Book review of Arundhati Roy’s new release ’13 December: A Reader’

first_img13 DECEMBER: A READER with an introduction by ARUNDHATI ROYSuppose a dispassionate expatriate were keenly following news developments in India for the last few years. In case he happened to read the UC Banerjee Report on the Godhra incident of February 27, 2002 and then went through 13 December: A,13 DECEMBER: A READER with an introduction by ARUNDHATI ROYSuppose a dispassionate expatriate were keenly following news developments in India for the last few years. In case he happened to read the UC Banerjee Report on the Godhra incident of February 27, 2002 and then went through 13 December: A Reader, he could reach only one possible conclusion about this country. He would be convinced that Indians go to extraordinary lengths to kill themselves. Or else they conspire in diabolical ways to get their security personnel murdered, put lives of their own leaders in great peril, threaten the majestic symbols of democracy that they otherwise appear proud of, plot a massive stand-off with their nuclear-armed western neighbour, and delight in planning various demented acts aimed at hastening their self-destruction.Anybody who takes the compilation subtitled The Strange Case of the Attack on the Indian Parliament seriously, can only shake his head in sympathy or disbelief at the collective derangement of 1,050 million Indians. What else can you say about a volume that is based on the presumption that the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament was a stage-managed affair directed by intelligence agencies? The book reproduces all the conspiracy theories regarding Indian “dirty tricks” in Jammu and Kashmir, such as the “staging” of the Chhattisinghpora massacre of Sikhs on the eve of President Clinton’s first visit. Leaving no scope for doubt about the inclination of the contributors to this volume, the prima donna of contemporary India bashers Arundhati Roy spells it out in so many words: “…most Kashmiris see Mohammad Afzal as a sort of prisoner of-war being tried in the courts of an occupying power (which India undoubtedly is in Kashmir).”TERROR ATTACK: Security personnel take guard during the Parliament attack on December 13, 2001The volume also contains rather entertaining speculation about India’s “villainous” policemen being influenced by Hindi films and concocting evidence against Kashmiri terrorists based on storylines of movies such as Dil Se, December 16, Khakee and Mission Kashmir. One contributor Shuddhabrata Sengupta, described as a “media practitioner”, lets imagination soar by hinting that the Delhi Police were heavily influenced by Mani Ratnam’s Shah Rukh Khan-Manisha Koirala starrer Dil Se and peddled a potboiler plot that was swallowed by Zee TV to produce a docu-drama.It would appear from his wildly creative article that policemen investigating the horrific attack spent hours internalising the story-telling skills of Bollywood rather than pursuing the criminals. But since the volume’s premise is that the entire incident was staged presumably to enable the government of the day to spend Rs 10,000 crore by ordering troop mobilisation and premeditatedly kill 800 civilians who allegedly died of mine blasts in that connection it stands to reason that the police revelled in watching Hindi movies during office hours as there was really nothing to investigate.Top 10 Best sellersClick here to EnlargeMonopoly of the truth obviously lies with only one set of celebrity cause mongers, and how dare anybody even recognise that a different viewpoint may also exist? Perhaps the most ingenuous half-truth trotted out by Afzal’s apologists is that he did not find a lawyer to defend him and so the trial is flawed. Interestingly, it transpires that the lawyer assigned to him switched over to co-defendant Geelani mid-way through the trial. Considering both the accused sported the same plumes, it is bewildering why that should have happened. Also considering that Nandita Haksar was hyperactive in successfully promoting Geelani, it is baffling why she or Indira Jaisingh (another contributor) could not find a lawyer to accept Afzal’s case.Could it just be that Afzal’s case was legally indefensible and it was decided to let him get sentenced so that a tearjerker amnesty plea could be subsequently mounted? But then, as Shakespeare would have said through Mark Anthony’s lips, “Brutus is an honourable man”. Aren’t the contributors to the volume equally honourable celebrities? Their honourable intentions are further reinforced by the mocking tone of their repeated reference to the then home minister L.K. Advani commenting that the dead men “looked like Pakistani terrorists”. One writer is so outraged that he writes, Advani himself looks like a Pakistani since he migrated to India from what is now Pakistan.The piece de resistance is, of course, Arundhati Roy’s shrill introduction in which she asserts (expectedly without revealing her “source”) that the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had told in an “informal meeting” on December 12 that an attack on Parliament by Pakistan was “imminent”. Surely she owes it to the nation to reveal where, when and with whom this “informal” meeting took place.Other writers also owe it to us to explain how Afzal will bring out the truth about the “real conspirators” if his death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. Isn’t it a bit strange that he should not have used the myriad opportunities in the courtroom to make a clean breast of the alleged conspiracy by the security agencies to make him the fall guy? If the Royists know more than what they are willing to reveal in this volume, could it be that they are planning a Dhoom 2-like sequel?But judging what Nandita Haksar writes in her essay, Afzal is not interested in exposing his tormentors. All he requested her during a meeting was to get some books. “I asked him if there was any particular book he wanted, and he hesitated and rather shyly asked for Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy,” she touchingly recounts. Now, you guys out there, make up your minds: Do you want a terrorist who is a fan of Arundhati Roy to die? Shame on you if you still do.advertisementadvertisementlast_img

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