Arundhati Roy Fined, Sent to Jail for a Day.
March 6, 2002 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Arundhati Roy Fined, Sent to Jail for a Day. The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday sentenced Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy to a day's imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 2,000 for contempt of court. If she doesn't pay the fine, she will be jailed for three months.
posted by Ty Webb (19 comments total)
She said it "creates a disturbing impression that there is an inclination on the part of the court to silence criticism and muzzle dissent."


Justice R P Sethi said in his ruling that freedom of speech did not give anyone license to scandalize the court or lower its dignity.

May we expect his own fine and jail term to be forthcoming, then?

"However, keeping in view the fact that she is a woman, we will sentence her to a symbolic sentence of one day and a fine of RS 2,000."

posted by rushmc at 6:54 AM on March 6, 2002

As much as I have found Arundhati Roy to be a bit strident in her writings and talk, and it should be noted that her recent foray into public politics came only after her success with the booker prize novel (the god of small things), the courts behaviour is very disheartening.
posted by bittennails at 7:01 AM on March 6, 2002

I have a feeling we better prepare ourselves for a deluge vaguely-Martin-Luther-King-like-but-ultimately-self-serving-and-what's-worse-boring "letters from an Indian jail."

If the court really wanted to punish her, advising the world to please ignore her mostly infantile periodic pronouncements would be the best way. Giving her a day (ahem) in jail will only inflate her already bloated ego with martyr-juice.
posted by UncleFes at 7:28 AM on March 6, 2002


Dekh sali roy ko, kutti, upni martyr juice pila rahi he sabko.

loosely translated, but hilarious in hindi > Look at that b**ch, making us drink her martyr-juice.

great one, UncleFes.
posted by bittennails at 7:42 AM on March 6, 2002

information about the narmada dam project which roy was fined and sentenced to prison for speaking out against.

thank you for your comments on this matter unclefes, when you have put your freedom on the line for the greater common good i'll start giving them some credence.
i know that's a bit harsh, and not really in the spirit of the community, but 'diss not, lest ye be dissed also' or something
posted by asok at 8:06 AM on March 6, 2002

I don't understand the attacks here on Roy. Her points are all true.

The dam is bad for the people of India (Enron got its start in the business world in India building dams) and the Court is behaving in an extremely oppressive way.

The only reason the protests are getting attention is because a famous person is in attendance.
posted by Red58 at 8:19 AM on March 6, 2002

put your freedom on the line

I've spent more time in a jail cell than she has. But it's never been for the "common good." And I suspect that, whatever my comment, your credence would be hard-won at best. And have you put your own freedom on the line? As long as we're misquoting scripture, '... before removing the mote from thy neighbor's, remove the beam from thine own."

The benefits of irrigating the land are well known; the "possible" displacement of villages is guesswork, and likely moot if considered in the engineering. Roy is showboating, as is her modus. The Indian Supreme Court is feeding it by treating her seriously.

Less Filling!
posted by UncleFes at 8:20 AM on March 6, 2002

Have you read up on the current dams Fes? None are working as advertised and millions of people are displaced and homeless. Even the Indian gov't admits this.
posted by Red58 at 8:57 AM on March 6, 2002

Reasons for my irritation with Arundhati Roy regarding the article asok linked to (the greater common good):

What I am, however, is curious. Curiosity took me to the Narmada Valley. Instinct told me that this was the big one.

Big what? a cause that will garner media and public attention.

Instinct led me to set aside Joyce and Nabokov, to postpone reading Don DeLillo's big book and substitute it with reports on drainage and irrigation, with journals and books and documentary films about dams and why they're built and what they do.

ah, the literary genius has no time to read.

My first tentative questions revealed that few people know what is really going on in the Narmada Valley. Those who know, know a lot. Most know nothing at all. And yet, almost everyone has a passionate opinion. Nobody's neutral. I realised very quickly that I was straying into mined territory.

I think she purposely strayed into this mined territory, guess why.

Both are indications of how urgently we need new heroes, new kinds of heroes, and how we've overused our old ones (like we overbowl our bowlers).

And here appears the new hero (heroine).

