Saturday, February 2, 2013

KAFILA: Meera Asher --Corruption and Political Correctness: A Severe Case of Intellectual Laziness

Guest post by MEERA ASHAR
January 30, 2013

Ashis Nandy has been called, rather, accused of being, many things—sociologist, historian, political theorist, public intellectual, philosopher, psychoanalyst, leftist, centrist, right wing, Dalit, Christian, Brahmanical, casteist (he describes himself, more poetically, as an intellectual street fighter and reason buster)—but ‘politically correct’ has never been one of them.

This time, Nandy’s political incorrectness has cost him more than before. As in the past, he has been attacked by politicians and the popular media for presenting his analysis of social phenomena—for doing his job well. The response of the Indian intelligentsia to Nandy’s threatened arrest by the right wing government of Gujarat in 2008 was markedly different from the response now. The difference this time, of course, is that Nandy has not offended the right people. He is seen to have betrayed the marginalized. This time, he has been unfashionably politically incorrect. The similarity between the two episodes is the ‘freedom of speech’ brigade, which has dutifully stood by Nandy. But I shall turn to them later.

Nandy’s abandoning of political correctness, perhaps the second-most malignant epidemic of the modern age after ‘bullshit’, is not just an act of impudence or foolhardiness. Sympathetic students and avid readers of Nandy’s writing have often been heard asking, “but why does he have to say these things in this manner; why does he make jokes like this?” It is as though we have assumed that Nandy’s ideas can be repackaged into a politically appropriate, academically gratifying, sanitized format, preferably footnotable. (Many have actually succeeded in achieving that—and rendering him redundant in the process.)

At a time when academics presume that their role is to perpetuate more and more politically correct research (“score one more for the underdogest of the underdog”), Nandy’s work, while challenging old dogmas and hierarchies, cannot be recast into a bite-size snack. There is no ‘Understand Nandy in 3 Simple Steps’…or even 5. Perhaps this is why he has been critiqued almost equally by ideologues of all hues. For example, his brilliant essay on humiliation baffled many. What could he possibly mean when he argues that for humiliation to occur, both the perpetrator and the humiliated need to share the same symbolic world. Humiliation cannot be completed unless this cognitive circuit is complete and another’s categories are violently imposed upon one. A potent identity marker, humiliation can have “creative possibilities”; it can “crystalize new forms of political awareness”. “He makes these statements, and then we have to unpack them for days,” one of my bright students once said of him. But this is a far cry from inane questions such as: Is he justifying humiliation? Is he blaming the humiliated? Is he forgiving the perpetrator? Nandy does not give us new and improved answers; he compels us to question our own questions.

The reactions to Nandy’s exposition on corruption (which has strangely been relegated to the status of ‘remarks’) betray once again the intellectual laziness that pervades society. At the crudest level, Nandy’s words were taken out of context. No surprises here. Blame the media: 24×7 news bites, running the same half-sentence over and over again, uproar, more reruns of the sentence fragment. You get the picture. And indeed, there were people who are either just waiting to pick a fight, be offended, outraged, protest… a familiar routine. Some shook their head in dismay and said this was a reflection of the attitudes of a casteist society.  Brinda Karat called him elitist and Mayawati and the rest wanted him arrested. No one paused even to hear the end of the sentence that began, “It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and the Scheduled Castes, and increasingly the Scheduled Tribes….” This was met with a collective chant of ‘FOUL’. “And as long as this is the case,” Nandy had continued, with his characteristic aphorismic charm, “the Indian Republic will survive.” Of course, Nandy’s point was that the discourse of corruption victimizes the marginalized, while the elite get away with it. He was making the argument that the elite have subtle age-old mechanisms of manipulating power, which the marginalized lack. His use of West Bengal as an example of the least corrupt state but also the state that has kept the SCs/ST and OBCs from getting close to power makes that amply clear.

Of course, this was not all he intended to say. When Nandy said that his co-panelist, the eminent philosopher Richard Sorabji, and he can be corrupt in more subtle ways, by offering scholarships and jobs to kith and kin, he was not simply saying that corruption is everywhere. Nor was he merely stating that the elite get away with it. He was asking us to rethink the category of corruption. Why do certain things not look like corruption? “We congratulate ourselves for promoting talent,” Nandy said of the ‘corruption’ that the elite may engage in. Before we jump in and claim to have solved the paradox by categorizing this as hypocrisy, let us pause to think what Nandy could have been saying. Do we even have a theory of corruption? Or are we blindly waving around a baton against it. It will not do to only say, “corruption is everywhere, let’s strike it, or strike against it,” depending on our chosen mode of ‘participation’ in politics. We have recently seen how that did not turn out too well for the Anna Hazare movement.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing here is the defense that Nandy’s compatriots, students and fellow social scientists have offered: freedom of speech. Indeed, as our society becomes more and more intolerant, there is a need to hold on tight to our right and ability to express dissent. But that is hardly the end of our task. Far from it. Neither is it enough merely to assert that Nandy’s heart is in the right place. (Indeed it is.) Can our intellectual response to a sophisticated argument, and the furor it created, be: “But he has always spoken for the marginalized”? Is this the only validation an intellectual work needs: that it should speak for the marginalized? If this is the only stipulation for scholarly work, we may as well be lobotomized.

It is no surprise that, where multiple academic and scholarly careers have been built primarily on polished bleeding-heart stories, a ‘gadfly’s’ annoying and persistent demand that we be intellectually honest and willing to challenge the very categories of our analysis has not always been welcomed. His work, even if presented as “paradoxes, aphorisms, ironies, jokes and riddles” strikes at the very foundation of the business of knowledge production.  Nandy’s analysis reveals not just the vacuity of the concept of corruption, but also the intellectual indolence that we all revel in. Nandy has often been called a gadfly. Ironically, this reminds me of another friendly neighbourhood gadfly, Socrates, who was asked to drink hemlock for ‘corrupting’ the youth.

Meera Ashar teaches at the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University and can be contacted at

Kashmir Times: Angshukanta Chakraborty--When mayhem is the message

When mayhem is the message 

TRP-Driven media distorted Ashis Nandy's words
By Angshukanta Chakraborty

Exactly when those of us who attended the just-concluded Jaipur Literature Festival were heaving a sigh of relief, and were, in fact, celebrating the point that deliverance from "tamasha" and re-immersion in the old-fashioned literary world had been, as it were, the foremost achievement of the Litfest, we were caught off guard in the dire straits of the Ashis Nandy controversy. Nandy's words, when nipped from their bookending sentences and broadcasted on a continuous loop, reminded me of Marshal McLuhan's best remembered saying, 'the medium is the message'. However, adapted to our current times of telegenic public sphere, the idea coined by that revered Canadian prophet of communication theory can easily be repackaged as 'the mayhem is the message.' The medium, clearly, is pure mayhem.

