MOYERS: She writes like a dream, and gives politicians

Her name is Arundhati Roy, and her first novel,
THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS, brought the lives and passions
of a rural village in India to millions of readers the world over,
winning for Arundhati Roy the prestigious Booker Prize, and
comparisons to Faulkner and Dickens.

Her latest book, however, is not the novel her public expected.
It's Roy's defiant poke in the eye to the Enrons of capitalism,
American foreign policy, and the corruption of Indian democracy.
She was arrested there; accused of contempt of court.

And now, she has angered the government again, by
taking to the streets with protesters trying to stop the
construction of dams that would displace millions of people
in India's Narmada Valley. She has become the movement's
most familiar face and eloquent voice.

ARUNDHATI ROY: When I first went to the valley, I used to say
that, "I'm not here because my house is being submerged or my
fields are going under water, but my world view is being
submerged, that's why I'm here."

But it's not just that anymore. They're knocking at my door.
They're coming for me. Therefore I know I have to fight with
all the skill I have, with my ability to communicate, with my
words, with my ideas.

I believe that the only hope and the only thing worth globalizing
is dissent, and I think that when the supreme court comes for us,
for the artists, for the writers, for the filmmakers, for the musicians,
we have to show them our terrifying strength, we have to fight
back with our art.

MOYERS: Thank you for joining us.

Those of us who have been waiting for your second novel,
because we loved the first one, have mixed feelings about
what art has sacrificed for politics. You can't be out in the
streets and participating in demonstration and write another

ROY: I don't... I don't quite agree that you can't do both.
I think you can, and some of us ought to, you know, because
fiction is about the stuff of life, it's about trying to understand
what goes on in the world you live in.

And I keep saying that, you know, for me, fiction and non-fiction
are just different techniques of storytelling. The fiction dances out
of me, but the non-fiction is wrenched out of me by this world
that I wake up to every morning. What I write about always is
power and powerlessness, not about ideology, not about nations,
however much it might appear to be otherwise. I'm very interested
in the physics of power, what happens when there is.

MOYERS: The physics of power?

ROY: Yes, the sort of physics of unfettered power. What happens
when a state or an institution or an individual has unfettered
power? What kind of excesses does it commit?

MOYERS: You have been widely criticized in this country for being,
"anti-American." But as I read what's written about you in India,
you're accused of being anti-India.

ROY: Exactly. All the time.

Everything that one has ever written or said either about the
American government or about the Indian government, which
I criticize mercilessly and which is why i'm always called anti-Indian,
is about demanding democracy, demanding accountability,
demanding justice.

MOYERS: You're saying dissent is the key to democracy. It is what
saves us. It's what enables us to get up on the bridge of the ship,
grab the captain by the arm and say, "That's an iceberg out there."

ROY: Yeah, it's... it's, you know, something which I know, you know,
on the one hand, in India. Well, coming back to this whole supreme
court thing.

MOYERS: I've got to let you explain that whole contempt of court

ROY: Here, you have a system in India where the supreme court is
probably the most powerful institution in the country. And because
the politicians have become so corrupt, you know, the court has taken
over a lot of the decision making.

So the court is deciding whether dams should be built or not, whether
a slum should be cleared or not, whether privatization should be
legitimized or not. The courts are deciding. And then they say that
because of the contempt of court, you can't discuss it, you can't
comment on it.

MOYERS: You can't criticize the court?

ROY: You can't criticize it. If today I had proof, let's say on a video
camera or a photograph or a document, incontrovertible proof that
a judge was corrupt, I cannot produce it. It's criminal contempt of

The newspapers won't write about it, you know. So that's the situation
that one... That was what one was up against. These kinds of public
conversations are what makes a democracy more sophisticated.

MOYERS: What, except fame, gives an artist the authority to speak
to politics?

ROY: Nothing. I mean, I don't speak as a famous person. I don't speak
as an artist either. I keep speaking, I keep saying as I speak, as a
For instance, today people in developing countries, their lives are
completely changed and turned around tumultuously by this process of
corporate globalization.

But people don't quite understand what it is, what is the story, you
what is... How do you translate those economists' graphs and market
charts and world bank policies into real stories about real lives and

How do you connect the dots? That's what a writer can do. And that's
what I try and do.
What I'm saying is that this whole project of corporate globalization
is creating a sort of barbaric dispossession. People are being pushed
off their land. Huge lands are being acquired by governments for
development projects, corporate agriculture is killing off the small
farmers.  How are we to fight these wars except on our own?

MOYERS: What do you mean, fight the wars?

ROY: I mean the wars for democracy, the wars for freedom, the
wars for women's rights. You know, these big real fights, which you
see happening in India in a wonderful way.

