I was extremely disappointed on reading Ashis Nandy’s comment at the Jaipur Literary Festival that people belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes are “more corrupt.” So when I started reading the article “No room for nuance in this fragile republic” by Harsh Sethi (Jan. 28), I was hoping it would clear the misunderstanding caused by Mr. Nandy’s comments. But the article worsened the situation and increased my disappointment. Mr. Sethi’s defence doesn’t convince at all. But I do feel eccentric views like those expressed by Mr. Nandy should be ignored or laughed off. The demand for his arrest is a bit too much.
While Indian democracy is vast, the democratic space for debate and discussion is shrinking by the day, thanks to the narrow, sectarian attitude of politicians, organisations and individuals. The latest in the series are cries to ban Kamal Haasan’s movie Vishwaroopam and arrest Mr. Nandy.
Corruption in India is not confined to a religion or caste. All are adept in this craft. Since Dalits and the OBCs are late-comers to the public sphere, they are not clever enough to hide their nefarious activities, like the old guard of forward castes. Mr. Nandy was stating this simple fact in his own intellectual way.
Mr. Nandy’s comments should indeed be taken lightly. What he wanted to convey was people belonging to the upper strata of society are equally corrupt but they are capable of concealing their acts because they are strong enough to manipulate the adverse circumstances. But his assertion that the “corruption” saved the Republic and democracy by enabling a degree of social and economic mobility cannot be accepted because no democracy can survive for long if it supported by corruption. The hue and cry over the issue should end.
A skewed understanding of Mr. Nandy’s remarks has led to competitive outrage among politicians who indulge in vote bank politics. The sociologist was actually more scathing in his attack on the rich and powerful, but no one seems to have paid attention to those pronouncements. Our republic has indeed become fragile over the years.
Mr. Nandy’s remarks mirror the mental orientation of the upper caste elites, intellectuals and others. He is supported by many in the electronic media. The SCs, the STs and the OBCs should take to the streets against utterances of such calumny to show that they cannot be taken for granted.