A novel gesture

Print edition : July 03, 1999

ARUNDHATI ROY has donated the entire Booker prize money to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. She won the Booker Prize for her debut novel, The God of Small Things. The Andolan is campaigning on behalf of the tribal people and peasants of the Narmada Valley who are resisting their forced displacement following the construction of large dams across the Narmada.

Arundhati Roy, whose essay, "The Greater Common Good", on the human and ecological costs of the Narmada Valley Projects, was recently published in Frontline (June 4), made over the prize money, amounting to about Rs.15 lakhs, to the NBA following a visit to the Narmada Valley in April 1999.

An NBA press release on June 25 said that Arundhati Roy's "gesture is in a long tradition of intellectuals and artists, scientists and prominent persons from all walks of life in India who have gone beyond their creative contributions in their own fields to make common cause with the struggles of the common people all over India, and specially of the Narmada Valley."


The people of the Narmada Valley and the NBA "deeply appreciate" her gesture and her "outstanding contribution to the cause of the displaced people through her writing as well as her call to people all over India and the world to enlist in the struggle for a just and more sustainable world," the release added.

The NBA said it would use the money to provide relief to the "tribal families who will lose their crops and land and their livelihoods in the impending submergence."

Hundreds of tribal families in the valley face submergence during this monsoon. As Arundhati Roy wrote in her essay: "The ragged army in the Narmada Valley has declared that it will not move when the waters of the Sardar Sarovar reservoir rise to claim its lands and homes." She has invited people from all walks of life to accompany her to the valley to express solidarity with the tribal people's struggle. "We can go to the valley to announce the arrival of the small god," Arundhati Roy told a gathering in New Delhi, at which she read excerpts from her essay.

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