Click for News Update: tweetsTrove


CHR Sri Lanka images on LLRC sessions. Jaffna.


Breakfast at a cafe in Jaffna

transCurrents Home

Arundhati Roy is irresponsible and lame


Arundhati Roy has written an especially arrogant and irrelevant editorial in the Times of India. She makes sweeping statements condemning the government and Sri Lanka and prescribes the world to return like Jesus and somehow fix everything. The government’s not going to turn around and be like, wow, we’re genocidal maniacs, thanks for pointing that out. The ‘world’ is not going to a) exist in any real sense or b) come and occupy Sri Lanka. All she’s doing is intellectual masturbation. It might make her feel better but it helps no one.

All the people I see actually doing something on the ground speak moderately and do small things when and where they can. And they work with the government, and they don’t needlessly antagonize people. People are working on sending basic medical supplies to the Vavuniya hospital this week for example. There is hopefully a truck going up on Friday. I bought some surgical gloves. I’m not waiting for the world police, no matter how loud Arundhati Roy blows her own horn.

I have spent years railing against the government without actually leaving my comfort zone. Life was much simpler then. Since I’ve tried to become more active I’ve discovered that things no longer seem so black and white. When the point is to just rant it’s very easy to make sweeping pronouncements. However, on the ground you discover that you need to compromise. To actually help people you need to go through government agents and government hospitals and calling them genocidal and tyrannical is both counterproductive and untrue.

For example, I think Arundhati Roy’s article in the Times of India (reproduced on TransCurrents) is both ill-informed and counter-productive.

From the little information that is filtering through it looks as though the Sri Lankan government is using the propaganda of the ‘war on terror’ as a fig leaf to dismantle any semblance of democracy in the country, and commit unspeakable crimes against the Tamil people. Working on the principle that every Tamil is a terrorist unless he or she can prove otherwise, civilian areas, hospitals and shelters are being bombed and turned into a war zone. Reliable estimates put the number of civilians trapped at over 200,000. The Sri Lankan Army is advancing, armed with tanks and aircraft.

Meanwhile, there are official reports that several ‘‘welfare villages’’ have been established to house displaced Tamils in Vavuniya and Mannar districts. According to a report in The Daily Telegraph (Feb 14, 2009), these villages ‘‘will be compulsory holding centres for all civilians fleeing the fighting’’.

Is this a euphemism for concentration camps? The former foreign minister of Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraveera, told The Daily Telegraph:

‘‘A few months ago the government started registering all Tamils in Colombo on the grounds that they could be a security threat, but this could be exploited for other purposes like the Nazis in the 1930s. They’re basically going to label the whole civilian Tamil population as potential terrorists.’’

What we are witnessing, or should we say, what is happening in Sri Lanka and is being so effectively hidden from public scrutiny, is a brazen, openly racist war. The impunity with which the Sri Lankan government is being able to commit these crimes actually unveils the deeply ingrained racist prejudice, which is precisely what led to the marginalization and alienation of the Tamils of Sri Lanka in the first place. That racism has a long history, of social ostracisation, economic blockades, pogroms and torture.

Several of us including myself, who should have spoken out much earlier, have not done so, simply because of a lack of information about the war. So while the killing continues, while tens of thousands of people are being barricaded into concentration camps, while more than 200,000 face starvation, and a genocide waits to happen, there is dead silence from this great country.

It’s a colossal humanitarian tragedy. The world must step in. Now. Before it’s too late."

What I find deeply irresponsible about her article is that she both admits that she’s ill-informed and yet sees fit to basically accuse the whole Sinhala south of prosecuting this as a racist war. Well, WTF. I don’t agree with the war and I didn’t support it but I understand that some response is necessary when there are a constant bomb attacks in Colombo, when the Foreign Minister is killed, when people are banned from voting, etc.

