Each of these pieces I have written over the last ten years are pieces I never wanted to write. And each time I wrote one, I thought it would be my last… Each time I write something I promise myself I’ll never do it again, because the fallout goes on for months; it takes so much of my time. Sometimes, increasingly, like of late, it turns dangerous. I actually don’t do research to write the pieces. My research isn’t project-driven. It’s the other way around—I write because the things I come to learn of from the reading and traveling I do and the stories I hear make me furious. I find out more, I cross-check, I read up, and by then I’m so shocked that I have to write. The essays I wrote on the December 13 Parliament attack are a good example—of course I had been following the case closely. I was on the Committee for the Free and Fair trial for S.A.R Geelani. Eventually he was acquitted and Mohammed Afzal was sentenced to death. I went off to Goa one monsoon, by myself with all the court papers for company. For no reason other than curiosity. I sat alone in a restaurant day after day, the only person there, while it poured and poured. I could hardly believe what I was reading. The Supreme Court judgment that said that though it didn’t have proof that Afzal was a member of a terrorist group, and the evidence against him was only circumstantial, it was sentencing him to death to “satisfy the collective conscience of society.” Just like that—in black and white. Even still, I didn’t write anything. I had promised myself “no more essays.”
But a few months later the date for the hanging was fixed. The newspapers were full of glee, talking about where the rope would come from, who the hangman would be. I knew the whole thing was a farce. I realized that if I said nothing and they went ahead and hanged him, I’d never forgive myself. So I wrote, “And his life should become extinct.” I was one of a handful of people who protested. Afzal’s still alive. It may not be because of us, it may be because his clemency petition is still pending, but I think between us we cracked the hideous consensus that had built up in the country around that case. Now at least in some quarters there is a healthy suspicion about unsubstantiated allegations in newspapers whenever they pick up people—mostly Muslims, of course—and call them “terrorists.” We can take a bit of credit for that. Now of course with the sensational confession of Swami Aseemanand in which he says the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] was behind the bomb blasts in Ajmer Sharif and Malegaon, and was responsible for the bombing of the Samjhauta Express—the idea of radical Hindutva groups being involved in false-flag attacks—is common knowledge.
To answer your question, I don’t really do research in order to write. Finding out about things, figuring out the real story—what you call research—is part of life now for some of us. Mostly just to get over the indignity of living in a pool of propaganda, of being lied to all the time, if nothing else.
Arundhati Roy in Guernica. More Here.