Anyone who was present at the session, titled 'Republic of Ideas' and having fellow panelists such as Tarun Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhary of Tehelka, along with moderator Urvashi Butalia, Ashutosh of IBN7 and Nandy himself, could only be baffled at the turn of events that emanated from the rather heartening, and perhaps a trifle provocative, albeit intentionally so, discussion that took place. The thread of 'corruption as a leveling force' started when Tejpal, and not Nandy, first came up with the suggestion and commented that in a country like India, where entrenched systems of self-aggrandizement are well in place for those with the means, mostly along caste lines, corruption could also be seen as a method of subversion by the poor and the historically disenfranchised, so as to gain access to the very entitlements that are guaranteed by the Constitution. Nandy, who has throughout his long and illustrious academic career as a social psychologist championed the cause of the 'others' within India - whether religious minorities, SC/ST and OBCs, or the rural and urban poor - took up the idea and elaborated that corruption was indicative of a social churn and a republic at work, because corruption need not be the domain of the elites only.

Then came the bit that caused the entire furore. Nandy went on to declare, sounding the prior caveat that it might sound rather "vulgar" to the general ears that are more used to hearing unequivocal and uncomplicated paeans to the national ideals of secularism and anti-casteism, that most of the corrupt in India happen to be SCs, STs and the OBCs, but as long as that is the case, he still had hope in the republic. Thereafter, Nandy explained his admittedly gauchely formulated words to the fidgeting and fretting audience, by saying that the corruption of the SC/STs and the OBCs are visible because they have not yet developed the mechanisms of effective social camouflage, which the elites are adept at, of course. Such mechanisms of hiding and masking self-serving systems turn deep-rooted corruption into accepted techniques of socialization and social engineering. Because the Dalits, the OBCs and other historically disenfranchised lack the finesse, their corruption remains crude and visible to the general eye. Their bonds and affiliations still tend to be dynastic or familial, instead of global or transnational class patterns, which keep the status quo of contemporary capital flows intact. When the marginalised start subverting the system by using the very tools of the system, we call it corruption. What does this say of the media, and the news anchors on the TV channels that kept playing that one line uttered by Nandy in a ceaseless circuit of imposed malice and malignity on one of the tireless champions of the disenfranchised in India? Did they even know where Ashis Nandy worked, leave alone what he taught? Had anyone bothered to even cast a casual glance at his oeuvre of scholarly and popular works, just the bibliography of course, available on Wikipedia? What kind of an irresponsible media pounces on the crumbs of a stimulating and fearless intellectual debate [taking place at a platform such as Jaipur Literature Festival, which, in any case, was attempting to return to its thinking roots after last year's elaborate fiasco] and tosses it over, denuded of the context, to the boiling matrix of the Indian public sphere at large?

It can be equally said of Nandy that he, too, behaved irresponsibly by falling back on the banalities of empirical evidence. "Most of the SC/STs and OBCs are corrupt" sits extremely well with gems like the following, all backed up by enough statistical data and market surveys, of course - "most of the working women tend to drink and smoke"; "most of the college-going girls have premarital sex"; "most of the terrorists are Muslims"; "most of the AIDS patients in the 1980s were homosexuals"; "most of the musicians are drug addicts" - the list can go on.

That Nandy, in a charged moment of displaying his marvelous rhetorical flourish, and unable to resist yet another feat of showcasing some intellectual calisthenics, imagined the podium in Diggi Palace's Char Bagh to be an extension of his office in Delhi's Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (the hallowed CSDS), or, perchance, that of his own drawing room, or the seminar halls of India Habitat Centre, where this remark would have met with characteristic applause - is cause for concern too. This means that the venerated sociologist had momentarily forgotten the enormous consequences of a slip of tongue in a mass culture as volatile as ours, in an age of (mis)communication as instantaneous and as fabricated as ours.

But the real culprit is the TV media, which, as it is obvious now, was waiting breathlessly for its 'breaking news' from Jaipur Litfest. Without so much of a line out of place, the TRPs would not have been served. The perfunctory interview with Will Dalrymple, in which the author talked about the international literary critics and sociologists, and the battalion of writers, who had come to speak at the festival, was not titillating enough. Jeet Thayil looked subdued and without a straw of controversy this time, like reading from a banned book again, although his winning the DSC South Asian Literature Prize for Narcopolis went unreported in the only Indian English news channel that I happened to get on my hotel room television there. Thank goodness for Ashis Nandy then, that all the festival had to say and reflect upon could once again be transmogrified into pure cacophony and one more doctored controversy, much to the relief of our 24X7 media.
—(IPA Service) Sunday February 3, 2013

BBC: India court tells police not to arrest academic

Ashis Nandy: India court tells police not to arrest academic, BBC,

India's Supreme Court has ordered the police not to arrest leading academic Ashis Nandy for making controversial remarks at the Jaipur Literature Festival.

But the court advised Mr Nandy to be more cautious when speaking.

The sociologist was reported as saying that some of India's most disadvantaged groups were the "most corrupt".

He later clarified saying he meant that the poor and disadvantaged were more likely to get caught than the rich.

On Thursday, he filed a petition in the court after fears that he would be arrested.

On Friday, the bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir told Mr Nandy that he must "exercise caution" in the future if the "intention was not to cause hurt to the sentiments of another person or community".

In his petition, the academic had argued that lodging a case against him "is against the basic principles of the fundamental rights which envisages that free speech is the foundation of a democratic society".

He said that in the "surcharged environment... and the rabid statements made by important political personalities, his physical safety is itself compromised and there is imminent threat of injury to him".

A number of political parties have criticised Prof Nandy's remarks, but several academics have also supported him.

Former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state and low-caste Dalit leader Mayawati said that he should be "sent to jail".

"Most corrupt people come from Other Backward Classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes [three disadvantaged groups]," Prof Nandy was quoted as saying during a panel discussion at the festival on Saturday.

He later said that he was sorry if anybody was hurt because of the misunderstanding and clarified his comments.

"I have been misquoted. What I meant was that most of the people getting caught for corruption are people from OBC, SC and ST communities, as they don't have the means to save themselves unlike people from upper castes," he is quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper.

Dalit scholar Kancha Ilaiah said Prof Nandy had made "a bad statement with good intentions".

"While referring to Dalits as corrupt, Prof Nandy probably missed out saying that upper castes [in India] have always been corrupt," Prof Ilaiah said.

The Hindu: ‘It smacks of intolerance of our times and the inability to comprehend’

‘It smacks of intolerance of our times and the inability to comprehend’

 Deepa Ganesh, BANGLORE, FEB 2, 2013

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.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The New Yorker:THE NANDY AFFAIR- Basharat Peer

The Nandy Affair Posted by Basharat Peer,  February 1, 2013

On January 26th, I was in the writers’ lounge at the Diggi Palace Hotel, in Jaipur, where the city’s annual literary festival was being held, and was in a leisurely conversation with fellow writers. Suddenly, a group of police officers barged in. A gruff man in a traditional kurta pajama, wearing a black cap and a shawl, was leading them. I began to hear the name of Ashis Nandy being repeated. Ashis Nandy is one of India’s foremost intellectuals, a clinical psychologist and sociologist who has produced some of the most original and important works of scholarship in independent India in his forty or more years in public life. He is also a prolific writer of essays and newspaper columns and a feisty public speaker.
“How could Ashis Nandy call us the most corrupt in India?” the politician in the black cap shouted at the growing crowd of festival organizers and writers. A few hours earlier, Nandy had been on a panel discussion called “The Republic of Ideas” with Urvashi Butalia, a writer and publisher; Tarun Tejpal, a magazine editor and novelist; and a few others. The conversation had turned to the endemic corruption in India. Nandy, a small, bespectacled seventy-five-year-old man with a balding head, a wispy beard, and a ready laugh, had, as usual, an unorthodox take on corruption, “I do wish there remains some degree of corruption in India because I would also suggest that it humanizes our society.”