I actually agree with her on many broad points, but her tone is so sweeping and broad that it’s frankly insulting. There are certainly racist elements in the government and everywhere, but on the whole this is actually a war against the LTTE. Her sources, however, are thrice removed articles from foreign papers (even though we have available media here she could read if she looked a bit more) and quotes from Mangala Samaraweera who, whatever side he’s on now, is still a cunning liar who helped get Mahinda elected in the first place.

Any yet, based on a cursory reading of British papers she sees fit to judge a whole complex, decades long war into a simple genocide/asshole dichotomy and recommend that the ‘world’ step in to… do what? These magical realists who invoke the world or world intervention as a solution don’t realize that this is about as pointless as asking Jesus to step in. The ‘world’ doesn’t exist in such a concrete political sense such that it can step into this island and fix everything. It is only the arrogance of irrelevance that would lead Ms. Roy to judge a conflict so simply and pronounce such a simplistic solution.

Seriously, what positive action does she think is going to come out of calling the Sri Lankan government racist and genocidal and asking the world to come in and do what? Overthrow our government? Save the LTTE? What? Is the LTTE mentioned even once? Reading the editorial it seems like the Army is just bombing random Tamil villages. Where does she get off?

I supported peace before and I support the people suffering in the North right now, but I think Arundhati Roy’s editorial is just irresponsible and lame. Wow, you read something in the Telegraph and felt bad. Get a blog.

In reality, the only people who can actually pause this conflict are the LTTE by laying down arms, accepting amnesty and letting those people go. The UN, US and UK actually called for this realistic position saying - “We suggested the idea of some kind of humanitarian pause to allow that to happen and to allow the civilian population to leave,” he said. “This is an extremely worrying situation, and therefore our first appeal is to the LTTE to let the civilians out in a safe and orderly fashion.”

If you want to actually effect change you have to compromise. If you’re not doing anything I guess you can divide some other country into good and evil, call in the world cavalry and call it a day. But make no mistake, it does nothing for anyone in Sri Lanka and it does nothing for the people suffering in the North. If anything it makes things harder. If you want to help, people are trying to send some medical supplies up now, to the government hospital in Vavuniya. Arundhati Roy and the world police aren’t actually helping anyone. []


Her article is having an impact is proved by your rather weak attempt to discredit her points.
I think your primary objection is due to the fact that you dont want to see how the Tamils view the SL governmen-even those who may not be Tiger supporters.
The fact is that we have had over 50 years of racism and discrimination and you dont want peopele like Roy to speak.

Posted by: Janamthu Aravind | March 31, 2009 07:50 AM

At long last I have read some sensible note. Yes, everybody wants to solve the great big problem and preach from their books. Nevertheless changes happen on the ground bit by bit by the actions of small people.

I salute the courage of all those who suffer in both north and south and relentlessly pursue some way out of this. They sure will regain their country at the end, while all the saviours crucify themselves with velcro bands on media calvaries.

I salute you for all you do.



Posted by: Sandakantha | March 31, 2009 09:32 AM

In reality, it is a Genocide that the like minds of you try to hide under the " WAR ON TERROR" like a pumpkin into a plate of rice.

Dear Indi, people lie to get the power and they tell the truth when they are out of the power chair. And that is what exactly Mr.Samaraweera was telling.

Dear Indi, prove us if we are wrong that the " Welfare Villages are not "compulsory holding centers" and the people have every right to move around and see things.

A suggested Viewing for you

Make sure to view the whole clip and not part of it as you seem to "Grasp at straws and leave the tail"

One more thing to the Transcurrent editor ( I hope you publish the whole) ...

Under what category that you classified the language decades long war into a simple "genocide/asshole" dichotomy and recommend that the ‘world’ step in to… do what?

