Times of India
Salman Rushdie's support to the cause of saving the Narmada Valley is an expression of his uprightness and his upholding of human values beyond all boundaries. Whatever alluded in the editorial (August 10, 2001) about the support and participation of such people is far from the reality and also from what the people and the organisation think.
The common people with their own struggles and issues do not think so much whether such support comes from a 'celebrity'. Rather, it may matter more to those who are obsessed about and inform the people about the 'celebrities' and 'cause celebre'. Most of the time the media takes the lead in this and sets the discourse in India. It's due to this fate of the downtrodden and people's movements, that support from every form to the movement in the Narmada Valley is important for all of us, struggling from the field and in each forum for justice.
Both Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, the celebrated authors, have gone beyond their literary achievements and artistic accomplishment to uphold the cause of the people's survival and rights. Sardar Sarovar or Narmada issue and the movement against it have been made into one of the most controversial subject, thanks largely to the vested interests. Only those with strong conviction, commitment and who are ready to take cudgels on behalf of the people and be defamed, questioned for that can take a position and action in such cases.
Arundhati Roy has gone through all this on the strength of her commitment. The people in the valley know that she has never claimed to be an 'activist in the field', nor has she taken up supporter's role as a 'performance by an activist'. It is her self and soul that has the appeal more than her words. Common people away from the media blitz understand and welcome this more than the elites. Her 'locus standi' comes through her rapport with the people and her strong opposition to the devastation and injustice involved in the big dams in Narmada and otherwise. She has put the case of Narmada struggle forcefully and with the facts and analysis with which the movement has been fighting for years. This has helped the movement's cause to the chagrin of the powers bent on building the dam at any cost. We wish that more such intellectuals and artists must stand by such issues involving rights of the depressed, for equality and sustainable development.
In fact, the question about locus standi can also be asked about the editors who take positions and make opinions with much less and distorted information. And aren't such people too are commenting from "atop their safe perch in the metropolis" and who "comment and take sides, on a subject whose complexity they may not fully appreciate", but which may have material bearing on their First World existence in the Third World?
There is no question of Arundhati, Rushdie or anyone else for that matter seeking consent for their support actions from anyone. It is their right.
What to talk of the Courts? We can only wish that there should be a pro-people, impartial and non-corrupt judiciary. As long as there is contrary trend, we have to fight, at whatever cost. All those, with the conscience and commitment of Arundhati or Rushdie join us, knowing all repercussions, are welcome with solidarity and gratitude. Our march, not beleaguered but an emerging political force, is towards a just and sustainable paradigm of development without such destruction and expropriation of livelihood.