Nandy spoke about lower-caste politicians, and argued that because they have only recently gained access to the spoils of power, they didn’t yet have the sophisticated social networks that allow India’s upper-caste élite to hide their corruption. Indicating his fellow panelist Richard Sorabji, an Oxford scholar, Nandy said, “If I do a good turn to Richard Sorabji, he can return the favor by accommodating my nephew at Oxford; if it were in the United States, it would be a substantial fellowship.” He mentioned Mayawati, a Dalit (formerly called Untouchable) politician who is president of Bahujan Samaj Party, the largest lower-caste political party, and was the chief minister of Utter Pradesh until last year. Like a vast number of Indian politicians, she has faced charges of corruption (which have since been dismissed). “If she has to oblige somebody or have somebody in the family absorb the money, she will probably have to take the bribe of having a hundred petrol pumps, and that is very conspicuous, very corrupt indeed. Our corruption doesn’t look that corrupt, their’s does.”

Tejpal, the magazine editor from Delhi, followed Nandy’s thought and described corruption in India being a class equalizer, as the only chance for the people on the “wrong side of the tracks” to make it in a highly stratified and unequal society. Nandy responded, “It will be a very undignified and—how should I put it—almost vulgar statement on my part. It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the O.B.C.s and the scheduled caste and now increasingly the scheduled tribes. And as long as this is the case, the Indian republic will survive.” Dalits, the former Untouchables, and others on the lowest rung of the Hindu caste system are described as Scheduled Castes in Indian legalese; India’s poor and marginalized tribal communities are known as Scheduled Tribes. The Indian Constitution initially guaranteed affirmative action for these two groups, but over the years other castes on the lower and middle rungs of the caste ladder have been included—often after political agitations—as “Other Backward Castes” (O.B.C.s).

A populist television journalist, who was also on the panel, promptly called Nandy’s remarks a casteist slur and demanded an apology. Within moments, Nandy’s remark about most corrupt Indians being from traditionally oppressed and marginalized lower castes and tribes was tweeted without its context. Television channels and wire services ran the headline: “SC/ST/OBCs most corrupt: Ashis Nandy.” His words divorced of the complexity of his argument and their context spread quickly—an allegation against a multitude, provoking anger and offense.

And that was what brought Kirori Lal Meena, a lower-caste member of Parliament with a formidable constituency in the state of Rajasthan, to the writers’ lounge at Diggi Palace. Meena’s supporters were already agitating outside the festival gates. Meena sat cross-legged on a bench, his hands interlocked and his body language stiff and unrelenting. He demanded that Nandy be produced. He was accompanied by police officers, who took seats around him, their faces tense. The festival organizers moved about frantically, speaking to Meena in polite, supplicating voices, urging some sort of reconciliation. He seemed keen on legal action against Nandy.

Tejpal, the co-panelist, joined in and began describing Nandy’s career. Nandy had for decades supported and written about equal citizenship for the religious minorities, the lower castes, and the poor in India—even putting himself at risk.

In one of the gravest moments of crisis in Indian polity, after the mass sectarian violence in the state of Gujarat, in 2002, when more than a thousand Muslims including pregnant women and children were killed by extremist Hindu mobs—with the alleged complicity of the government led by Hindu nationalist chief minister Narendra Modi (who is now positioning himself as a candidate for Prime Minister and the future leader of India)—Nandy wrote an essay describing Modi as a “classic, clinical case of a fascist,” with “clear paranoid and obsessive personality traits.” The essay appeared in one of India’s much respected intellectual forums, Seminar magazine.

Six years later, after Modi was reëlected in Gujarat, Nandy published an article in the Times of India commenting on the dire state of civil liberties and institutionalized prejudice against minorities in Gujarat. Article Nineteen of the Indian Constitution guarantees free speech, but it is a right limited by five exceptions: the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India; the security of the state; friendly relations with foreign states; public order, decency or morality; and in relation to contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offense. All these can be interpreted rather broadly, and potentially encompass almost any critical writing, political statement, or cultural expression. In this case, Modi’s police registered a criminal case against Nandy, charging him with promoting communal disharmony—making assertions prejudicial to national integration.

Nandy fought the case for several years and Indian intellectuals and liberal journalists rallied behind him. “ The case against me in Gujarat has not been closed, but the Supreme Court of India stayed my arrest,” Nandy told me.

His history and biography failed to check the anger at the Diggi Palace. Meena refused to relent; his hands continued their dismissive, unrelenting interlock.

A few minutes later, Nandy appeared. He was sombre. He faced Meena and spoke slowly, explaining his comments, insisting that his remarks weren’t a casteist slur. Namita Gokhale, a co-director of the festival, appeared with a tea-tray, offering the first cup to the enraged politician.

Meena seemed to demand a written explanation. Nandy began to write. One of the sheets of paper was torn as he wrote. He copied his explanation onto another sheet. I stood by his shoulder, watching him slowly pen his words. Nandy repeated his earlier arguments about the entrenched social networks of the élites facilitating their corruption and added,
But when Dalits, tribals and the O.B.C.s are corrupt, it looks very corrupt indeed. However, this second corruption equalizes. It gives them access to their entitlements. And so, as long as this equation persists, I have hope for the Republic.
I hope this will be the end of the matter. I am sorry if some have misunderstood me. Though there was no reason to do so. As should be clear from this statement, there was neither any intention nor any attempt to hurt any community. If anyone is genuinely hurt, even if through misunderstanding, I am sorry about that, too.
When Meena left the lounge, television crews had been waiting for him; he was unyielding as he faced the cameras. In a few hours, news came that Mayawati, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister, had demanded Nandy’s arrest for his remarks. Nandy’s family sought to get him back home to Delhi. A few policemen and the organizers took him out of the festival venue through a back door. The embattled, aging scholar walked briskly through the crowds as the sun set on Jaipur. He stepped into a car and drove six hours through the night to Delhi.

Politicians from all communities in India are among the first to take offense, partly with an eye on political profit and increased visibility. And yet one of the foremost Dalit intellectuals, Kancha Ilaiah, who teaches at a university in Hyderabad, was in Jaipur. Ilaiah’s best-known book, “Why I am Not a Hindu?”—a searing critique of the Hindu caste system—is required reading on the subject. Several years back, attempts were made to censor Ilaiah’s essays on caste by the authorities of his university. A letter from the registrar of his university directed him to write “within the canons of conduct of our profession” and accused him of “accentuated social tensions” through his writing. It was the Indian equivalent of Princeton trying to stop Cornel West from writing about race.

