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Sainath vs Arundhati

Sainath vs Arundhati

September 10, 2011

Why is it so that Indians by and large love one and hate the other?

If there are two Indian socialists the world reckons, it is P Sainath and Arundhati Roy. Both have a lot in common. Both are international bestselling writers and winners of numerous awards. They are fierce advocates for India’s marginalized poor, and passionate critics of western corporations and policies. Why is it then that I (and most other Indians) love Sainath and hate Arundhati?

Firstly, it is because of their writings. Sainath’s opinions are strongly backed up with facts and statistics. Arundhati generally paints pictures with words intended to jolt, shock and grab your attention. Sainath narrows his focus down to the details of one particular issue. Arundhati connects dots across space, time, history and continents, thereby creating a disparate mess of ideas.

Secondly, there is a clear difference between the topics they choose to write about. While Sainath consistently writes about rural India’s issues, Arundhati is here, there, anywhere and everywhere all at once. One moment she’s in Dantewada, the next at the Narmada dam, and then she’s off to Srinagar meeting the Kashmiri separatists.

Thirdly, it is the difference in their personalities. Sainath has received numerous awards which he has rejected. Arundhati, on the other hand is hungry for publicity - the very reason most Indians know Arundhati and not Sainath.

People who have read or known Sainath see him as an Indian, who criticizes the state as an honest concerned Indian. Arundhati, on the other hand owes no respect or love for her country. Her attacks are seen coming from an outsider. She has a more global perspective in mind, and writes more from an anarchist perspective.

It is still acceptable if someone sympathetic to the idea of an Indian state attacks it, but not when someone who seems detached to the idea of an Indian state itself attacks it.

And lastly, it is her sanctimonious tone which many (including myself) find disgusting. Her half-smile as she delivers speeches on the most serious issues is equally distasteful. She seems less concerned and more amused. Sainath on the other hand, prefers staying with the rural victims and does his bit to make their lives better.

And therefore, you ask a common man and he will tell you that Sainath attacks the government on agriculture and economic policies to bring in positive changes, while Arundhathi attacks the government on Kashmir, Maoists and Afzal Guru lurking for false publicity!

Sainath stands tall glorifying socialism in India. While every time the publicity hungry Arundhati opens her mouth, Marx and Engels would be turning in their graves


  • Insider
    08.10.12 03:12 PM
    An NRI calling an Indian citizen activist an outsider. Nice one.
  • rt
    07.03.12 12:16 PM
    I am not exactly sure, why this issue arises, that Arundhati Roy, does not back her views and opinions with facts. I have read most of her writings, as in the case of 'Algebra of Infinite Justice', and 'The ordinary Man's Guide To Empire', both penguin publications, in which she provides a detailed bibliography of who her sources are, and they are, if I dare say, sufficiently venerable indeed..(the likes of IMF reports, Hindu editorials, Planning Commission accounts, and yes, Noam Chomsky's lectures, etc). If all her views were make belief, I do not think any of us, would even bother to be discussing her in a public forum. Besides, she did receive the Sahitya Academy award, too, which she did decline to accept as a mark of protest against the Indian government's support for the imperialistic US, policies. So that comparison too is far as her writing style is concerned, yes, she has a more passionate approach toward things, and champions the cause for those who in her own words "have been bundled off in a lorry and are headed towards the dark underbelly of the country". Is there a better way to make their voices heard, if not by a in your face attitude?
  • kh
    05.01.12 05:57 PM
    Why are you shy of mentioning the most important thing of all: Arundhati Roy is FEMALE and P. Sainath is MALE. Based on this little fact you can make your argument even more scholarly.
  • Syamkamath
    11.12.11 10:41 AM
    Arundati roy seperatist shit , i hate to say , she snt an indian women she is a pak asshole.
  • Larasati
    06.11.11 09:55 PM
    I love and respect both from political question that they have raise, a comparison are so not important as we should look at their contribution. I never learn what happened to India without help and their knowledge. Sometime outsider view is needed as the government is not stand alone, they have to locate their policy as a part of global mechanism, so reading both sources will rich my knowledge and learning of the situation. I litle disturbed by the description of "litle smile" that being post here by the initiator, so gender-ly base comment, and that is NOT important.

    we are from your neighboring countries learning and respect both of them, their contribution to large society in their own way are very honored.
  • DG
    03.11.11 10:56 PM
    Well in a land of socialist pigs they dont eat pork. P Sainath is a seller of snake oil so you guys love him. He rants and rants but has no real solution to any problem. So you think he gives you facts. It is not what he gives you but what he is hiding that tells you the real story. Take his everlasting rant on farmer suicides. He gives you this LARGE number of quarter of a million over 16 years. That is 15625 farmer suicide deaths in a year on average. In the worst drought year of 2009 he tells us 17000+ committed suicide.

    Did he ever give you the total number of farmers in India to go along with this data. For any of his last 100 years of poverty porn rant ? No. Do you want to know Why? Because the agricultural population in India is over 550 million. Out an agricultural population of 550 million in a drought year 17000+ committed suicide.

