Corporate Power, Women, and Resistance in India Today - an Interview with Arundhati Roy
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There has been a massive migration from the countryside into the megacities—Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore. Pankaj Mishra has written about how many of these migrants, who don’t have skills, are unanchored; they’re kind of stranded in this new urban environment. He sees the potential for an enormous explosion.
We should be a little bit careful about this, because Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh Ahluwalia have openly said that the dream of the new India is that they want 70 percent of the population to live in cities, which means they dream of moving something like 500 to 600 million people out of villages into cities. That process has begun. People are being pushed out of their villages by development projects, mines, and dams, and they flock to the cities.
But the violence that you’re seeing in cities is not coming from those people. The violence is coming from the new rich, like, say, in Delhi, people who have sold their land to the malls and suddenly have acquired a lot of money because of political status, and a kind of aggression that comes with it. Whereas, for example, when the famous incident of the girl who was gang-raped and murdered in Delhi happened, Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram and all were very quick to say, “We must be very careful of these unanchored poor.”
Basically, that idea of criminalizing the lower classes immediately comes up, that these are the violent people. Whereas actually they are the ones against whom tremendous violence is perpetrated in the cities—by the police and by the building contractors. There are ten million people or more, living on the outskirts of Delhi, working like slave labor in terrible conditions. But they are not the violent people. They have occasionally burst out, in the Honda factory or in the Maruti factory. After a lot of provocation something has happened. But at all times they are really the victims of violence. They are the victims of slowly having the oxygen pressed out of their lungs, of having lower and lower wages, of having to pay more and more because prices are rising so fast. And they literally live in circumstances which I don’t think people could even fathom in America and Europe how workers are living in India.
Every time something happens—and that something, as I keep saying, they are not the ones that are perpetrating the violence, they are the ones that are the victims of that violence—the government uses it as an opportunity. Like in the Delhi situation, where the girl was raped and then killed, it immediately becomes, “We need more police stations, we need more surveillance, we need more cameras.” That whole idea of the citizen as a criminal. When, if you actually were to inquire into any case that happened, I think the chances are much more that behind almost all criminal activity in cities is the police.
An excerpt of an interview of Arundhati Roy by David Barsamian. Read the entire interview here.
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