Arundhati Roy: ‘Biden, Macron know what’s going on in India but won’t talk’


VIDEO/Al Jazeera/Youtube

From her New Delhi home, the acclaimed Indian writer and activist talks about the G20 summit and the state of India’s minorities.

India is preparing to host world leaders at a Group of 20 (G20) summit this weekend in what is being described as a crucial moment for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cement his place as a global leader.

New Delhi has gone under a massive – and controversial – “beautification drive” for the event, with many slums bulldozed and their occupants displaced.

Newly-painted lotus flower murals – the election symbol of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – have appeared and billboards with Modi’s face line the reworked roads.

“You’d be forgiven for thinking it was the BJP that was hosting this event, not the government of India,” acclaimed author and activist Arundhati Roy told Al Jazeera.

Roy, 61, is a vocal critic of the Indian government’s treatment of minorities – mainly its 200 million Muslims – and other rights violations since Modi came to power in 2014.

From her home in New Delhi, she spoke to Al Jazeera about the G20 event and the state of India’s minorities.

Al Jazeera: What is your opinion of India, in the context of its treatment of minorities, hosting the G20 summit?

Arundhati Roy: Look, I don’t think anybody really cares about that because… the G20 is here, everybody is looking for an opportunity, a trade deal or a military equipment deal or a geopolitical strategic understanding. So it’s not as if any single one of the people who are coming here, the heads of state or anyone else doesn’t know exactly what’s going on in India. In countries like the US and the UK and France, the mainstream media has been so critical of what’s happening in India, but the governments have a different agenda altogether. So I don’t think one needs to be naive enough to believe that that is an issue at all for the people coming here.

Al Jazeera: Do you see the G20 being held in India as an opportunity for leaders to call the Indian government out for its treatment of minorities?

Roy: It won’t. None of them will. I have no such expectation. But I think what’s interesting is that if you were in Delhi, as I am now, if you look at the publicity, if you look at the banners, if you look at all the preparations that are being made for the G20, you would be forgiven for imagining that it wasn’t the government of India that is hosting the G20, but the BJP. Every single banner has a huge lotus on it, which is the symbol of a political party. Modi’s BJP.

What has happened in India and it’s so dangerous, so blatant, is that the country, the nation, the government and its institutions have all been conflated with the ruling party – a political party. And that ruling party has been conflated with Modi, the individual. In fact, there is hardly any ruling party now, there’s just a ruler. So it’s as if Modi is hosting the G20. All of us are locked in. We can’t go out. The poor have been purged from the city. The slums have been screened off. The roads are barricaded, the traffic is shut down. It’s as quiet as death. It is as if he’s so ashamed of all of us, of what the city is really like. It’s been purged and locked down for this event.

Al Jazeera: It sounds like you’re saying it’s a vanity event for Modi.

Roy: Of course it’s a vanity event. He’ll pirouette and it’s just before the elections. So it will feed into his campaign. All these Western leaders who speak about democracy – I mean, you can forgive someone like Trump because he doesn’t believe in democracy – but Biden, Macron, all these people who talk about democracy, they know exactly what’s going on here. They know that Muslims have been massacred, that Muslims who protest have their homes bulldozed, which means all the public institutions – courts, magistrates, the press – collude in that. They know that Muslims in certain towns have X marks on their doors and are being asked to leave. They know that Muslims have been ghettoised. And that now people who are accused of actually lynching, murdering Muslims are leading so-called religious processions through these ghettos. They know that vigilantes are out there with swords, calling for annihilation, calling for the mass rape of Muslim women. They know all this, but that doesn’t matter because as always with certain Western countries, it’s like “democracy for us” and, you know, “dictatorship or whatever else it is for our non-white friends”. It doesn’t matter.

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