I went because writers are drawn to stories the way vultures are drawn to kills. My motive was not compassion. It was sheer greed. I was right. I found a story there.

Then she admits it, to make us believe her motive was wrong but oh god, the sheer inhumanity of it made me change my ways.

33 million. That's what it works out to. Thirty-three million people. Displaced by big dams alone in the last fifty years....
....You have to whisper it to yourself, because it really does sound unbelievable. It can't be, I've been telling myself. I must have got the zeroes muddled. It can't be true. I barely have the courage to say it aloud. To run the risk of sounding like a 'sixties hippie dropping acid ("It's the System, man!"), or a paranoid schizophrenic with a persecution complex. But it is the System, man. What else can it be?

Fifty million people.

Go on, Government, quibble. Bargain. Beat it down. Say something.

I feel like someone who's just stumbled on a mass grave.

And this is where I laughed out loud.

Allow me to shake your faith. Put your hand in mine and let me lead you through the maze. Do this, because it's important that you understand. If you find reason to disagree, by all means take the other side. But please don't ignore it, don't look away.

It isn't an easy tale to tell. It's full of numbers and explanations. Numbers used to make my eyes glaze over. Not any more. Not since I began to follow the direction in which they point.

Trust me. There's a story here.

Trust me she is the story, and if you think she wasn't, by now she has become it.

Who knows, perhaps that's what the twenty-first century has in store for us. The dismantling of the Big. Big bombs, big dams, big ideologies, big contradictions, big countries, big wars, big heroes, big mistakes. Perhaps it will be the Century of the Small. Perhaps right now, this very minute, there's a small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Could it be? Could it possibly be? It sounds finger-licking good to me.

Then there's a book, "the god of small things" that made her a millionaire. Sounds finger-licking good to me too.

"India will go on," they'll tell you, the sage philosophers who don't want to be troubled by piddling Current Affairs. As though 'India' is somehow more valuable than her people.

Old Nazis probably soothe themselves in similar ways.

Godwins law.

Most of these quotes are from the introduction to the actual narmada information she provides in the article, it's her manner that bugs me. She is from a rich indian family, has always lived in the lap of luxury, still does after she made her money, and then she becomes a spokeswoman for the oppressed. India is full of posers like her, but there are people who do affect change.

And she is not one of them, she is a glory hunter. What really gets me is the hypocrisy in the guise she lays down to present herself as, post booker prize.

Oh, and her freedom has never been on the line, and will never be (well, unless she kills someone or such) for issues she chooses to personalize and garner media attention for. Mediawhore is how I would describe her.
posted by bittennails at 9:04 AM on March 6, 2002

Red58: Heres one that does. And here's a table of electricity generated by the dams.
posted by bittennails at 9:12 AM on March 6, 2002

Have you read up on the current dams Fes?

Heh, well, I have a lot of non-dam reading to do, so you got me, no, I don't know all the details. I checked asok's link, and it was mostly a debate of how high the new one is supposed to be, which sounds like a construction, rather than social, issue to me. My original post was a shot at Roy herself, rather than the dam. As asok pointedly observed.

Is water not going into the irrigation canals? How does a dam "not work"? And, if it's as you say, then the government which admits such is foolish to continue. Why would they? Surely the Indians have better things to spend money on. And millions of homeless causes a lot of problems, even in India. Though over 50 years? Seems like piling on. And there are likely an assload of Indian homeless that have nothing to do with these dams. They need help too - where's Roy?

No offense, but is there a factual, objective source for info on this, as opposed to the typical net-shouting? I would like to learn a bit more. However, regardless of the (de)merit of this particular dam project, my opinions of Roy remain the same. Wouldn't the money she spent fighting this current project have been better spent lobbying influential parliamentarians (India is a democracy) and directly aiding displaced Indians? Seems like it would. I'm with Bittennails on this.
posted by UncleFes at 9:20 AM on March 6, 2002

RS 2000 =~ $41USD. I don't know if that's excessive to the average Indian, but it certainly seems "symbolic".
posted by sachmet at 12:07 PM on March 6, 2002

sachmet: It's completely symbolic. "As the respondent (Roy) has not shown any repentance or regret or remorse, no lenient view should be taken in the matter", the Bench said. "However, showing the magnanimity of law by keeping in mind that the respondent is a woman, and hoping that better sense and wisdom shall dawn upon her in future to serve the cause of art and literature by her creative skill and imagination, we feel that the ends of justice would be met if she is sentenced to symbolic imprisonment...."