You know, the people's resistance movements, the movement
against uranium mining, or the movement for the right to information,
or the single malyali professor who's every day outside the collector's
office protesting the rewriting of history books. We fight inch by inch,
stone by stone for our freedom. You know, and that's the only way it
can happen.

MOYERS: Do you think there's a possibility of a nuclear conflagration,
a nuclear holocaust between India and Pakistan?

ROY: Well, look, as long as there are nuclear bombs it's possible.
I really... I mean, I think just now the governments of India and
Pakistan are... especially the government of India's in a bit of a
sulk saying, sort of, "Why did you believe our rhetoric?" "We were
you know, "pretending that we were going to go to war."

But the thing is, you see, Bill, you have to understand that what is
happening is that this is a huge process of disillusionment and
impoverishment that's setting in in the developing world. And as
these nations sink into this kind of morass of despair, religious
and cultural nationalism and fascism, it's just the ideal breeding
ground for what's going on.

So you know, it's not a coincidence that the very same people,
like Mr. Advani, the home minister, the prime minister, the
dis-investment minister, these are all people in India who are very,
you know, busy signing the enron contract, and busy dis-investing
huge public sector units, and so on.

And they're the same people who are talking about Indian nationalism,
and nuclear bombs, and Hindu fascism, and "kill the Muslims." You
know, so it's these two things go hand in hand.

MOYERS: We have seen in this country, the world has seen, the
ugliest side of Islam this year, "the fascist Muslims," as they've been
called. And you've written about Hindu fascism. What do you mean
Hindu fascism, and how serious is this bigotry, this hatred in India?

ROY: It's very, very serious. And you know, I mean, what I'm trying
to say is that fascism is a byproduct of a kind of disillusionment.
And while I'm not saying that it's entirely created by American
imperialism, this pushing people to the wall has a great part in it,
you know?

What I feel very sad about, since I've been here on the 11 of September,
is that I... Because I also come from a world where every day one sees
the anger against America, and I know that in America people don't
understand it.

MOYERS: Why is that?

ROY: People don't understand it, I think, because the people of
America have really been shielded from the information of what
their governments have... Successive governments have been up
to outside America, you know?

MOYERS: Example.

ROY: Well, beginning from, I mean, 11th of September, 1973, was the
day when General Pinochet, in a C.I.A.-backed coup, overthrew
Allende. And Henry Kissinger said that, "Why should Chile be allowed
to fall to Marxism just because of the foolishness of its people?" You
know, this was a democratically elected government.

And for 17 years, Pinochet murdered thousands of people in Chile.
And the people of Chile had to live with that. You know, September 11,
1922, was the date on which Britain mapped out the mandate of
Palestine and gave it to European Zionists, you know? So these dates
have significance.

And then what is happening in Iraq. Do you know what is happening
in Iraq? Half a million Iraqi children have died directly as a result of

MOYERS: Are you suggesting...

ROY: And Madeline Albright said, "It's a hard price, it's hard but we
think the price is worth it." And, you see, it's a very terrible thing
to hold
civilians responsible for the actions of their governments.

It's a terrible thing for anybody to do, you know? And that's why as
citizens-- and again I say, I speak to you not as an Indian speaking to
an American, because I don't talk like that.

I talk to you as a human being talking to another human being about
what all our governments are up to and how you and I are being held
hostage for the actions of our states, and we need to know what they
are up to.

MOYERS: You're not suggesting, are you, that bin Laden and the Muslim
hijackers were justified in what they did?

ROY: Of course not. I mean, please, please don't ever make the mistake
that I'm doing that. I'm just saying quite the opposite thing. I mean,
I am saying that all of us... Okay, let me say something very clearly.
I have spent all the writing that I do writing about non-violent
about the beauty of reasoned non-violent resistance. Okay?

I believe that any government who really wants to condemn terrorism
ought to show itself to be open to reasoned non-violent dissent.

We should really privilege that on our tv shows, in our media,
We should, you know, think of it another way. Okay, I'm not talking
bin Laden, but what's happening in Kashmir in India.
You see, there are... Kashmir is now the playground for state terrorism
the one hand by Indian forces and this cross border terrorism of people
who are being sent in from Pakistan.

And when there's a terrorist attack, when there was a terrorist attack
on the parliament, India moved all its army to the border. Okay?
And Pakistan's army stand now, today as we speak, there are one
million men facing each other. Both countries have nuclear weapons.

America is telling India and Pakistan, "War is not the way to deal with
this. Please don't go to war." And America is right.
But then why not about your own thing? You know?

And what I worry about is that if you think of war as being the actually
opposite way of dealing with terrorism. You know what you're doing,
you're putting such power in the hands of terrorists. Now in India
terrorists have... It's like having the nuclear button. You know, they
can actually provoke a war.