Ilaiah, the polemicist, is a slight, soft-spoken man with wisps of grey hair. At Jaipur, he wore a navy-blue suit, rimless glasses, and carried a bag full of books. Ilaiah was troubled by Nandy’s statement but opposed calls for his arrest. “His statement was not intended to hurt, but it is an assertion that encompasses the ethical life of eight-hundred million people. Are our laborers corrupt? Are our tribals who live and toil in the forests corrupt? Nobody ever said that the slaves were corrupt,” Ilaiah told me. “Ashis Nandy intended to support the cause of an oppressed people but he deployed the wrong concept and made an incorrect assertion. It is a very emotive issue. You are calling a people corrupt, a people whose life in this country is harsh.” It was not as if their marginalization was entirely in the past: “Even at a conference like this, not even one per cent of the participants are from Dalit or other lower-caste communities.”

The Jaipur police proceeded to register a criminal case against Nandy and sought the video recording of the discussion to check if the scholar’s comments constituted an offense under the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Act of India. (The law is aimed at preventing untouchability, which includes denial of access to certain places to an S.C. or S.T. person; preventing him or her from getting water from any spring, reservoir or any other source; or making a comment in order to insult or intimidate with intent to humiliate a S.C. or S.T. person in any place within public view.) The police also ordered the organizers of the literary festival not to leave the city until they were questioned by the police about, among other things, whether they had breached the terms of an undertaking they had signed to “not hurt the sentiments of any community or religion during the literary festival.” A court order helped them return home after two days, but the police summoned Nandy to appear in Jaipur for a probe against his remarks.

The undertaking the organizers had signed was a condition that the Rajasthan government had imposed after opposition from Muslim groups and death threats forced Salman Rushdie to cancel his visit to the festival last year. (David Remnick wrote about it at the time.) Even before the Nandy affair, there was a certain jitteriness around open speech, nationalism, and religion at the festival. India’s most powerful Hindu supremacist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or National Volunteers Association, had issued a warning that the participation of Pakistani authors was “not in the country’s interests at the moment.”

Younger officials of the R.S.S.’s political wing and India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party threatened to stop Pakistani authors from entering the venue. Like their brethren on the Hindu right, a little-known Islamist group called for banning from the festival four writers—Jeet Thayil, Hari Kunzru, Amitava Kumar, and Ruchir Joshi—who had read extracts from Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” during the previous festival.

The threats seemed mere bluster when I first arrived in Jaipur, although visitors entered the venue through metal detectors, and scores of policemen and private-security men were present at the gates. Diggi Palace’s lawns held a boisterous crowd of writers and readers, a cacophony of voices debating the global economy, religious landscapes in India, and arguing about the Jewish novel. I saw the Pakistani novelist Nadeem Aslam signing copies of his new novel, “The Blind Man’s Garden.” Aslam was excited about the end papers: “Aren’t they gorgeous?” A little later, I saw the Indian novelist Jeet Thayil, one of the authors that the Islamic fringe tried to ban (and whose novel “Narcopolis” was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year). He had been assigned a policeman who followed him throughout the festival. “He has been with me at all my talks and at all the parties,” Thayil said. “After we attended several talks, he was bored and asked, ‘Is this what you do? You talk all day about books?’ Yes, I said. He was quiet after that, but his amusement and disbelief at our vocation was evident.” Thayil went on to read a section from his novel where the word “cunt” and its variations appeared several times. Four charges of obscenity were filed against him at a Jaipur police station.

My own panel had been, appropriately enough, about censorship. In it, I’d dwelled on the image of a tall, gangly man with a luxurious mustache in an ill-fitting leather jacket and baggy trousers, walking about the newspaper offices in Srinagar, the main city in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, a decade ago. I was a novice reporter travelling between sites of atrocity, visiting the drab offices of pro-India or pro-Kashmiri independence politicians for press conferences. The man always stood in a corner, listening intently, scribbling intensely. Occasionally, I would bump into him and he would ask about my family, or bring up an event he had missed. “I had to take my son to a hospital. Please tell me what was said? Who asked the questions?” It could feel like a fellow reporter seeking help, but I had learned by then about his vocation: he was the policeman whose job was to report on the press. The colder, faceless sign of surveillance and censorship was a faint noise, a crackle over the phone, a slight echo of your own voice that reminded one of the policemen listening to our words. The regime of censorship in conflict zones like Kashmir extended to unknown callers making intimidating threats to writers and journalists--and in the worst cases, assassinations.

But Kashmir has for decades been a state of exception, a gray zone where democratic imperatives are subservient. Recently, the Indian government has been showing greater intolerance of dissent and critique beyond the borderlands, too. Apart from censorship and surveillance by the government, an insidious trend of political, ethnic, and religious groups threatening artists, writers, and scholars with violence and legal action has been gathering strength across India.

In September, Aseem Trivedi, a Mumbai-based cartoonist, who mocked politicians facing a litany of corruption charges by redrawing the seal of India—replacing the lions with wolves—was arrested on charges of sedition in Mumbai. After intense criticism by the courts and civil society, the charges were dropped and Trivedi was released.

On November 18th, Mumbai was shut down following the death of its most powerful and controversial Hindu politician, Bal Thackeray—a divisive figure who, as the leader of Shiv Sena party, had a record of inciting xenophobic and sectarian violence. Fears of violence by his grieving party-members kept vehicles off the roads and shops closed. A twenty-one-year-old woman in a Mumbai suburb remarked critically on Thackeray’s death on her Facebook page, “People like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a ‘bandh’ [shutdown] for that.” A friend of hers liked the comment. The police arrested both girls and charged them under a section of India’s Information Technology Act, which governs cyber offenses. The girls were eventually released on bail after appearing in a local court.

Shiv Sena, the political party that Thackeray headed till his death, and whose members lobbied for the arrests of the two Mumbai girls, has, in fact, performed the role of a vigilante censor in India. The great painter Maqbool Fida Husain, known as the Picasso of India, was in his nineties when he became the target of the Hindu right for a series of nude paintings of Hindu goddesses that he had made in the nineteen-seventies. His exhibitions were vandalized, his house attacked, and criminal cases were filed against him.

Threatened with arrest, Husain had to leave India and live in exile in London and Dubai, before he accepted citizenship in Qatar in 2010. “He kept calling us from London, from New York, pleading that he must absolutely come back to India, ‘not die in a foreign land,’” his friend N. Ram, the publisher of The Hindu newspaper wrote after Husain’s death in June, 2011, in a London hospital.
And just a few weeks back, Muslim groups in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu protested against a thriller that they believed depicted Muslims as terrorists; the release of the movie was delayed by a local court. It was about these stifling trends that my colleagues and I spoke.

By Wednesday morning, another case has been registered against Nandy under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Act in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Fearing arrest, Nandy appealed to the Supreme Court of India, which has the authority to stop his arrest and quash the case against him. On Friday, Justice Altamas Kabir, the Chief Justice of India, along with two other judges, heard his appeal. Nandy’s lawyer invoked free speech, but the judges reprimanded him: “Tell your client he has no license to make such comments.”

The court said it would reserve judgment until seeing the government’s response to the motions. “In the meantime, the petitioner will not be arrested in FIR filed in connection with the statement made by him at the JLF, on January 26,” the Court ordered—so Nandy would not have to wait in jail. After the decision, the scholar spoke to the press, expressing his gratitude to the court. Nandy added, “I will have to be careful now.”

