A Nobel for Arundhati Roy, A media dream

New Delhi, Dec.13 (ANI): What if Arundhati Roy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for err "championing the cause of oppressed minorities in India, particularly Kashmiris and Maoists"?

This pithy article by Rupa Subramanya in The Wall Street Journal http://on.wsj.com/hT4Geb should really set us thinking. Does it?

Rupa writes in the hypothetical, but not implausible event, that if Ms. Roy gets "that" phone call from Oslo, what will be the reaction in India? How would you react? Would you take it as a symbol of the triumph of our democracy or a black mark on Indian national identity? Would you feel proud or outraged? Really, how would the Government of India react?

The left liberals in the media and outside would be ecstatic and the right-wing Hindu nationalists would call it a conspiracy to tear the fabric of India. Outlook magazine would carry a special 42-page article on Roy and her various articles in the magazine.

Open, the babe in the block, would feature exclusive phone taps of Maoists calling each other up in the jungles, congratulating each other.

One adorable TV channel would burst out in anger from our screens and the other would run a one-hour exclusive interview with Ms Roy sitting on a footpath in Jantar Mantar protesting against the wanton killing of monkeys in Uttaranchal. Or something.

Rupa even asks, "How would the government react?" Now, this is my favourite part. Here is how the foreign secretary or the spokesman for the ministry of external affairs or the national security advisor would react.

"We are very pleased to hear about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Indian author Arundhati Roy. She is an accomplished author and activist. India is a vibrant democracy where highest value is attached to freedom to express opinion and present views divergent from the mainstream. We extend our best wishes to the author. Shri Suresh Kalmadi will represent the Government of India at the awards ceremony."

Meanwhile the Home Ministry spokesperson would give a sound bite to a TV channel, saying, "It is a mischievous move on the part of some nations to award a person who meets with separatists and terrorists who have links with anti-national forces like the ISI, of Pakistan. This person whose phone we are not tapping, if at all her phone is being tapped, is conversing on a regular basis with people who the Government of India is looking out for, you know anti-nationals. It's a shame. But then, we have nothing to say. Please ask the Ministry of External Affairs for a reaction."

Rupa writes it's not just the political elites but many people at large, as expressed for instance in social media, who found her comments offensive, some suggesting that she was instigating communal tensions that threaten Indian national identity and the integrity of the state. It doesn't sound very different from the official Chinese reaction to Mr. Xiaobo, does it? Since political discourse is suppressed in China, it's hard to gauge the public sympathy for him versus the government's condemnation.

Since this article has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, quite naturally English reporters will run to get sound bytes from the External Affairs Ministry to see their reaction about the Chinese parallel.

The reaction will be somewhat like this. "This is a completely baseless, hypothetical question. India and China share a multi-sectoral partnership. We have one of the safest boundaries (it is not called border, don't ask why, nobody knows) and despite certain sections of the media playing up our differences, we are frank and candid in our discussions with China and working towards bettering our excellent, vibrant ties."

This is the answer you will get if you ask the MEA about India-China border issue, India-China maritime issue, India-China Nobel Peace Prize issue, and India-China sporting ties.

For two weeks running, we will be subjected to multi participant debates on how free are our writers. Endless hours of discussion on how M.F.Hussain's painting were vandalized, Salman Rushdie's book was banned, Khushwant Singh had to seek refuge in some embassy, Emergency and muzzling of the press. We will whip ourselves till we are blue in the face. Once that catharsis has been achieved, we will be ready to fete Roy. What will she wear for the ceremony? A Ritu Kumar creation? No, that wouldn't be quite correct because the designer drapes Miss India winners. Bhanu Athaiyya? No, the lady has done some over the top stuff lately. Roy will pick a hand woven saree from some out of work weaver in Orissa who actually runs a mobile phone repair workshop in his now defunct weaving room.

TV channels will send their top correspondents to Oslo for the awards ceremony to see whether Roy stays in a super deluxe 300 euros a night room or in the home of some socialist writer who is a friend. It is a news story that will keep us busy for weeks. Till the next scam breaks that is. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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