December 10, 2019
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Dr Malathi Damodaran

EMS's daughter takes Arundhati Roy to task for slandering her father

Dr Malathi Damodaran

Why're you upset with The God of Small Things?
Arundhati Roy's references to my father, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, are a gross misrepresentation of facts.

Are you planning any legal action?
No, I don't want to give the impression that we are against the novel. We only wish to present the truth.

Won't a libel suit serve your purpose better?
It won't. For one, the book has already been read by thousands. Moreover, the references to EMS are far too many to be deleted.

EMS has defended himself in signed articles; why have you pitched in?
We are used to attacks of much greater intensity. But when my family was repeatedly harassed with queries, we decided to issue a clarification.

What are the specific factual errors in the novel?
It's an absolute lie that Heritage Hotel in Ayemenem is my father's ancestral home. The depiction of the "communist party boss" who converts his home into a hotel where old communists now work "as fawning bearers in colourful ethnic clothes" is unethical.

Couldn't Roy argue that in her novel, EMS is only a fictional character?
How can she? All 'real-life' figures except my father are given fictional names. The book refers to EMS as "CM of the first-ever democratically elected communist government".

Do you suspect the distortions are deliberate?
The factual errors are far too glaring. My father's ancestral home is in Elamkulam, Malappuram district, in north Kerala. Kottayam is in south Kerala and 250 km away.

Why has your statement been issued in Delhi?
It's in places like Delhi that people have doubts. In Kerala, everybody knows EMS donated proceeds from the sales of his ancestral property to the undivided CPI 60 years ago.

Do you expect it to work?
A clarification has to be issued. A libellous personal attack on a living person is difficult to digest. Roy calls EMS "the Mao Zedong of Kerala" and "the Brahmin priest of Communism". But in doing so, she should have got the facts right.

What do you think of the novel as a work of literature?
I do not wish to comment on the novel's literary merit. I do have an opinion, but it is not important here.

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