I am just curious

Posted by: April | March 31, 2009 09:40 AM

So there are people trying to deny the 5000 civilians killed by the govt shelling and bombing so far this year and the over 10,000 injured. Very soon they will even start to deny the ICRC led ongoing evacuation by the ferry Green Ocean, of the many thousand civilians injured due to the SLA shelling so far. But thank god with hundreds if not thousands of images and videos available, recording this genocide perpetrated by a war without witness those like this hideous author can only plead true physical blindness for misrepresenting facts. He probably will never see the mother breast feeding one child whilst crying uncontrollably over the dead body of her other child. Nor will he see the mutilated gangrenous bodies of Tamil civilians deprived of medicines. Since he can’t see, he will never believe that civilians digging trenches adjoining their tents in the so called “safe zones” to safeguard themselves from SLA shelling. To these rascals, the queues for water and meagre food can only be a figment of somebody else’s imagination.

After all even Mr Rambukwella struggled, and sounded lame, answering as to why independent journalists were still not allowed in the war zone to figure out the truth for themselves rather than get the PR version from the govt, when confronted today by the BBC’s Radio4 "Today" programme interviewer in which Arundhati Roy also took part. That is the charge the govt has to answer. With 70,000 Sinhala soldiers surrounding 500 Tamil Tigers few weeks ago (now probably a negative number or in the imaginary axis) what is the reason for the lack of transparency. The answer is clear to me: a clear case of continuing genocide. I don’t know how authors like this one get the courage to write evil, inhumane articles if not lured by some form of serious inducement. But then their desire not to reveal their true identity is proof enough of their cowardice and credibility.

Posted by: Velu Balendran | March 31, 2009 09:59 AM

Quote : simple genocide/asshole

Should have asked P/A or F/A

Nice vocabulary

Posted by: Nam | March 31, 2009 10:35 AM

Tell srilankan govt to send independend foreign media or UN officials, then only you can blame her illinformed. Dont defend sinhala brutal forces or GOSL.

Posted by: J.muthu | March 31, 2009 11:01 AM

a school kid's article?, who even does not know ABCD of ethinic war of Sri Lanka

Posted by: victor | March 31, 2009 01:02 PM


You say you are "frankly insulted" by Arundhati Roy's article. I actually found it well balanced and compassionate.

The various governments of Ceylon and Sri Lanka have clearly proven over the last 60 years that they are incapable of ruling the country. Things are so bad that even the Defence Secretary has taken US citizenship and the head of the Army has a US green card. Let's face it. Would you want to live in a banana republic where the President's family run everything and newspaper editors are carted off in white vans or just murdered (if they are lucky)?

The US constitution says:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

The LTTE are freedom fighters and have the approval of the majority of Tamils to fight for Eelam. Tamilchelvan was our George Washington. To ask the LTTE to lay down their weapons and trust the murderous Sri Lankan army is a pipe dream.

We too were sending medical supplies and development aid to the Vanni during the peace process, at least the small amounts that got past the corrupt custom officials. The same way as you resent all the South being classed as racists, we resented all medical and development aid being seen as providing support to the LTTE.

We also sent money to the Sencholai orphanage until it was bombed by the SLAF and 61 schoolchildren killed. Did anyone in the South speak against this or find out what really happened?

The US constituion also says:

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

There is no doubt that the current government is truly Despotic. The path ahead is long and rocky. But many Tamils have started the journey and will not stop until Eealam is established.



Posted by: Segaran | March 31, 2009 02:44 PM

Truth hurts. What AR has written absolute truth. There is nothing you can but to rave and rant

Posted by: Daniel M. Asaipillai | March 31, 2009 05:03 PM

In defence of Roy, please read the following related to IDP camps.

Quote "The next morning, when President Rajapaksa rejected "international" even for a short pause in military action, the UN had no comment other than happy talk that "we have been getting a little bit.. of protection of civilians," referring to soldiers leaving some camps. But the government has said they will "remain at the camps for 'security reasons,'" and that freedom of movement will not be afforded to the IDP.

That means IDP camps are concentration and mandatory stay camps.

I guess some one is really lame here.

Posted by: Nam | March 31, 2009 05:33 PM

Arundhati Roy is absolutely right. Of all the racist regimes in the history of the island, the Rajapakse one is perhaps the most ruthless. Ruthless, because as Roy suggests, it is playing a very subtle double game - on the one hand, engaging in a slow tortuous genocide - while on the other, doing its best to hoodwink the international community.