Photograph by Ramesh Sharma/India Today Group/Getty.

The Pioneer OpEd:Kamal Mitra Chenoy-Free speech, everything decent, under attack

Free speech, everything decent, under attack Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Feb 2, 2013

India’s imperfect democracy got a little more flawed this week, and we all know the reasons. Democracy has come to mean protection of the organised minority, while those who dare to speak the truth are forced to run for cover

It is dangerous to make profound statements in these times, especially if they are imaginative and try to challenge dominant wisdom. You might think that being outspoken at literary meet, in this case the annual Jaipur Literary Festival, is reasonably safe. Professor Ashis Nandy clearly thought so and is paying the price.

Nandy is known for his more than four decades of support to the backward classes. In 1991 when the Mandal Commission came out with its report, he supported it, unlike the hordes of upper caste intellectuals even in a supposed egalitarian bastion like JNU who were in the opposition.

But there is a bitter irony in the current situation. The area of reservation, subsidies and weightage in matters of education, work and other facilities have not led to what the Mandal Commission had advocated and hoped. Tarun Tejpal, who spoke immediately before Nandy, raised the question of the oppressed classes and was pessimistic about the end of their oppression given the system of written and unwritten rules which govern society by an elite and for an elite.

Nandy reacted by going a step further. In a widely believed corrupt system he felt the backward classes were also being corrupt in order to survive. His presentation was full of irony and some satire. For example he said that West Bengal was a state without corruption because it had no backward classes. He, of course, meant the opposite. Anyone who is acquainted with Nandy’s corpus of writings would know that this was a sharp criticism of the Left and its performance in West Bengal. After all it would be absurd to state that there are no backward classes there.

The problems clearly arise from Nandy’s view of the egalitarian possibilities of corruption. This led him to argue that Dawood Ibrahim’s gang had a lot of Hindus and was therefore totally secular. Secularism does not mean that subordinates who are Hindu by following their Muslim gang leader become secular. It is not a dreaded gang’s religious mix but what it does for inter-religious and inter-caste wellbeing and amity that makes it secular.

Nandy then went on to cite OBC politicians like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Yadav and Dalit leader Mayawati to show that compared to the upper caste/ class leaders these leaders suffered from “a sense of desperation, utter desperation and insecurity.” Thus, “our corruption doesn’t look that corrupt, their corruption does.”

Now this is certainly a sweeping statement that needs more analysis and factual basis. It is made more problematic by his conclusion:  “It is a fact that more of the corrupt come from the OBCs, and the Scheduled Castes and now increasingly Scheduled Tribes and as long as this is the case, Indian Republic will survive.”

This is a paradoxical statement. Since Nandy holds that the backward classes though corrupt are less so than the upper castes/classes and this is largely due to a ruling machinery that favours the traditional ruling classes over the backward classes, how could he arrive at this particular formulation?  The poorer, less empowered backward classes are, according to him, necessary to save the Republic.

Who are the backward classes saving the Republic and how?

Nandy concedes that though the backward classes are corrupt, they do not have the network and class-biased rules which facilitate the rule by upper castes/ classes.  Since he himself says this is the case, then how can this backward class formation displaces an entrenched upper caste ruling class and saves the Republic?  It appears that Nandy is caught between two stools. On the one hand, he argues that “corruption in India…humanises our society.” But all studies of the poor show that they are victims and not beneficiaries of corruption.

The scale of corruption in welfare schemes for the poor is notorious. Rajiv Gandhi had famously stated that not much from each welfare Rupee actually  reaches the poor. This is no less true now. Experiences with what was called NREGA — a rural employment scheme in recent years has shown that its performance has declined sharply. Further, the Indian political economy which has embraced neo-liberalism is just not concerned with the hopelessness of the poor and the backward.

Nandy’s humanity has led him to argue that corruption humanises society. But the reverse is true. It is the poor who pay a relatively higher proportion of taxes including indirect taxes on fuel, food etc. Since 1947, if Nandy had his way, the Indian polity and economy would have been near paradise. The power of the so-called corrupt backward classes to provide stability to the system, humanises it and secularises it.

This is precisely the kind of utopia that Dr BR Ambedkar warned against in the Constituent Assembly. Contrasting political equality with social and economic inequality, Ambedkar warned that this contradiction if not resolved could have very serious consequences for society and the Constitution itself.

The rise of insurgencies as well as social banditry (eg Phoolan Devi, Dadua and others) in various parts of the country is a clear consequence of what Dr Ambedkar had warned. Arguably banditry is also a form of corruption which should lead to equalisation and stability for the Republic, by his standards. Of course, he would not make such a formulation. But in the light of what he, an internationally renowned sociologist and a consistent supporter of the backward classes has stated as cited above, people may read him this way.

It is a denial of the promise of social justice and intellectual liberation to attack a thinker because you disagree with him. The Chairperson of the SC/ST Commission had called for Nandy’s arrest even before giving him a showcause notice, leave alone having a talk with him. Another Dalit leader called for  Nandy’s arrest under the National Security Act. The political class jumped in. Hardly any of them spoke openly in his support. Of course, intellectuals from the backward classes like Kancha Iliah, Chandra Bhan Prasad, Tulsi Ram and others are notable exceptions. The upper caste intelligentsia also rallied in some measure but the majority chose to stay away from an issue that had enraged backward classes and their leaders.

It is basic to examine the foundational concepts of any theory and relate them to society. Nandy did not do that. And he could not in a brief speech. But his body of work clearly illustrates his commitment to the backward classes and to an egalitarian Republic. One may not agree with Nandy’s latest somewhat stray comments. But even reading those does not show him to be a bigoted upper caste/ class intellectual ignorant of the social reality of the poor and the depressed. Building on what Tarun Tejpal and Nandy said in Jaipur, will be a Herculean task. There can and should be any number of nuances because India is complex and diverse.

But philosophers and theorist must be given due space and latitude. To cite a famous incident during the Algerian war, a French minister urged President De Gaulle to arrest Jean Paul Sartre for opposing the war. De Gaulle, retorted: “One does not arrest Voltaire”. Intellectuals are critical for the development and plurality of India. In such an India, the Ashis Nandys should be cherished.
(The author is Professor in the School of International Studies, JNU)

The Asian Age OpEd: Antara Dev Sen -Be clear. Don’t joke

Be clear. Don’t joke Antara Dev Sen Feb 2, 2013 

"Yes, we are easily offended. We happen to be sensitive people. And identity politics is hugely important for us. Kindly adjust."

Disclaimer: This article does not intend to hurt the sentiments of or commit any atrocity on members of any caste, gender or community. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

We are an earnest nation. We take ourselves very seriously. We take every fraction of our fractious populace very seriously. As we should, of course. Being funny is a terrible thing, as some of you taken to cracking jokes may have discovered by now. If you happen to be a satirist, seek a change. Either in career or in country of residence. We can’t figure out what you wish to do, why you exist at all. Why can’t you just say it as it is? Do understand that we in India have a long tradition of honesty and sincerity, we will not tolerate people saying what they do not mean. We have ways of shutting you up.