From today's Times of India... 2000 bucks is a lot for the poor but not for the middle class-upper and lower, and certainly not for a millionaire (not sure which currency she is a millionaire in, but I am guessing it's not in rupees.)
posted by bittennails at 12:25 PM on March 6, 2002

why the anger towards Roy? She wrote a pretty good book, won a prize for it and is now spending the prize money on a cause that she is interested in. Does the fact that she is middle or upper middle class somehow negate the effectiveness she might have(it could, but hasn't seemed to in this case)? It seems that most muckrakers come from outside of the group of people they are trying to help, possibly because those in the group feel powerless to make change or are just trying to survive and don't have the time or inclination to directly fight.
posted by ajayb at 1:11 PM on March 6, 2002

ajayb: It just is such a great attempt at posture. Now that I am not at work and a little more relaxed, I gave some thought to the anger, there really isn't any actually. I was just responding to the article naturally, it just pisses me off, and that's how I respond, crude jokes, I haven't done that in so long, maybe living in america is sanitizing me.

The middle class stuff was to set her in her actuality/reality so to speak and explain her lack of want, ever. I don't think it negates anything.

And her book was quite good, maybe she should keep doing that?
posted by bittennails at 2:11 PM on March 6, 2002

Outlook seems to have the best coverage on the subject including the background of the dispute (Keep in mind that Outlook is a slightly left liberal publication and Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky are their favoured columnists. But its editors have a reputation for objectivity and usually dont mix up news and opinion).

Friends of the river Narmada is a resource page of the anti-dam crowd.

The government has failed miserably to make a cogent argument and has lost the public relations battle. If I run into a resource that explains the government's position, I would post it later.

Most of the English media has come out strongly against the dam. To them, the social, cultural and economic cost of the displacement of so many people far outweighs any benefits that the dams would accrue to the states. Changing the rules midstream is a story on this subject from a reasonably centrist newspaper (The Hindu) from South India.

In India today, the construction of almost any dam is opposed by the environmentalists. However, in this specific instance, the human cost seems pretty hight to me too.

I have a lot of personal respect for Medha Patkar - the person who spearheaded the Narmada Bachao andolan. I dont have the same high regard for Arundhati Roy. I liked her book. But I find her way too strident for my taste. Her political writings are heavy on emotion and light on substance. She is probably a well meaning woman,but like a lot of other writers, she makes a lousy public figure.

Media of course loves her. A good looking woman with an interesting life story and the gift of the gab makes for great copy. ( She dropped out or was thrown out of the school of architecture, went to live as a 'flower child' on the beaches of Goa. Her mother (who was a rebel in her own right and fought her own famous battle for women in Kerala in court) refused to support her. After some time, they couldnt hack it and she was living on her own in a laper colony in Delhi when her future husband noticed her. She was happily floating along with the cultural cognoscenti in India and the South Asia crowd in UK until The Book came out and she moved into a different league) .

I read the gossip, find her writings interesting, but dont take her politics very seriously. I think the court is being rather stupid and pigheaded in playing along. But then judges tend to be rather stodgy ......
posted by justlooking at 3:03 PM on March 6, 2002

I read more on the net on the subject of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in the mean time. That dam seems to be a worse idea that I thought. And while I still think Arundhati Roy is unnecessarily theatrical, it is certainly focusing more people's attention of the Narmada Bachao Andolan - which is good. Just wanted to clarify my position.
posted by justlooking at 4:35 PM on March 6, 2002

posted by justlooking at 1:08 AM on March 7, 2002

Yup she really put her freedom on line there. Maybe the next time time she might wish to spend the 30 days if she is so convinced of her position.
posted by bittennails at 5:19 AM on March 7, 2002

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