While the brutality of past UNP regimes is well-documented, this is the first regime to openly declare innocent Tamil civilians as POWS and confine them to a barbed-wire existance indefinitely.

This regime has taken the scorched earth policy of warfare further than any other.

It is the first regime to aerially bomb its own citizens for months and months, if not years, with no let-down.

This regime has done far more harm to the media than any other.

This is the first regime that has complete disregard for the Supreme Court.

Perhaps this is also the most corrupt regime; if we consider that the President himself came to power through treason (e.g. by bribing the LTTE).

One should understand that this (Rajapakse) regime does not embody any civilized values. It needs to be isolated and sanctioned.It should not be given covert support and funding. Whatever India's past with the LTTE may have been, it has no obligation to support vile, despicable, racist regimes like the present GOSL. It is a poor reflection on India's own stature. Furthermore, India should well understand, from her past dealings with the island, that Colombo has no interest in a political solution; that the only goal of the Sinhala-Buddhist dictatorship is total hegemony of the island culminating in massive colonization of Tamil lands. 99% of Tamil villages in the Wanni have already been emptied of their inhabitants.

India does not openly subscribe to racism and genocide the way her Lankan neighbor does. Therefore, she should not lose sight of her moral obligations. In particular, she should look at her own successes - embracing federalism, investing in private education, creating a class of highly competent technical professionals - and note how each one of those is missing in SL. India is a rising superstar on the global stage. This is her chance to step up to the plate and deliver. If she misses out on that chance, the consequences will be disastrous.

Posted by: Dinesh | March 31, 2009 08:09 PM

There is no substantial content to this article by Indi.

Its easy to call people names, its easy to fire off words more or less randomly under the pretext of countering Arundhati Roy's article.
In fact this article exactly parallels the attititude of the GOSL: firing off randomly under the pretext of fighting the LTTE!

Posted by: N2 | April 1, 2009 02:21 AM

Kick a man in his teeth and then give him some band aid. Makes us feel good, some form of masturbation eh?
Really we should be opening our homes to these poor people not locking them up in camps. I wonder how many of us in the deep south would like to take in an IDP family? After all our local Gestapo has been talking about radiation treatment(gas chamber??). Also we have been asked to look out for Tamils infiltrating into our areas and let them know.
Luckily Arundathi Roy is in India otherwise there will be a knock on the door and white van at the doorstep.

Posted by: Southerner | April 1, 2009 08:46 AM

....Sri Lankan government racist and genocidal and asking the world to come in and do what? ...."

Author from : You still don't get it, do you?

Its time to teach majority of Sri Lankan thugs (7 out of 10 speak Singhalese?) that no more loan and aids from UN and other agencies if you don't treat your minority citizens with equal rights. It’s also the time to teach to the thugs in the government that burning and destroying libraries, temples and hospitals are criminal acts.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 1, 2009 10:08 AM

Though it is a belated call by Arunthathi Roy, it is a wakeup call to all the Human rights activists and journalistic community of India and abroard.

Lack of TRANSPARANCY of GOSL , denial of independent reporting and unfolding human tragedy are the things that every SriLankan to be ashamed of.

Posted by: RAM | April 1, 2009 10:15 AM

As a regular business traveller to Srilanka over these years I found that Tamils are refused even the basic rights. Only a Singhala buddist can become the president by law. Historically Tamils are also living in this Island for 500 years or more with their Kingdoms in north of srilanka. Tamils clearly have their motherland in north of Srilanka which they wanted to be independent because they are not treated equally. AR is completely correct. India should not watch or support SL, it should help tamils in SL.

Posted by: Anil Jain | April 1, 2009 02:10 PM

A well written article kkeep up the good work, we need more people like you to expose the hypocrisy of these want to be peacnik's who write biased fabricated articles based on third hand knowledge and popular misconceptions espoused by other third rate sources and 'journalists'. No doubt Mrs Roy and her ilk are angling for some human rights awards but have no idea, or solutions to offer only news bites that unfortunately make it mainstream media.

