How has political activism influenced modern Indian literature?

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Modern Indian writers have responded to political challenges in various ways. Perhaps one of the most interesting examples is Arundhati Roy, who, having achieved fame with her 1997 novel, The God of Small Things, abandoned fiction-writing for two decades. During this time she produced a steady stream of books and essays espousing and examining various political causes, from Kashmiri separatism and the oppression of Dalits and Adivasis to the war in Afghanistan.

While Arundhati Roy has used her writing and her profile as a writer to gain a hearing for the political issues that most concern her, other writers have pursued parallel careers as professional politicians. Shashi Tharoor is a Member of Parliament and former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations who also uses his writing to publicize his political agenda. The political issue upon which Thraroor has commented most frequently is the legacy of colonialism, which he believes continues to damage India to this day. His most recent exploration of this topic is in his popular history, Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India.

Although political activism has led writers like Roy and Thraroor to concentrate their efforts on directly addressing political issues through nonfiction, other novelists have used the novel itself as a means of exploring political issues. Salman Rushdie and Rohinton Mistry have both set novels during times of political upheaval in the twentieth century, intertwining their characters' lives with political events to inform the reader about the recent history of India. Others, such as Kiran Desai have explored political issues in the broadest sense by writing about tensions between the East and the West, as well as the crippling effects of poverty and prejudice.

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