Arundhati Roy reacts to the objection to her attending the fair organised by The Book Sellers and Publishers Association of South India.
“The protest began when The Cage by Gordon Weiss (former UN spokesperson in Sri Lanka) was released.
The book indicts the Sri Lankan government for war crimes, but is also sharply critical of the LTTE’s tactics. The protestors did not mention the book, but accused the publishers of being RSS, anti-Dalit, anti-Tamil, anti-Kashmir and anti-Muslim.
I was a little puzzled, because the books being released were a collection of haunting poems by Cheran, the well-known Tamil poet, a book on Dalits and Water by Ko. Raghupathy, a book on Dalit politics and culture by Stalin Rajangam, Curfewed Night, a memoir about Kashmir by Basharat Peer and Broken Republic about the Maoist insurrection, by me, all of which completely bely the accusations being hurled at the publisher.
On Facebook the protestors call themselves the May 17th Fighters. (May 17th is the day the war in Sri Lanka officially ended.) It appears that their main objection was Weiss’s criticism of the LTTE.
Whether Weiss is right or wrong in his analysis is not the point. After a war in which an estimated 40,000 Tamils, mostly civilians were killed, I cannot believe that people want to shut out the possibility of debate, of introspection about what went wrong.
It is an insult to the memory of those who were killed as well as to those Tamils who survived and have to continue to live in Sri Lanka.
The annihilation of criticism, introspection, debate, difference of opinion, is the annihilation of politics itself. It is a way of thinking and acting that could have been one of the reasons for the LTTE’s defeat.”