It is time for Canada to stand up and break its silence over what is going on in the world’s so-called largest democracy.
One way of doing this would be to give honorary Canadian citizenship to India-based world-renowned author Arundhati Roy. It's an honour earlier given to political figures such as Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Aung San Suu Kyi for standing up for human rights and democracy in other parts of the world. Though Suu Kyi was stripped of the honorary citizenship recently for remaining indifferent to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims by Buddhist extremists and army officials, the fact remains that Canada had earlier recognized her resistance against a military dictatorship.
Roy, whose birthday falls on November 24, has been to Canada at least twice. Her last visit came in connection with the launching her latest novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Her previous novel, The God of Small Things, won her the Booker Prize.
Both novels gave voice to the poor and marginalized in India. While her first novel takes a critical look at the Indian left for its hypocrisy on the question of caste-based oppression, the second one is more critical of the current right-wing Hindu nationalist regime under which minorities continue to be tormented.
Even otherwise, Roy is a no-nonsense writer who has established herself as a powerful essayist. She has travelled extensively and has displayed her ability to question the power anywhere in the world.
Roy encountered threats and intimidation for writing in defence of the people of Kashmir fighting for the right to self-determination in the face of state violence. She is one of the rare authors who's taken pains to travel to tribal areas to understand the root cause of the Maoist insurgency, which the Indian state has frequently branded as its single largest internal security threat.
An exceptional writer with a poor man’s lens, she was in the forefront of the struggle against a controversial dam in Gujarat that displaced many Indigenous peoples. She has also challenged conventional Indian history by questioning Mahatma Gandhi's position on caste system and race.
Recently she openly criticized Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's repressive measures against activists and emphasized his past ties to the Hindu supremacist group RSS, which aspires to turn India into Hindu theocracy.
An online petition launched by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) on October 19 is gaining momentum and has already gathered more than 100 signatures.
Sponsored by Surrey Centre Liberal MP Randeep Singh Sarai, it needs 500 signatures by February 2019. Sarai had earlier written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on behalf of IAPI and others asking for the stripping Suu Kyi of honorary citizenship.
On her birthday, we appeal all Canadian citizens and residents to sign the petition and help us in breaking the silence over growing fascism in India under Modi government.
Notably, Canada has also given honorary citizenship to Malala Yusufzai—a young Pakistani woman who survived a violent attack by the Taliban for defending the right to education for girls in her country.
If Canada can be considerate for what is happening in Pakistan in the name of faith, it must not overlook what is happening next door in India under the garb of secularism and democracy.
Hindu extremists have assassinated several progressive writers and scholars while Muslims and Dalits (so-called untouchables) are being targeted with impunity. Yet Canada remains indifferent.
Together, we need to change this.