    That is a suicide rate of 3 per 100000 farmers. Now go compare this with any developed or developing country of the world. The rates there go all the way upto 50. This rate is close to the lowest ranked among a hundred countries.

    How do you like them apples ? The people responsible for India's poverty are socialist pigs like P Sainath and next in line come socialist pigs like his fans. Sorry it is the God damn truth. You can delete this post if the truth is too much to handle.
  • Deepak
    29.09.11 09:46 PM
    It is clear to me that you hate Roy and likes Sainath. This makes you unfit to write a honest comparison of both. You should have either written why you like Sainath or why you hate Roy, not a comparison.
  • Yogesh
    29.09.11 05:42 AM
    I think P. Sainath has a subtle and understated way of putting things. It helps that he is not a novelist to paint things in black & white. Arundhati Roy simplifies everything to good vs bad and where we know in advance which group she thinks are the good and who are the bad. Sweeping generalizations are mostly harmful. Ramachandra Guha once told that "If you have worked in 5 NGOs in 5 years, then you have absorbed the culture of neither and nor learnt anything from them". Apart from everything, this is the most important reason i dislike Ms. Roy for. If she is here, there and everywhere like members of the govt. committees, then i give her the same credibility as i give the govt. officials.

    Indian media has given more space to Arundhati Roy than P. Sainath mainly because of her booker prize induced celebrity and provocativeness.
  • Anuradha
    12.09.11 10:38 PM
    I do not think Arundhati Roy is publicity hungry. I admire her guts and to be able to put her views across strongly. I am glad there is a voice like that in our society.

    I love Sainath's writing and I think a comparison is unnecessary.
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    12.09.11 08:37 PM

    I'm not one of the Indians that have to make the stark choice you're highlighting here. I admire both Roy and Sainath for their passion and writing. Like any two writer activists, they choose to write about different issues, and they analyze them differently. Just because Sainath's work and writing isn't more in-your-face like Roy's doesn't mean its automatically more valid or worthy of respect.

    Like Jaai and Matheikal said earlier, its fine to dislike Roy for her personality and mannerisms. Its a stretch however to take that and paint all of her work as innately self serving. I've read her extensively, seen her on TV and been part of her audiences on her speaking tours. This is a passionate activist who has made it her mission to openly battle the pet mythologies we tell ourselves on a whole range of issues, e.g. Kashmir, Hindutva, corporatism in politics, the US invasion of Iraq, the environment etc. There is much to admire about her.

  • Ravi
    12.09.11 12:28 AM
    Kudos for bringing to fore the work of the less celebrated P Sainath. What I fail to comprehend is, how one would slot the very self indulging and lime light harnessing Arundathi Roy as a socialist ? By what mean or measure ??
  • matheikal
    11.09.11 09:15 PM
    Nevertheless, Arundhati Roy is charming simply because of the passion her words carry. You see, she is a literary writer, a novelist at heart, though she refuses to write novels (alas!)
  • Jaai
    11.09.11 12:36 PM
    That's all very well, but that still doesn't justify the majority of comments on her Anna article and articles that countered her Anna article, which seem to disagree with her views simply because they dislike her as a person.
  • Meera
    11.09.11 11:52 AM
    Loved it!!! Very well analyzed. I DISLIKE Arundhati for the very reasons that you have listed besides, ofcourse they way she seems to care more about popularizing herself and not the issue in question. She cares two hoots about the Narmada issue - only the publicity that it brings! It is surprising that a paper like the HINDU should give her space!
  • Ramkumar
    11.09.11 06:09 AM
    I cannot agree more. Arundhati Roy is a just a publicity seeking monster who blindly copies the conclusions arrived by noam chomsky without being able to explain the logic behind it as he does and applies them to india. The middle class of india have many faults. But with out any reason or logic, she blindly opposes whatever they (we) do. The latest example being the lokpal. While the critics of the IAC movement were taking a stand on the feasibility of the solution of jan lokpal bill, she was accusing anna of hidden motives and that too with out any evidence.
  • LicenseToQuill
    10.09.11 08:18 PM
    Arundhathi is a designer intellectual coupled to limelight envy.She called Anna Hazare "a freshly minted saint" conveniently forgetting that he was already a legend in Ralegan Siddhi while she was still an overgrown schoolgirl in her pig-tails.
  • Writerzblock
    10.09.11 04:54 PM
    I think you nailed it when you said 'Her attacks are seen coming from an 'Outsider''. Certainly, someone who feels the pulse of people at the grassroot level has a much better understanding of what is, and what should/should not be, and therefore can add more value to the country.
  • Blasta Mind
    Blasta Mind
    10.09.11 03:41 PM
    keep it up...

    I don't wanna give a shit to Arundhati...
  • Satish
    10.09.11 02:25 PM
    Arundhati Roy has been called 'a Rakhi Sawant with a Booker and a Laptop' by a columnist from W. Bengal...perhaps not too far off the mark?

    An excellent comparison and a wonderful article.
  • Rajat
    10.09.11 09:20 AM
    Well written :)

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