Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Intellectuals in support of Nandy -- Times of India

Intellectuals come out in support of Ashis Nandy

NEW DELHI: The paradox of a champion of social justice being booked under the caste atrocities law has prompted an array of intellectuals and artistes to come out in support of academic Ashis Nandy from India and abroad. They include Romila Thapar, Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, Aparna Sen, Shabana Azmi, Sharmila Tagore, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Charles Taylor, Rajeev Bhargava and Yogendra Yadav.

Referring to his controversial statement at the Jaipur Literature Festival, an online petition signed by them said: "While Nandy's deliberately ironic remark on corruption in the OBC and SC/ST political elites as a form of equality may not be to the liking of all, we have no doubt that it was meant to question the upper caste-middle class notions of morality rather than denigrate marginalized and subaltern groups."

In a tacit admission that his statement was open to diverse interpretations, the petition addressed to the government said that Nandy had evolved "a distinctive and provocative style of making claims, comments and arguments". Although he has over the years "affirmed the rights of marginalized groups and communities to assert and express themselves in their unique ways", the petition added that Nandy's own method has been "to illuminate through anecdote, aphorism and irony".

Lamenting the illiberal demands for his arrest, the petition signed so far by over 300 persons said: "In a country where intellectual freedoms are shrinking every day, the right of thinkers like Ashis Nandy to argue and articulate unconventional views must be protected at all costs."

Other signatories to the petition include Arjun Appadurai, Nandita Das, Alok Rai, Zoya Hasan, Leela Gandhi, Achin Vinaik, Nandini Sundar, Lawrence Liang, Pranab Bardhan, Shamndad Basheer, Kamal Chenoy, Dilip Menon and Sumit Sarkar.

In a similar expression of support to the besieged scholar, Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association (JTSA) alleged that the crisis had been created by "media violence and culture of intolerance". According to JTSA, a section of the media "in the garb of safeguarding the dignity of the underprivileged has not only harmed that further but has also disgraced the eminent intellectual by forcing an apology out of him".

Denying the suggestion that he had held backward communities responsible for widespread corruption, JTSA said that those who were familiar with Nandy's work would know that "the accusation is farthest from the truth". It said: "Not only has he been grossly misunderstood but the accusation is an affront to his decades long deeply sensitive scholarship including that on the backward communities."

Meanwhile, Kancha Ilaiah, well-known scholar on Dalit issues, reportedly said: "Ashis Nandy made a bad statement with good intentions. However, as far as I know, he was never against reservation. The controversy should end here." 

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