Arundhati Roy warns of ultra-nationalism in Hazare

NEW DELHI, August 22, 2011 (AFP) – Indian Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy launched a scathing attack Monday on the “aggressive nationalism” behind the anti-corruption drive led by hunger-striking campaigner Anna Hazare. In a column entitled “I’d rather not be Anna” published in The Hindu newspaper, the novelist, essayist and rights activist condemned both the style and substance of Hazare’s campaign that has mobilised public opinion in India.

In particular she questioned Hazare’s use of the hunger strike and other tactics and symbols co-opted from his hero — India’s independence icon Mahatma Gandhi.

“While his means may be Gandhian, Anna Hazare’s demands are certainly not,” Roy said.

The focus of Hazare’s protest is a new anti-corruption bill.

The 74-year-old activist says the current draft is too weak and wants parliament to pass his own version which gives more scope and power to an ombudsman who would monitor politicians, bureaucrats and the judiciary.

While agreeing that the government bill was so flawed “that it was impossible to take seriously”, Roy said Gandhi would have been dismayed by Hazare’s vision of an all-powerful, centralised ombudsman. “It will function as an independent admini