The recent uproar over Ashis Nandy’s remarks is a cause for worry

Writers and thinkers of the State have joined their counterparts in other parts of the country in expressing their concern over the furore at the Jaipur Literature Festival caused by a misrepresentation of comments on corruption made by sociologist Ashis Nandy, who has since had at least five FIRs filed against him.

According to the eminent writer and Jnanpith awardee U.R. Ananthamurthy, “The hostile reaction to Ashis Nandy at the Jaipur Literature Festival is an indication of the intolerance of our times and also our incapacity to understand complex and subtle statements.” He said that Ashis Nandy was among contemporary India’s “tallest and most insightful commentators” and that he was “pained by the nature of the attack against him”. There is, he said, a visible divide between the world of literature and the world of politics. “In the past, in Karnataka, one of the most critical accounts of our caste system came from the upper classes. Fortunately, the Kannada ‘literary world’ has produced such self-critical works from the lower castes also,” he said.

Dalit writer Devanoor Mahadeva is not in total agreement with Ashis Nandy’s views on corruption. “However,” he says, “he is anything but anti-OBC and anti-Dalit.”

Referring to renowned cartoonist Shankar’s 1949 cartoon on Ambedkar that triggered a controversy after it was published in the NCERT Class 11 political science textbooks recently, he said, “They misinterpreted the cartoon. As a society, we are jumping to conclusions and closing ourselves to debate and discussion. This is a very painful development.”

Devanoor Mahadeva said that he had been talking to activists over the last few days asking them to view the entire episode in the light of Ashis Nandy’s body of work.

Reactions have come in from various quarters, with one commentator calling it a “dark age spectacle”.

Theatre person and writer K.V. Akshara said that in the “claustrophobic environment of political correctness”, a thinker who does not present “sterile” and “sanitised” views is hastily branded as “anti-minority”. He added that “as a society we suffer from an intellectual lethargy and are unwilling to pay attention.”

While acknowledging that Ashis Nandy’s statement was “sweeping”, writer and cultural analyst, Nataraj Huliyar said that it should inspire the non-corrupt among Dalits and OBCs to introspect. “If they take up cudgels against Ashis Nandy, they will miss an opportunity to kick up a debate on the nature of corruption in the private sector controlled mainly by upper castes, and the public sector which has a relatively larger participation of the lower and middle castes,” he said.

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