That so many rose to Ashis Nandy's statement is indicative of an upper-class majority that seeks to rationalise bad biases in offensive ways.
“It will be a very undignified and vulgar statement on his part but the fact is that most of the corrupt come from the OBC, the Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes and as long as this is the case, the Indian Republic will survive."
This is Ashis Nandy’s statement at Jaipur, as put forward by him in the Supreme Court. While many rushed to his defence, it was pointed out that the statement was taken out of context. In whatever context, Nandy’s statement smacks of a majoritarian approach which seeks to blame the poor and weak in a system instead of the system itself. Corruption as the great equaliser is a laughable idea.
The pressing need to mainstream disadvantaged communities and oppressed classes as part of affirmative action has led to a large number of people who otherwise would not have had the chance, joining the government, colleges and professional courses. Their so called corruption, however beneficial it may be to the survival of this country according to Nandy, does not take into account the fact that you are “mainstreaming"“them into an already grossly corrupt system. Why must dalits and the others be singled out for their corruption?
After all they are trying to keep up with a system they find themselves in. Nowhere is it the case that they have been given that access to clean up the system. Despite their alleged corruption, few Dalits make it to top posts, its not as if they are a rich and powerful class. No way.
Some years ago, I remember reading about a policewoman from a special cell for women in New Delhi who when confronted with a complaint of domestic violence told the complainant what was a husband if he didn’t give you a slap or two. This was widely reported and condemned. But I think the fault didn’t lie with the woman police officer. She too was co-opted into a system that was patriarchal and which couldn’t accept that a woman being beaten by a man and her husband amounted to violence and qualified as a criminal offence.
To be like the rest of her male colleagues she too tried her best to fit into the system by blaming the victim and by breezily suggesting that it was okay to be beaten up by a husband. In both cases the system has ensured you accept its stereotypes or venality and those who enter it have little choice but to be corrupt or sexist or adhere to the tenets of patriarchy.
There are few who can fight and stand out. It is easier and fashionable to say that Dalits are more corrupt or that women deserve to be beaten by a husband than question a system that allows for this. Statements like this are not merely populist or unthinking; they reveal a deep seated prejudice in a generalised, pompous sort of a way. These are the things people say without compunction and pass it of as some deep analysis.
That the upper castes have created a venal and corrupt system to which the rest of the classes have to subscribe to is conveniently ignored. The main worry somehow is the behaviour of the disadvantaged sections in society which is constantly under the lens. So you have sweeping statements on Dalits and their behaviour, and another common refrain being women are their worst enemies and so on.
I have heard several men, women, and police officials repeating this ad nauseam. I am amazed that so many people rose to Nandy’s defence. While Nandy need not be punished or arrested - I am all for free speech - what he said only exposes his own biases which are the biases of a majority, resentful of any breach of their upper caste domains and who seek to explain equality and survival of this country in offensive ways.
Who in the first place created this unequal structure of society with class distinctions? When something is done to address that, there is a countrywide uproar on OBCs and others getting their due. Students are committing suicide in premier institutions because they don’t get support from upper class students or teachers who taunt them to death almost.
Who introduced the culture of indignity, of bribing people and venality? If anything the Dalits, OBCs and scheduled tribes are the inheritors of this system, they are not the perpetrators or the prime beneficiaries as is being made out to be. On January 1 in Maharashtra, three Dalit youth were killed by upper caste men because one of them dared to fall in love with his daughter. This is far away from anything that is equal or just and the country is, as it were, festering on the blood of innocents. I would worry more about that instead of the levels of corruption among Dalits or OBCs.