Surrey Centre Member of Parliament Randeep Singh Sarai submitted a petition in the House of Commons on Thursday, April 11, seeking Honorary Canadian Citizenship for world renowned author Arundhati Roy.
Launched by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), the petition had received hundreds of signatures in Greater Vancouver. Sponsored by Sarai, the petition demands that Canada’s parliament give honourary citizenship to Roy, adding her name to the list of other honourary Canadian citizens, such as Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama and Pakistani woman Malala Yusafzai.
These individuals have received the honour for standing up for human rights and democracy in their own countries. Copies of the petition were presented to Sarai at his constituency office in February.
A Booker Prize winner, Roy has always stood for the rights of the poor and marginalized people in India and has been vocal against any form of state violence against minorities at personal risk. Especially under the current right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) regime where intolerance has grown, scholars like Roy continue to face threats and harassment.
India is presently witnessing an era of McCarthyism, where left wing activists and thinkers are frequently targeted both by the police and the Hindu vigilante groups. Apart from several high profile murders of progressive writers by Hindu extremists who enjoy the patronage of the ruling BJP, the police are being increasingly used to detain political critics of the state in the name of war against left wing extremists.
Roy shot into prominence with her novel The God of Small Things, which got her the Booker Prize. She is also an essayist who has traveled extensively and has proved her capability to challenge the power anywhere in the world. She has been facing threats for writing in defence of the people of Kashmir fighting for the right to self-determination, and the Adivasis or the indigenous peoples of India facing eviction from the extraction industry, often backed by the Indian establishment. She has pulled no punches in her lectures, media interviews or writings while criticising the supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who have been been terrorising minorities. She has always been consistent in her criticism of the Indian forces that often kill civilians with impunity and use rape as a weapon in the conflict zones.
Her recent novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a sad story of the marginalized sections of Indian society that are forced to live under constant fear and insecurity. Roy has been in the forefront of many grassroots level campaigns for social justice and is never shy of speaking at public demonstrations and rallies against the government.
Gurpreet Singh is a Canada- based journalist who publishes Radical Desi- a monthly magazine that covers alternative politics.