See how we are trying to arrest one of our finest academics and long-standing friend of the dalits for apparently committing atrocities against dalits, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes? All because of his inexplicable love of irony and arguments that provoke you to think. Ashis Nandy, ally of the marginalised and the disempowered, is charged with a non-bailable offence under a law meant for people who kill, rape, mutilate, enslave, intimidate and pose serious danger to the SCs and STs. See how easily we use laws made to protect the socially oppressed to turn the heat on sociologists keen on sharing views on society and politics? Makes you laugh, doesn’t it?

Why do we need to air complicated views on life anyway? Isn’t just living it enough? And this clamour for academic freedom, for freedom of thought, this craving for space for free exchange of ideas — really! We are a free democracy, we have all the freedom we need. Anything more would be bad for health. Arre bhai, where is the time to follow your freedom of expression? You don’t even have time to follow your own train of thought. So many soundbytes to take offence at, so many tweets and Facebook comments to track. This is not the age of careful arguments, not the age of reason, certainly not the age of subtlety. Be brief, be clear. Don’t joke. And avoid stuff that may offend. Okay? Yes, we are easily offended. We happen to be sensitive people. And identity politics is hugely important for us. Kindly adjust.

Look at Kamal Haasan. What is the point of making films that may hurt minorities? If Muslims have a problem with Vishwaroopam, the state government has every reason to ban the film. Perhaps forever. Like we had quickly banned the Satanic Verses 25 years ago. And even today, Salman Rushdie is being kept out of literary meets in Jaipur and Kolkata.
Of course, we look at majority sentiment too. Why do you think M.F. Husain had to leave his homeland and die in exile? Because the Hindutva brigade took offence. And the state, always sympathetic to hurt sentiments, stepped back, allowing the saffron goons to rage and rant and drive the elderly artist out of the country.

(Disclaimer: The author has great respect for Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Zoroastrians, dalits, SCs, STs, OBCs, Brahmins, Salman Rushdie, Kamal Haasan, Ashis Nandy and their detractors.)

What do you mean giving in to mob sentiment? Of course the state does not work in partnership with the mob — what a curious thought! But don’t expect the state to support your insensitive behaviour. It must protect those who are — or may be — hurt by your selfish pursuit of freedom of expression. When the sarkar is your mai-baap, get used to living your life under parental guidance. And it will guide you towards serious self-control, it will help you write, paint, draw, speak and think correctly, without causing offence to anybody. Protecting its people from too much free thought is a parental passion of the mai-baap sarkar, which treats its citizens as infantile, to be led only by controlled passion play, not careful contemplation.

So even Brahmins, a privileged identity group, can be offended. The Brahmin Youth Federation of India lodged a police complaint against Hero motorbike for defaming and “denigrating” Brahmins. Because an ad for Splendor bikes shows a happy father “Shivram Iyer” and his delighted daughter “Sowmya Iyer” out on a spin on “Splendor Iyer”. Calling a mere machine “Iyer” was a huge insult, hollered the Brahmins.

Any funny behaviour may seriously offend us — we could even clap you in jail for waging war against the nation. Whether you are a self-willed activist doctor like Dr Binayak Sen or a juvenile cartoonist like Aneesh Trivedi. (No offence, “juvenile” is not yet a bad word, and in this case does not mean disgusting-criminal-who-gets-away.) We may even jail you for sharing a cartoon, like Mamata Banerjee did in Bengal. Controlling cartoons is our national pastime, we dig them out of textbooks, trawl the Internet to confiscate them, censor sites, slap people into submission, hold political rallies, shake up Parliament, and have no idea what the joke is.

Okay, the space for intellectual freedom may be shrinking. But how does that bother you? When was the last time you had an intellectual interlude? And where exactly was it? We have ways of shutting it down, if you wish. Life would be simpler.

Oh don’t worry about laws being misused, leave that to the police and politicians. Remember the university professor in Kolkata arrested for forwarding a clean, child-friendly cartoon about Ms Banerjee? His charges included eve-teasing and humiliating a woman. Quite rightly too, since the chief minister happened to be a woman. The more socially disadvantaged you are as an identity group, the more laws you may have at your disposal to attack unsuspecting free spirits with. Remember that. You never know when you would want to use it.

And humour? You really don’t need it. Not when you have so many problems. How can you laugh at times like this?

(Disclaimer: This article is intended for the perusal of non-threatening and non-threatened individuals and may contain information that is privileged or unsuitable for excessively sensitive persons with no sense of humour. If you are not the intended reader, any perusal, dissemination or idle reading of this article is not authorized, and may cause dizziness, irritation and fury.)
The writer is editor of The Little Magazine.

The Telegraph - FREEDOM AT STAKE

 Front Page > Opinion > Story Feb 2, 2013


At the very heart of democracy is respect for and tolerance of difference. This means that democracy provides space and freedom for the expression of various points of view. Hundreds of flowers and even weeds bloom and grow — or should — in a democracy. Indian democracy is witnessing a shrinking of these spaces and restrictions on the freedom of individuals to express themselves. The first victims of this are intellectuals, writers and artists — Arundhati Roy, M.F. Husain, Kamal Haasan, Salman Rushdie, Ashis Nandy and so on. It is a long list and it does not include the names of less famous who have also been victims. There is an alarming growth in intolerance in India. Mr Rushdie has with some justification described it as a “cultural emergency”. No one has quite declared this emergency but this does not detract from its presence. On the contrary, it makes it more dangerous since if it is allowed to flourish unopposed, it will become part of a manufactured consensus. That will kill dissent and thereby democracy.

The State is not the sole source of this intolerance although its arms are often the agency of implementation. But there are instances when the State is directly involved, for example, in charging Ms Roy with sedition or refusing permission to Mr Rushdie to speak in a literary festival. There are occasions when religious fundamentalism restricts freedom. Husain, Mr Haasan and Mr Rushdie have in different ways been victims of this kind of intolerance. The State surrenders meekly to this kind of fundamentalism because it finds it convenient to do so. Mr Rushdie was not allowed to visit Calcutta because because the chief minister felt that this was one way to woo a particular vote bank. There is also the more straightforward opposition to views that some political and social groups find unacceptable. Mr Nandy has found himself face to face with this kind of intolerance. Equally alarming is the imposition of State terror by a government or an individual running a government: in West Bengal an academic was arrested because he had circulated a cartoon making fun of the chief minister. There are thus many facets of the intolerance that has cast a long and dark shadow on Indian democracy.

One way to combat the intolerance is to point out over and over again that it is totally alien to India’s intellectual tradition. But equally important is to take steps to strengthen the institutions of democracy and to expose every single act or statement that violates the freedom of individuals as guaranteed in the Constitution. Democracy is a precious gift enshrined in the Constitution. The official Emergency in 1970s briefly subverted this. The unofficial emergency that is now creeping upon the republic, if unopposed, will also subvert freedom. Apathy is as dangerous an enemy of democracy and freedom as intolerance. Indeed apathy allows intolerance to breed.
The Telegraph


India Blooms: Grateful to Supreme Court: Ashis Nandy

Grateful to Supreme Court: Ashis Nandy  Feb 2,2013

 "I am grateful to the Supreme Court for the relief. I thank my legal team also," he said after the relief and also thanked media for standing by him.

