Ashis Nandy’s controversial comments at a panel discussion of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) about Corruption amongst Dalits/OBCs/SCs/STs have drawn widespread condemnation. A First Information Report (FIR) was filed with the police by SC/ST Rajasthan Manch against Ashis Nandy in Jaipur under Section 506 Indian Penal Code (criminal intimidation) and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The police has said that the matter will be investigated.
While the police investigate, I shall pursue the line Nandy’s JLF fellow panelist Tarun Tejpal, the editor in chief and publisher of Tehelka took:
“It is sad that in a literary festival, people should be attacking the finest intellectual. When you come to literature festival, you are coming to play with ideas.”
To do that, let’s first actually examine the comments of JLF’s “finest intellectual” who unfortunately has a poor grasp of the English language:
“It will be an undignified and vulgar statement but the fact is that most of the corrupt come from the OBC, the scheduled castes and now increasingly STs. As long as it was the case, the Indian republic would survive.”
“I will give an example. The state of least corruption is West Bengal. In the last 100 years, nobody from the backward classes and the SC and ST groups have come anywhere near power in West Bengal. It is an absolutely clean state”
Following protests by Dalit groups, he later said while issuing a clarification that he had meant to endorse fellow panelist Tarun Tejpal’s statement that “corruption in India was an equalizing force”.
“I do believe that a zero corruption society will be despotic society (like Singapore). I also said that if people like Richard Sorabjee and I want to be corrupt, I shall possibly send his son to Harvard and give him a fellowship and he can send my daughter to Oxford,”.
“No one will think it as corruption. Indeed it will look like supporting talent. But when dalits, tribals and the OBCs are corrupt, it looks very corrupt indeed. However, this second corruption equalizes. It gives them access to top their entitlements As long as this equation persists, I have hope for the republic”
Speaking to a Newsx reporter, he clarified that Dalits and OBCs are caught because
They have “less finesse” in being able to hide their corruption and as long this proportion, that is, a higher number of Dalits being caught continues, there is hope for the Indian republic because that means the poor and Dalit can also play the game and take advantage of India’s political system.
I am not the finest intellectual around but I can with enough certainty say that the following three conclusions can be drawn based on the reading of his comments:
1. As per Nandy, apparently it is Corruption that will hold together India’s republic by virtue of the interplay of the forces of corruption between India’s rich & privileged class and the poor & Dalits.
Contrary to every single text on governance & development that discusses the corrosive impact of Corruption on a nation; clearly Nandy knows something that has escaped this century’s eminent economists and political philosophers!
2. Nandy implies that Dalits must continue to be unsophisticated while going about their business of corruption to ensure the longevity of Indian republic.
As if past burdens of untouchability and poverty weren’t enough, Nandy now wants to place on the Dalits an additional burden of carrying on corruption in an unsophisticated manner to ensure Indian republic’s longevity. Talk about adding insult to the injury; first by making a casteist remark (in bold above) about correlation between presence of Dalits and Corruption and then trying to cover his prejudice by linking continued corruption by Dalits and the longevity of the Indian republic!
3. A corruption free state is a despotic one and since West Bengal has been an absolutely clean state it is one.
Thanks for stating the obvious as regards to the condition of the state under the communists!
Enough with the play of ideas; on a serious note, I have a list of gratis suggestions for
1. Organisers of JLF & People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL):
You fight tooth and nail for Nandy’s right to free expression (& the right to be casteist) against the FIR lodged against him. After all if artists, writers & a collection of finest intellectuals don’t fight for freedom of expression, especially when the matter arose during a congregation at a literary festivals then what are the chances we will have our freedom in our day to day lives.
2. Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and all other sociologists associated with Nandy:
Since you provided the accolades & endorsements to Nandy for being an eminent sociologist and political psychologist and also to preserve your reputation of being competent researchers promoting social science research, my suggestion is that you ask Nandy to
a) provide the proof that points to the correlation between presence of Dalits/OBCs/SC/ST in a population and levels of corruption in the society. He quoted Bengal as an example to support his theory. So perhaps you could ask him to furnish the data sets for the other states
b) provide the proof that causally links Corruption to the longevity of a republic.
3. Tarun Tejpal
Thanks for playing. I suggest we play again sometime again with some other “finest intellectuals”.