Mrs Roy, please stick to India you may at least have visited that country and have relatives there, because you writing has clearly shown that you sure as hell have never been to Sri Lanka or understand whats happening at the moment.

Posted by: Gamini | April 2, 2009 08:30 AM

Our family in Jaffna ( Kovil Nagar) has suffered enough from the LTTE because they supported a rival group ( now extinct because the top leaders were all murdered by the LTTE). The LTTE leader does not like the opinion of others than his ( more like Hitler). Tamil will continue to suffer under the LTTE 's gun culture.At least the current generation will live in great fear. The past history in Sri Lanka does not reflect the future. Chnage is possible just like in many other countries . Let the tamil people decide through the ballot. LTTE prevented us from voting in the last elections . A couple who voted was shot dead. We look for peace.

Posted by: Bala Sunderam | April 3, 2009 11:41 PM

Johnny Johnny, yes papa
Eating sugar, No papa
Telling lies, No papa
Open your mouth, Ha Ha Ha!

Poor Johnny opened the mouth, but smarter and Mahinda Co would not allow anyone to witness the tragedy unleashed on the Vanni Civilians. Ms. Roy is counter productive. Yes of course, and Mahinda Co are not going to listen. What a waste of effort!

She expressed her sorrow, loud and clear, whether anyone cared or not. That is the trait of a lone crusader. Another way she recorded a tragic event for posterity.

You can never call a spade a spade and a racist a racist! What could anyone expect from a land of state religion on the Name of Lord Buddha, the prince, the heir to the throne, solemnly walked away from governence? The monks who profess buddhism, the religion of non violence, bless the ranking security forces who kill the tamils.

The veiled threat in the penultimate paragraph is loud and clear: if the LTTE does not allow the civilians freedom then we would finish the civilians off. Ms. Roy did not cry about the LTTE, but the tragedy unravelling among the Vanni civilians.

As expected, the final paragraph is the Magnum opus. The LTTE left Jaffna in 1995. Vavuniya and Jaffan still makes up about 90% of the population in the North. After 14 years of government rule, the North is still suffereing. Ms. Roy, please mind your language or else things will be worse for the people of the North.

Let the world, including Ms. Roy, keep quiet, while the mercy mission of Mahinda & Co. and India finish their holy mission of all the LTTEs, masquerading as fetuses in mothers' wombs, suckling infants, fragile old men and women along with the young boys by the Haiti famous Sri Lanka security forces. I tread in fear to write about the fate awaiting the young girls and mothers from the Haiti famous Sri Lankan security forces. Dead or alive, it will not be an intellectual mas....

Posted by: K.Easwaran | April 4, 2009 09:48 PM

Dear Indi and all,
Ms.Roy's views shared in the media is nothing unique to that shared by millions. She, like many others have expressed the sorrow and disappointment with inaction of the great powers in ending the conflict and sufferings of millions of Tamils in Eelam.

Its also not uncommon for people to slur, slander anyone who expresses their support for Eelam Tamils. Hence, the editorial is not worth pinch of salt and one should not get excited about it. These are the architecture of the power brokers and intelligence community in India and allied states of racist Sri Lankan regimes.

Every suffering of a race or community has an end, this will be the case in Ealam Tamils. Should this genocide and ethnic cleansing be not stopped immeadiately, the growing concern, frustration will lead to another wave of guerilla warfare against GOSL, that in turn will pose a threat to world peace.
So let's find a way to solve the conflict and not be engaged in petty and selfish claims and clashes.
Thank you.
Tamil Arasan

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2009 06:57 PM

Post a comment

(The comment may need to be approved by Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting; generally approved/posted if they are not abusive of the topic as well as the author and/or another commenter.)

(Please write the comment in paragraphs if its long and allow space between paragraphs, for easier reading by others)

Recent Posts on TC