An intrepid voice deploring repressions -The Asian Age

Arundhati Roy came back to the readers with her latest book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness in 2017. It was her return to fiction after long twenty years. Her first book The God of Small Things was a novel which was published in 1997 and which brought her the prestigious Booker Prize. Arundhati Roy was awarded Sydney Peace Prize in 2004 which added another feather to her authorial crown.

Though The God of Small Things and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness are the only fictional works of Arundhati Roy, she has penned a broad number of non-fictional books from 1997 till now. Listening to Grasshoppers, The Shape of the Beast, The Algebra of Infinite Justice, The End of Imagination, Capitalism: A Ghost Story are some of the fabulous books which have over and over again enhanced Arundhati Roy's eminence and illustrated her philanthropic attitude towards the global masses who are unspeakably jeopardized with repressions, socio-economic injustice and misgovernance.

Her latest work The Ministry of Utmost Happiness touches upon an unhappy world which gets on paradoxical terms with the title of the book. The golden deer called happiness remains beyond the catch of ordinary people who have been languishing under the jackboots of racism, poverty and discrimination for ages. This contradiction between the title and the content of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness makes the book all the more engrossing and poignant.

This book characterizes a community of transgender people and their tribulations in India but this is not the only theme this postmodern tale spotlights on. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes the readers to different Indian states where Maoists guerillas have been fighting with the Indian law and order forces, the persistent violence in Kashmir, militancy, the dehumanizing impact of caste system and some more catastrophic pieces of reality which are sources of frequently haunting nightmares for millions of underprivileged people across South Asia.

Another widely applauded book by Arundhati Roy is Capitalism: A Ghost Story which appeared in 2014. Like all her previous books, this one is also loaded with pointblank words and resentments towards injustice, social inequity, abuse of power and other political and economic anomalies in South Asia and beyond.

The level of socio-economic discrepancies that prevails across the South Asian countries including India touches the hearts of readers, particularly when it is narrated by Arundhati Roy. Her compassion towards people living below the poverty line is highly eye-catching in all her books. Simultaneously, her unflinching standpoint against torment also deserves to be noted with due importance.

She argues that it is capitalism that has over the decades unleashed an inequitable allocation of wealth that has made just a handful of people abnormally rich leaving millions of ordinary people in hardcore poverty. Billions of dollars glitter in the coffers of a few Indians, while a massive number of people have to sweat to the last drop to secure two meals a day.

According to Capitalism: A Ghost Story, 2,50,000 debt-ridden Indian farmers have so far committed suicide to get rid of the agony and humiliation caused by their failure to pay back loans taken from different financial agencies and landlords. These ill-fated farmers are just a portion of the huge number of poverty-stricken masses victimized under the hammer of capitalism. In this book Arundhati Roy allegorically cited the word "ghost" to refer to the departed souls of these hapless peasants who had to kill themselves for redemption from the whips of pauperism.

According to the book, millions of Indian people have been rendered homeless to facilitate the construction of different private and state-sponsored projects. Most of these forcibly ousted people belong to lower castes and tribal clans whose tears and grievances often go unacknowledged and most of them have shifted to the shanty colonies and slums of Indian cities after their eviction from rural areas.

In Capitalism: A Ghost Story we further come across the "ghosts" of dead rivers, denuded forests and demolished mountains. Deforestation in different parts of India goes on continuously in the name of privatization and progress. This kind of assaults on environmental resources may lead to severe ecological disasters, but the authorities concerned don't have time to pay heed to these issues, Arundhati Roy regrets.

Enormous business organizations have been ceaselessly doing large-scale damages to the forests and hills of India for expansion of their industries. The owners are being allowed by the Indian government to go ahead with their onslaught on India's environmental splendour and diversity, the writer claims.

Moreover, Arundhati Roy pointed fingers at another ongoing menace of India-the detention of tribal people on vague charges which are even unknown to the detainees. In her words, "Hundreds of people have been jailed, charged for being Maoists under draconian, undemocratic laws. Prisons are crowded with Adivasi people, many of whom have no idea what their crime is."

She gave the example of a female school teacher from a district in central India who was arrested by Indian cops for interrogation and was tortured in the most ruthless manner to force her to confess that she was a Maoist messenger. No action was taken by the Indian government even when the news of this inhumanity flashed out. Rather the police officer who was in charge of that interrogation was later on rewarded for "gallantry".

Forced confessions and merciless persecution of detainees take place under the custody of Indian law-enforcing agencies quite frequently, as stated in Capitalism: A Ghost Story. Similar instances are found in Arundhati Roy's another book Listening to Grasshoppers. 

In Arundhati Roy's view, the form of capitalism we see in South Asia makes itself comparable to an unchained monster-terrifying and gobbling up the poor on its rampage. Besides, capitalism views the world as a marketplace where everything goes on sale-beliefs, moral values, ballots, ideologies and all other things we can think about.

Arundhati Roy wants people to be more sensible and more devoted for the betterment of their fellow human beings. She wants all sorts of maltreatment to come to an end so that innocent and insolvent people can live at peace and do not fall victims to political intrigues. Arundhati Roy urges everyone to abandon vengeance and to uphold fraternity to pave the way for an ideal world free of hunger, deprivations and agonies.

The writer is a columnist for The Asian Age