"The chant of 'Azadi!' - Urdu for 'Freedom!' - is the slogan of the freedom struggle in Kashmir against what Kashmiris see as the Indian Occupation. Ironically, it also became the chant of millions on the streets of India against the project of Hindu Nationalism. Even as Arundhati Roy began to ask what lay between these two calls for Freedom - a chasm or a bridge? - the streets fell silent. Not only in India, but all over the world. The Coronavirus brought with it another, more terrible understanding of Azadi, making a nonsense of international borders, incarcerating whole populations, and bringing the modern world to a halt like nothing else ever could. In this series of electrifying essays, Arundhati Roy challenges us to reflect on the meaning of freedom in a world of growing authoritarianism. The essays include meditations on language, public as well as private, and on the role of fiction and alternative imaginations in these disturbing times. The pandemic, she says, is a portal between one world and another. For all the illness and devastation it has left in its wake, it is an invitation to the human race, an opportunity, to imagine another world."--Back cover.
Azadi is Urdu for Freedom! and has become the rallying cry both for the Kashmiris against the Indian occupation as well as of millions in India against the rise of Hindu nationalism and the authoritarianism of the Modi government. She discusses the importance as well as the abuses of language in Indian politics; the attacks on Muslims and the way the government has not only disenfranchised them but encouraged physical attacks against them; the situation in Kashmir and how the government has tried to shut down any communication with the rest of the world; the caste and class systems; and, in the last essay, the pandemic and how it is being handled by the Modi government. She also explains how so many of these issues have influenced her fiction.
I will admit my knowledge of these issues was slight - when the Canadian Prime Minister visited India, the news was more about his clothes than what he discussed with Modi and what it meant in terms of Canadian complicity and silence about the situation in both India and Kashmir. I will also admit that, lacking much in the way of education or understanding about the history, culture, or politics, it was easy to ignore, especially a much of the information available was couched in pedantry. But, despite being well-documented, Roy writes cogently and passionately, making the information accessible to those, like me, who have little background but want to understand because, in this global world, it affects us all.
Thanks to Edelweiss+ and Haymarket for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review