MOYERS: I agree with you, I think...

ROY: And they don't care. They don't care. You know, I mean, you
think bin Laden cares about what happens to people in Afghanistan?

MOYERS: I think if we do a first strike against hussein, we have a very
hard time saying to Pakistan, run by a dictator, "you shouldn't do a
preemptive strike against India." Or vice versa.

ROY: Against India, or India against Pakistan...

MOYERS: Is there anything you like about America?

ROY: Oh, lovely things. I think there are lovely things about America.
I admire the fact that a million people marched in washington against
the nuclear bomb so many years ago. How much I admire what, how
the people of America forced their government eventually to pull out
of Vietnam. I really admire that. I want to see that happening in India,
you know.

MOYERS: Is this what you meant when you said what really needs to
be globalized is dissent?

ROY: Yes, I think so. I think that is... Well, it's a very interesting
about globalization, because people like me are called... Just like I'm
called anti American, I'm also called anti globalization. And I want
to say really because what are we talking about globalizing? Because
the I.M.F. And the world bank and the W.T.O., they are...

MOYERS: All of these international financial organizations.

ROY: Yes. They want to globalize capital, they want to globalize goods,
but they don't want to globalize the free movement of people.

They don't want to globalize any international treaties about nuclear
weapons or chemical weapons or climate change. They don't want to
globalize justice, you know?

Actually, I'm for the globalization of a lot of things, it's just that
we disagree about what exactly ought to be globalized, you know?

And talking of democracy, the I.M.F., the World Bank, and the W.T.O.
run the world today. How are the people who run those organizations
appointed? Secretly, behind closed doors. Nobody elected them.
Nobody... I didn't say that I'd vote for them, you know? So we're
actually... this whole process of privatization and globalization
undermines democracy.

MOYERS: I sense you're very perturbed that the dominant narrative
in the world today is the American narrative. We are the ones who
are dominating how the story is being told, how it's being written.

ROY: Yes. Yes. Well, it's like this. I was talking to some friends
in New York, and they're not sort of patriotic, jingoistic, Americans at

Just how sad they were about September 11. If I had lost a friend
that day, I would have felt as if all this war talk, you know, sort of
usurped my grief and cheapened it and used it for things I didn't
want it to be used for.

MOYERS: Being so precise about language, you surely don't want to
confuse patriotism and jingoism. They're two different things. I'm a
patriot. I don't think I'm a jingoist.
I'm a patriot in the same way G.K. Chesterton, the British writer, was
when he said, "To say my country right or wrong is something no patriot
would say except in a dire circumstance." It's like saying, my mother,
drunk or sober. I mean, I want my mother sober and I want my country

ROY: Right. Yes, well, I don't... I mean, I don't think they are the
thing at all. I think patriotism, which is why you say "and not--
You know, I'm, to be honest, not a patriot. I'm not a patriot in India
all, because I want to think in terms of civilizations. I don't want to
patrol a territory, I want to love a civilization.

And I feel I think Indians especially, Indians and Pakistani people, I
was in Pakistan recently, and people weep, you know, weep because
that partition between India and Pakistan partitions the civilization.
You know, and now we are pointing nuclear weapons at each other.

And you think, how false is this? You know, how false is this, that I
You know, I've never been to Pakistan in my life because Indians and
Pakistanis are not given visas and so on. I mean, this time I managed
to get a visa, and I went.
And I'd never been to this country, but I'm sitting in Lahore and I
have been in Delhi  the same jokes, the same, you know, the same
everything. And here we are, we could nuke each other. You know?

And, you know, I can't bring myself to say that India is this and
is that, because when I spoke there, I said, "I do not speak to you as
Indian. I do not agree with what my government says. I do not associate
you with everything your dictator wants to say or do. I don't."

You know, I think we just need to say "open the borders. You know,
let us just exchange our stories, let us just be like the rivers and the
birds and the insects and the trees that don't acknowledge this
artificial border."

MOYERS: Ah, a world without politics.

ROY: It's not a world without politics. National borders are not the
only kind of politics at all. You know, I mean, think of it. The earth
4,600 million years old, you know. Human beings appeared on the
earth only just a few seconds ago. And look at what we've done
to it. That's why I believe that literature is the opposite of a nuclear
bomb. It just rolls over cultures and languages, and it joins us where
these bombs and borders separate us.

And I don't mind being called a dreamer or a romantic, because
what would we be without romance and dreams? You know, what
would we be if we just spoke the language of bankers and politicians
and businessmen and generals?

MOYERS: Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

ROY: You're welcome.

[Now with Bill Moyers, Setember 20, 2002]

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