Arundhati Roy Wins UK Literary Prize Amid Indian Threat


After the famous Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, it is the Indian author Arundhati Roy who wins the PEN Pinter Prize this year. A prestigious literary prize in the United Kingdom, so much so that the novelist’s photo appears on the front page of the British daily The Guardian, this Friday, June 28.

“I would have liked Harold Pinter [London writer who died in 2008 and who gave his name to this prize, editor’s note] to be with us today to write about the incomprehensible direction the world is taking, Arundhati Roy reacted. We must try to do everything possible to try to follow in his footsteps.”

The writer gained international fame following the publication of her novel The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize in 1997. This book, partly autobiographical, tells the story of the caste system in India. Very committed, this 62-year-old activist is also known for her fight for ecology, and against discrimination and socio-economic inequalities in her native country.

A potential “terrorist” for the Indian state

Receiving the PEN Pinter Prize is all the more important because the author has been the subject of legal proceedings in India since June 14. The ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, criticizes her for her comments on Kashmir, a region partly attached to Pakistan, partly to China and partly to India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is fiercely opposed to any attempts at autonomy in this territory. However, Arundhati Roy supports the cause of independence in Kashmir.

Described by the Guardian as a “voice of freedom and justice,” the author is very critical of the Hindu nationalist leader. Her party is attacking the novelist through a highly controversial law, relating to the prevention of illegal activities, called UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act). The Modi government regularly uses it to silence any opposition to its policies. Artists, lawyers and journalists are targeted. If Arundhati Roy is convicted under this law, she will be considered a “terrorist”.

“Prosecuting someone as famous as Arundhati Roy is a way for Modi and his party to threaten all their detractors, and to warn them that they too could suffer the same fate. They have a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads,” says Salil Tripathi, a member of the PEN International association that awarded the prize to the Indian author, in the Guardian. He adds that Arundhati Roy “reminds us why the pen remains mightier than this sword”.

This article is originally published on


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