Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy on Wednesday compared today's India to a plane moving in reverse, the one which she argued is "headed for a crash".
She was speaking at the launch of the book titled "Why do you fear my way so much?", a selection of poems and letters written by jailed human rights activist G N Saibaba.
Roy said from spearheading "truly revolutionary movements" in the 1960s for redistribution of wealth and land, its leaders are now seeking votes -- and winning elections -- in the name of distributing "5 kg rice and 1 kg salt".
"Recently, I asked a pilot friend of mine, 'Can you fly a plane backwards?'. He laughed out loud. And I said this is exactly what is happening here where the leaders of this country are flying the plane in reverse, everything is falling, and we are headed for a crash," said the author of bestselling novels "The God of Small Things" and "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness".
The 62-year-old writer described India as a land of "sophisticated jurisprudence", the one where laws are applied differently depending on your "caste, class, gender and ethnicity".
"What are we doing here today? We are meeting to talk about a professor who is paralysed 90 per cent and has been in jail for seven years. That is what we are doing. That is enough. We do not have to speak anymore. That is enough to tell you what kind of country we are living in. What shame is this?," she said.
Saibaba, who has over 90 per cent physical disabilities and uses a wheelchair, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017 by a sessions court in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district for having maoist links and engaging in activities amounting to waging war against the country.
The court held Saibaba and others guilty under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. His service as assistant professor at Delhi University's Ram Lal Anand College was terminated on March 31.
CPI general secretary D Raja, who released the book at Jawahar Bhawan, reiterated his demand for the immediate release of Saibaba. He said the government of the day is highly mistaken if it thinks it can defeat a communist by labelling him a 'terrorist' or putting him behind the bars.
"The government of the day thinks by labelling some people as 'urban maoists', 'urban naxalites' , 'anti-nationals', 'terrorists' or putting them in prison or torturing them in prison, they can succeed. I warn them they can never succeed. A communist can be killed, but a communist can never be defeated, Mr Modi," he added.
The book launch was also attended by Saibaba's wife Vasantha. She recounted how her husband who was born into poverty in the town of Amalapuram in Andhra Pradesh overcame his disability to top his university and become a highly regarded professor.
She also talked in detail about wheel-chair bound Saibaba's alleged inhuman treatment in Nagpur Central Jail's solitary confinement, his poor health, including a cardiac condition and chronic and severe spinal pain, and multiple parole refusals even for a few days to attend his mother's funeral.
The book, published by Speaking Tiger, is priced at Rs 450 and available for sale on offline and online stores.
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