On caution on utterances of similar kind by Supreme Court, he said apparently sarcastically that he has to now either speak outside the country on within the four walls of home.

He thanked people for sending thousands of letters standing by him.

The Supreme Court asked Nandy to not make such statements in future despite his good intentions.

Nandy had petitioned on Thursday before the apex court to quash the First Information Report (FIR) registered against him for his comments made at the Jaipur Literature Festival last week.

The police had registered an FIR under section 3(1) of the SC/ST Act against him, which is non-bailable and invites up to 10-years in jail.

Nandy landed himself in a cesspool of controversy by saying that Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs) were the most corrupt, triggering angry reactions and lodging of an FIR against him that could see him behind bars.

He had said: "It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and the Schedule Castes, and now increasingly from the Schedule Tribes, and as long as this is the case, Indian Republic will survive."

Nandy later issued a statement clarifying his comments.

"I also said that if people like me or Richard Sorabjee want to be corrupt, I shall possibly send his son to Harvard giving him a fellowship and he can send my daughter to Oxford. No one will think it to be corruption. Indeed, it will look like supporting talent," said Nandy in a statement.

"But when Dalits, tribals and the OBCs are corrupt, it looks very corrupt indeed," he said.

"However, this second corruption equalizes. It gives them access to their entitlements. And so, as long as this equation persists, I have hope for the Republic," Nandy said.

"I hope this will be the end of the matter. I am sorry if some have misunderstood me. Though there was no reason to do so. As should be clear from this statement, there was neither any intention nor any attempt to hurt any community. If anyone is genuinely hurt, even if through misunderstanding, I am sorry about that, too," he had said.

But despite his statement some groups and politicians wanted him to go to jail.

Times of India Op-Ed The politics of protest -Urvashi Butalia

 The Gag Effect

The politics of protest


I chaired the panel at the Jaipur Literature Festival in which Ashis Nandy is alleged to have made casteist remarks that got him into such trouble. The panel, titled 'The Republic of Ideas', and slated as one of the opening discussions on Republic Day, began with an exploration of the idea of a republic, or an imagined utopian future, raising questions about whose ideas were those that were represented, whose future they imagined, whether or not this future was evolutionary, changing, or whether it was static, and whether or not imagined utopias always carried within them their own imperfections, their own dystopias. The panelists were five men - the television journalist Ashutosh, writers Patrick French and Richard Sorabji, journalist cum writer Tarun Tejpal and academic, philosopher, thinker, writer Ashis Nandy.

Initially open and wide-ranging, the discussion soon, inevitably, began to focus on India. It was in this connection that the subject or corruption, so close to the hearts of many people, came up. Ashutosh mentioned it in relation to his book on Anna Hazare, Tarun Tejpal took it up, asserting that in India where the poor were denied any means of upward mobility, corruption provided one such avenue and was a great equaliser. Ashis Nandy then took this one step further, signaling his agreement with Tarun Tejpal and expanding his argument to say that while the rich used sophisticated methods to hide their corrupt practices, the poor were not so skilled at this, and therefore their corruption was much more visible, but that as long as it existed, the republic would survive. His exact words are now accessible on the internet, so do not need repeating here, but this is broadly what I understood him to say.

This exchange took all of five minutes in what was a one hour discussion. Many other things were talked about. They have all disappeared into some black hole. I am not concerned with whether or not Nandy made a pro-OBC /ST/ST statement (which he did) but instead with everything that happened around and about it. Although Nandy's statement gave rise to some quite agitated questions and responses, the session ended, as many sessions at the JLF do, with a buzz and a sense that some interesting things had been said in the course of that one hour. And it made people think.

The trouble began later. One of the panelists, journalist Ashutosh, went on air publicising Ashis Nandy's statement somewhat out of context, giving it the opposite meaning from what was intended. A small time politician, Kirori Lal Meena, readying to launch his political party in Rajasthan arrived and muscled his way through into the festival grounds, pushing two women to the ground to make them get out of his way, and later blamed them for attending nightclubs. Both violated the ethics of participation in such public events: Ashutosh by using his presence on the panel to give him the 'breaking news' edge in what has become an increasingly ugly and competitive media environment and Meena by flouting one of JLF's cardinal rules, that no one will come in without registering, and no one will use their political clout to push their way through. Yet no action has been taken against these men, nor has it been talked about.

Nandy did none of these things. He merely spoke. Is speech then more frightening than physical violence? Do professional ethics stand for nothing? Further, something that no one has remarked upon: no protest took place inside the JLF. There was discussion yes, disagreement too, but no one attacked Nandy, no one shouted slogans at him;they argued, talked, Nandy was very much in evidence in the writers' room, and writers like Kancha Iliah, Ajay Navaria, Meena Kandaswamy and others did what writers do, they engaged in dialogue. The audience of 2, 000 plus that watched and listened to the panel did what literary festival audiences do - they went on to attend other sessions.

The protestors were all outside, which raised an important logistical question: how did they know what Nandy had said? The video of the session wasn't available then (it is now), so clearly all protestors were there on hearsay. Rather like the Vishwaroopam protestors who have not seen the film, but are angry nonetheless that it will hurt their sentiments. Further, when the FIR was filed with the police, was any evidence provided - a video, a recording - of the offending speech? Did the police even ask for it? Or did they just file an FIR on hearsay? Why is no one asking this question?

Many writers have spoken of the bankruptcy of our democracy where we cannot even discuss controversial ideas. Few, however, have commented on the bankruptcy of our leaders - both those who vociferously protest for their own private political agendas, and those who remain silent, for theirs. Why have we seen no statements from any leader that defends the freedom of speech, something a democracy should hold dear?

And finally, there is another question we need to ask: what if the statement Nandy made had been anti-women ? What if he had said it is women among whom corruption is widespread, and that it is the only means of social mobility for them. It doesn't take much to know that there would have been very little protest - except from women's groups - and there would have been no FIR, no political leader ready to take up the cause and Nandy would have been able to walk free.

The writer is a feminist, writer and publisher

Thursday, January 31, 2013

आशीष नंदी की गिरफ्तारी पर रोक: सुप्रीम कोर्ट -Jagran

आशीष नंदी की गिरफ्तारी पर रोक: सुप्रीम कोर्टDainik Jagran Hindi News

नई दिल्ली। सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने शुक्रवार को समाजशास्त्री आशीष नंदी की गिरफ्तारी पर रोक लगा दी है। कोर्ट ने कहा है कि नंदी का विवादित बयान गैरजरूरी था। कोर्ट ने इस मामले में केंद्र सरकार और तीन राज्यों को नोटिस जारी कर उनसे जवाब मांगा है।

गौरतलब है कि नंदी ने राहत के लिए बृहस्पतिवार को को सुप्रीम कोर्ट में एक याचिका दाखिल कर विवादित बयान मामले में उनके खिलाफ दर्ज एफआइआर रद करने की मांग की थी। साथ ही, गिरफ्तारी पर तत्काल रोक लगाने की भी गुहार लगाई थी।

जयपुर साहित्य सम्मेलन के एक सत्र में चर्चा के दौरान नंदी यह बोल गए थे कि ज्यादातर भ्रष्ट लोग पिछड़ी और दलित जातियों से आते हैं और अब जनजातियों से भी आने लगे हैं। इस विवादित बयान पर उनके खिलाफ जयपुर में मामला दर्ज हो गया है।

