MOYERS: She writes like a dream, and gives politicians nightmares.
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 novel.
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.
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 thing.
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 court.
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?
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 citizen.
For instance, today people in developing countries, their lives are being 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 know, what is... How do you translate those economists' graphs and market charts and world bank policies into real stories about real lives and real people?
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 just," 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 bigotry, 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?
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 the sanctions.
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 resistance, about the beauty of reasoned non-violent resistance.
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, everywhere.
We should, you know, think of it another way.
Okay, I'm not talking about bin Laden, but what's happening in Kashmir in India.
You see, there are... Kashmir is now the playground for state terrorism on 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.
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?
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 thing 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.
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're... 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.
Well, it's like this.
I was talking to some friends yesterday in new york, and they're not sort of patriotic, jingoistic, Americans at all.
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 right.
Yes, well, I don't... I mean, I don't think they are the same thing at all.
I think patriotism, which is why you say "and not-- comma."
You know, I'm, to be honest, not a patriot.
I'm not a patriot in India at 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 just 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 can... 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 could have been in Delhi the same jokes, the same, you know, the same everything.
And here we are, we could nuke each other.
And, you know, I can't bring myself to say that India is this and Pakistan is that, because when I spoke there, I said, "I do not speak to you as an Indian.
I do not agree with what my government says.
I do not associate you with everything your dictator wants to say or do.
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 is 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.