Gurpreet Singh: Petition submitted to Parliament seeking honorary Canadian citizenship for author Arundhati Roy

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      A Metro Vancouver group wants to add a Booker Prize–winning author to an exclusive group that includes Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai.

      Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) collected hundreds of signatures in Metro Vancouver on petitions to grant Indian author Arundhati Roy honorary Canadian citizenship.

      On April 11, Surrey Centre MP Randeep Singh Sarai submitted the petition in the House of Commons.

      Sponsored by Sarai, the petition demands that Parliament add Roy to the list of other honorary Canadian citizens, including Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and the young woman known around the world as "Malala".

      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 her own personal risk.

      This is especially so under the current right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) regime, under whose rule intolerance has grown. Scholars and writers like Roy continue to face threats and harassment.

      Members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India presented petitions to Surrey Centre Liberal MP Randeep Sarai (centre) in February.

      India is presently witnessing an era of McCarthyism in which left-wing activists and thinkers are frequently targeted both by the police and Hindu vigilante groups.

      In addition to 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 a war against left-wing extremism.

      Roy, who shot into prominence with her novel The God of Small Things that got her the Booker Prize, is also an essayist who has travelled extensively and demonstrated her capability in challenging 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, as well as for the Adivasis (Indigenous peoples of India) facing eviction due to the extraction industry, which is often backed by the Indian establishment. She has pulled no punches in her lectures, media interviews, or writings while criticizing supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who have been been terrorizing minorities.

      Roy has always been consistent in her criticism of Indian forces who often kill civilians with impunity and use rape as a weapon in conflict zones.

      Her recent novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, is a sad story about marginalized sections of the Indian society forced to live under constant fear and insecurity.

      Even otherwise, Roy has been at the forefront of many grassroots campaigns for social justice and is never shy about speaking at public demonstrations and rallies against the government.

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a cofounder of Radical Desi.

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