Arundhati Roy Goes to Jail
Re: “Out of Jail, in the Spotlight “

I don’t wish to criticize someone for chickening out of what is a serious business. Spending time in any jail is serious business. I spent a night in an Indian jail 30 years ago, and I think Ms. Roy’s assertion that she was not intimidated by being there smacks of disingenuousness. (Of course, she is probably much braver than I am — or than I would be if my big, brave mouth landed me in the hoosegow.) It was then that I found out what I was made of.

And that is, I suspect, what happened to Ms. Roy. She found out, very quickly, what she is made of. No harm, no foul. But she is now marginalized, and folks won’t likely pay so much attention to her message in future.

Secretly, that may be what she wishes for, as her last words in your interview suggest.

Page Nelson
Oakland, CA


I’m glad Roy is out of jail, regardless of whether her opposition to the Narmada dam is better publicized inside or out. She’s correct not to view herself as a symbol. Her real – and immense – talent is as a novelist. While I enjoy her critical journalism, I hope she writes another novel at the level of The God of Small Things. Directing her unique combination of reason and passion against dams built for the economically powerful at the expense of millions of poor peasants is very important, as is her polemic against the Indian nuclear arsenal, but her Booker Prize novel will for decades, perhaps centuries, be reminding people all over the world of what it meant to suffer the human condition in late 20th century India. In the long run, the sensibility furthered by this kind of literature is what may turn the tide against this century’s increasing inhumanity.

Arthur Mitzman


Hurray for you, Arundhati! For remembering that you are just a person, and for keeping to the precision of your moral compass. I greatly admire you.

Margaret Trawick


Oil Stains
Re: “Religion and Justice in Nigeria”

How bizarre it was to begin reading, “Religion and Justice in Nigeria,” only to realize that the animated lobsters marching up the side of my screen were part of an advertisement for Shell Oil. This was only topped by my clicking on the ad — out of sheer disbelief — and seeing that Shell is touting its contribution to environmental management!

I’m aware that in the quest for advertising dollars even has to lie down with a few oil-soaked dogs, but doesn’t anyone else see the macabre irony inherent in placing an ad for Shell alongside a story about political corruption and Nigerian justice?

I’m certainly no advocate of Islamic law, but I’m not quite certain how one extricates Sharia, military dictatorship and local corruption from Shell, BP and their ilk. If I may, I’d like to suggest more attention could be given to ad placement; if for no other reason than that editorial awareness of advertisements in the context of the article’s content could have been a great opportunity to examine the impact of multinational oil companies in largely Muslim, oil-producing countries like Nigeria — a topical subject, I think, particularly given that corporate influence is, in many ways, the thread that links colonialism, militarism and religious fundamentalism in Nigeria and elsewhere.

There’s always a story to be told about the mechanisms of social control employed around the world; the historical, cultural, philosophical, and structural differences encountered. However, I believe the deeper story lies in who is exerting this control and why — whether it’s Sharia or the USA Patriot Act — there’s an oil-igarchy in charge that’s far more powerful and malevolent than your local Imam or even Pat Robertson. I suppose that’s why Shell is plugging its Wyoming wind farms on and not its Nigerian oil derricks, huh?

E. Brown


Inasmuch as Nigeria is running a democratic system of government, I should think that President Obasanjo still has some veto powers to overrule some useless judgements like the one in question.

The woman can only lose her life through this judgment if the President is not made to know of the most recent decisions on it. I remember that he was asked a question on this matter when he granted an interview to the BBC and his answer was to me assuring that he knows what to do when the time comes.

I am a concerned Nigerian living in Europe.

Lloyd Ezenwugo


Incumbent Protection Policy
Re: “Beyond Banning Soft Money”

Political action committees and soft money were the devices by which individuals could make their voices heard. I hope that the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill will be quickly found to be in violation of our Constitution.

Shays-Mehan and bills of its type are simply incumbent protection devices. We all know that name recognition wins elections. Without the support of the national parties, unknown challengers face impossible hurdles.

Larry Dreadon