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As Protests Overshadow G-8, Arundhati Roy is a New Icon
Published on Monday, June 2, 2003 by the Indo-Asian News Service
As Protests Overshadow G-8, Arundhati Roy is a New Icon
by Narayan Swamy

EVIAN, FRANCE - The power of the masses is pitted against the  might of the rich as tens of thousands swamp the streets in Switzerland and  France in unprecedented protests against the powerful G-8 and all that it has to offer.

In the process, many angry young men and women drawn from all over Europe  have found a new icon: celebrated Indian writer Arundhati Roy - or so it  seems. 

Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy
For about three days now, Switzerland's border town of Lausanne and Geneva,  around 60 km away, have been virtually run over by angry people who feel the  industrialized West that controls the G-8 is to blame for much of the  world's worsening economic plight. 

Protests have also taken place in this scenic and otherwise quiet Alpine  resort at the edge of Lake Geneva, which divides it from Switzerland. And  it  is clear from comments on the street that anger against G-8, and in  particular against big brother US, runs very deep. 

After an estimated 100,000 people besieged Geneva Sunday, as leaders of the  G-8 and about a dozen Third World countries made their way to France, there  was no doubting that globalization had become a bad word. 

"There have never been such big protests in Geneva," Stephane Bussard, a  journalist with the Swiss newspaper Le Temps said. "It was massive, it  was quite an important turnout." 

Remarked Jacques Nikonoff, president of the anti-globalization group  Attack:  "The G8 is illegitimate and its policies are harmful to the people of the  planet. We have to get rid of it." 

This is where Arundhati Roy, author of the Booker-winning The God of Small Things, comes in. 

Arundhati, who passionately campaigns against big dams, nuclear weapons and corporate globalization, is a must-read for many protestors. 

Her writings and comments figure prominently in websites sought out by  anti-G8 campaigners. Her writings are ammunition that provides oxygen to  those who battle what they say is militaristic, neo-liberal capitalism. 

The angry marchers in Geneva, Lausanne and Evian have proved what ordinary  people can do if they join hands - a theme that runs through almost all of  Arundhati's writings. 

On Sunday, much of Lausanne, on the shore of Lake Geneva, turned into a  ghost town. Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas as some 200 of the  nearly 1,000 protestors tore down street signs, looted stores and pulled  down phone booths in a display of anger bordering on anarchy. 

Construction sites were pillaged for ammunition to set up barricades.  Bonfires were lit on streets. For people here who do not know what  lawlessness is, it was a shock. 

"What we saw was genuine people's anger," explained Polly Jones of "Jubilee  Debt Campaign", a writer-cum-activist from London who was part of  Saturday's  show of strength in Geneva. 

Fearing an invasion, armored personnel carriers and military helicopters  were called out at the Geneva airport. Fighter jets patrolled the skies,  while Israeli-built naval speedboats cruised Lake Geneva. Here in Evian,  roving teams of French gendarmes in dark glasses patrolled the streets. 

Parts of Lausanne, where delegations attending the G8 summit and related  meetings are staying, look like concentration camps, with the authorities  sealing off VVIP zones using concertina wire. The situation has forced  Switzerland to deploy some 6,000 troops - the biggest military deployment  since World War II. Many soldiers could be seen flaunting their weapons. 

Panicky shopkeepers simply shuttered their establishments, closing down, in  some cases, entire neighborhoods catering to tourists. 

Said a young man here who gave his name only as Alex: "The people are  angry, genuinely angry. People are angry with G8, and with (US President) Bush. There is no doubt about that."

©Copyright 2001-2003 IANS India Private Limited


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