129/amp].
How the land rich of movements and protests turned into an intolerant and bigoted state? And who was behind this? Did someone question the authority of the state while this process was undertaken? These are the diverse aspects which this collection of articles talks about. If this sounds like an exaggeration, she indeed has given points to prove this analysis.
The manufacturing of the statelessness and the rise of populism as described by the author of this book is one of the key components. One of the major tools of this government includes jingoism, and its flair of capturing the minds of the masses. The whole of this subcontinent is facing an economic crisis, but lying behind this are many more crises. The expression of aggression is just getting into the masses leading into the mob-lynching of the minorities.
The author talks about how this government has reached success on the scale by incarcerating the sane and aware citizens of this nation which include intellectuals, students and scholars. The very group of these people are the ones who by using their conscience and dissent are trying to put forward the deeds of this government. The writer of this book does not believe in rushing things. This book clearly delivers the idea of how the structural prejudice is ingrained in the Indian society and this powerful ruling party and its parent organization that is RSS are just watering it to enlarge the impact of the same.
In the world’s largest democracy, as Arundhati Roy tries to elucidate the fact that how the fourth pillar of democracy is falling behind. The Media of modern India is today dried of transparency and unbiased approach, which it should be following. The sources, on which the citizens of this democracy depend on, have fallen into the trap of the Hindutva ideology and bigotry and have forgotten the difference between the sedition and dissent. This is a sad fact. The rise of the ideologues and demagogues, in turn, is turning this government very intolerant ofits critics. She explicitly puts the reality in front of her readers, the situation of Kashmir in 2019 after the abrogation of Article 370, Gujarat riots in 2002, the implication of NRC in Assam state and the distress that this government has created in such a diverse nation.
Being an outright human rights activist, the author puts the light on how the citizens of Kashmir have been deprived of their basic human rights. The conditions of survival in the region are well known to this world, total block out and zero connectivity of 13.6 million people in this ‘Global Village’ is something to take note of. She clearly puts forward the idea that how this whole nation used to ignore and remised about these 13.6 million people earlier but when the aura of fascist government pulled off their socks in the name of CAB, now called CAA, states like Hyderabad, Maharashtra, Assam, Manipur, Delhi became the hubs of peaceful protests in order to stand against this government.
Not only the CAA, but many laws made by them can be called draconian. One of such laws is UAPA. As expressed by the author, she herself fears that even a single text by her may land her in jail. The growing common solidarity among the masses for the scholars and intellectuals who are in jail right now under this draconian law is increasing.
This book depicts the idea, how rotten every part of the structure has gotten, and even the structure itself is falling onto its knees. The rising cases of cow vigilantism, mob-lynching, linguistic domination, jingoism, ethnocentrism has been making the structure rotten.
The policies of this government like GST, demonetization, as discussed by the author lead to a lot of distress amongst the citizens and its effect was felt at the grass root level as well. The implementation and the way these reforms were delivered made the citizens from every sector suffer in the long terms as well. The economic policies of this government mostly focus on the “elite” and this has raised the intensity of the debate between “the people” and “the elite” in the country.
The articles of this book also include the effect of the current scenario on the nation and the medium through which the effect on the politics and expression and the protests have been made, stands out to be the black deeds of this ruling party of the nation. By attacking the strata of the society which includes attacks on students, lawyers, scholars and national universities, during this pandemic has shown that how this government is taking these circumstances as the opportunity to clear out their image.
Arundhati Roy makes the point very clear that- We, the People, need to stand for ourselves if we do not want prejudice, hatred, and the narcissism of the RSS to capture the minds of more of the people in the country. We, the People, should stand against the very structures which this government has been making in the minds of the people, but it might take time to demolish these structures and thinking. Now, the question is how much time? We will not get the answer to this question until and unless we start realizing the fact, the voice raised by us is more important as the rallying voice of the leaders of this party.
The work collected in Azadi gives the world a clear picture of how an authoritarian government can yoke hatred and fear into a powerful weapon in order to consolidate their power. Intelligent, thoughtful and written with empathy, it brings the reality of the situation home in a way few writers can. [Marcus Richard, Book Review: ‘Azadi’ by Arundhati Roy (2020) https://blogcritics.org/book-review-azadi-by-arundhati-roy/?amp].
Roy covers all the aspects of the society being affected by the ideology followed by the ruling party of this country. The media, the student’s organizations, the social organizations, the national universities and even the language, every corner is being modified by the ruling party.
Arundhati Roy states that the challenge through which this nation is grappling right now is that the people are suffering and then they are rejoicing. This cycle is heinous for the future of the nation as a democratic one. Masses need to understand that the tools which this government is using are the ‘Conscious’ of theirs. And as stated by the author herself, “It’s a battle of those who know how to think against those who know how to hate.” She puts every effort of hers to make readers clear that the future of this nation is in their hands. It’s time to act NOW.
(The writer is a political science graduate from Delhi University.
She is currently a content writer at The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.)