नंदी के वकील अमन लेखी ने मुख्य न्यायाधीश अल्तमस कबीर की पीठ के समक्ष याचिका का जिक्र करते हुए शीघ्र सुनवाई की मांग की थी। लेखी ने कहा कि नंदी की गिरफ्तारी का गंभीर खतरा है, उनकी गिरफ्तारी पर फिलहाल रोक लगा दी जाए। लेकिन, पीठ ने तत्काल सुनवाई से इन्कार करते हुए कहा कि अभी न तो याचिका ठीक से दाखिल हुई है और न ही नंबर हुई है। इस तरह कोर्ट याचिका पर कैसे सुनवाई कर सकता है। कोर्ट ने हालांकि याचिका पर शुक्रवार को सुनवाई की मंजूरी दे दी थी।

नंदी की याचिका में कहा गया है कि वे जाने-माने विचारक और लेखक हैं। कई राष्ट्रीय और अंतरराष्ट्रीय संस्थाओं के सदस्य हैं। उन्होंने किसी की भावनाएं आहत करने के इरादे से कोई बात नहीं कही। वे हमेशा से कमजोर तबके के उत्थान के पक्षधर रहे हैं।

उनके खिलाफ इस तरह प्राथमिकी दर्ज करना कानून का दुरुपयोग है। लोकतंत्र में हर व्यक्ति को अपनी बात कहने का हक है। इस तरह मामला दर्ज करना उन्हें संविधान के तहत मिली अभिव्यक्ति की स्वतंत्रता का उल्लंघन है। नंदी ने कहा है कि उनके खिलाफ भारतीय दंड संहिता (आइपीसी) की धारा 506 और एससी-एसटी एक्ट की धारा 3 (1)(10) के तहत मामला दर्ज हुआ है। जबकि, उनके बयान को देखा जाए तो इन धाराओं में मुकदमा नहीं बनता।

एससी-एसटी एक्ट की यह धारा गैर जमानती है और इसमें अग्रिम जमानत का भी प्रावधान नहीं है। विभिन्न राजनीतिक दलों जैसे मायावती व एससी-एसटी आयोग के अध्यक्ष पीएल पुनिया के बयानों के बाद उनकी गिरफ्तारी का गंभीर खतरा पैदा हो गया है। नंदी ने याचिका में केंद्र सरकार, जयपुर में अशोक नगर थाने के इंचार्ज के अलावा महाराष्ट्र और छत्तीसगढ़ की सरकार को भी पक्षकार बनाया है।
देखने के लिए जाएं पर

Supreme Court orders stay on Nandy's arrest -NDTV

Supreme Court orders stay on Ashis Nandy's arrest

New DelhiSociologist Ashis Nandy, who had moved the Supreme Court seeking protection from arrest after furore over an alleged anti-Dalit remark, has reason to feel relieved. The top court today ordered a stay on his arrest.

During a panel discussion at the Jaipur Literary Festival on January 26, Mr Nandy had said: "Most corrupt people come from the Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes."

After his comment was widely criticised, he clarified that he was only trying to make the point that corruption among Dalits was noticeable but among the rich it wasn't.

A police complaint had been filed against Mr Nandy by a local politician. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati even demanded his arrest. The Rajasthan police called Mr Nandy to Jaipur for questioning.

Mr Nandy's lawyer has said that the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act has been misused against the sociologist and he had not said anything derogatory.


The Indian State is a Coward - Int Herald Tribune-NY Times

The Indian State is a Coward
Last year, Salman Rushdie was to attend the festival but had to cancel after some Muslim groups objected and the Indian government and the government of Rajasthan (the state of which Jaipur is the capital) said they could not guarantee his physical safety. A few days later he appeared at a conclave in New Delhi and there were no protests at all. He even taunted the Indian government for the uneventfulness of his appearance in India. He has since visited India at least once. The protest against his planned attendance at the Jaipur festival and the government’s reaction were a part of the same imbecilic farce that often collides with artistic and intellectual freedom in India. There is nothing valiant about the loss of the freedom of expression in India, as it often happens for no good reason at all. Just a small bunch of thugs or fools can influence the state to take their side.

The release of a Tamil-language film, which also has or will soon have versions in other Indian languages, has been blocked in several parts of southern India by some Muslim groups whose leaders have not even seen it. The film’s director, co-producer and lead actor, Kamal Haasan, had faced a similar problem a few years ago from many quarters, particularly Hindu groups, before the release of a film about a man who sets out to assassinate Gandhi. A Hindu nationalistic group said it was offended by its portrayal of historical figures. And, once again, the politicians took the side of the fanatics. Mr. Haasan went around for days in a green shirt and green trousers to irritate Hindu groups with the color of Islam. During the controversy he told me in an interview that he was very surprised that nobody had yet objected to the fact that the film depicted Gandhi as being shot and killed.

Activists condemn police action against Nandy

Activists condemn police action against Ashis Nandy
The People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Citizens for Democracy (CFD) have strongly condemned the police action against prominent writer and social scientist Ashis Nandy. On behalf of these two organisations, Justice Rajinder Sachhar (Retd), Kuldip Nayar, Mahipal Singh and N.D.Pancholi called upon the National Commission for Scheduled Castes to discontinue its inquiry which is totally 'uncalled for'. 

They felt that the accusation that Nandy has made derogatory casteist remarks against Dalits and OBCs are utterly baseless. They appreciated that Nandy has been longstanding friend and guide of the OBC and Dalit cause and his record for such deprived sections of society extending over three decades would show how false and motivated such allegations are.
They also condemned the action of the Rajasthan Government for having initiated proceedings against him. They have demanded that proceedings be immediately withdrawn. They urged that the government and the people who have levelled allegations against him should take them back and express unqualified apology to him.
 merinews | India's largest citizen journalism based news platform

The Telegraph OpEd Ananya Vajpeyi EQUALLY FOR ALL-

- A truth that one can neither spit nor swallow

Ananya Vajpeyi,
January 31 , 2013
The ongoing fracas around Ashis Nandy’s statements about caste and corruption at the Jaipur Literature Festival on January 26, 2013, is disturbing for reasons that go deeper than the threat to the freedom of speech in India today.

Nandy, invariably “Ashisda” to his colleagues and friends, is fond of saying that one may be careless about choosing one’s friends, but one must be careful in choosing one’s enemies. In the 45 years of his illustrious career as a clinical psychologist, political sociologist and public intellectual, Ashisda has acquired scores of friends and legions of admirers, but alas a few enemies as well. Many of these he has not really picked, but rather they are people who happen to have felt irritated by his propensity to speak uncomfortable truths and refuse the euphemisms and denials dictated by political correctness. Whether it is around issues of communalism and secularism, or censorship and free speech, or nationalism and secession, those involved in Indian public life know that if anyone is going to risk speaking the truth, it will be Ashis Nandy. So far, he has not disappointed, even at some cost to his own popularity, or indeed his safety.

In Jaipur, at a session titled “Republic of Ideas” — which featured such distinguished panelists as the feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia, the Oxford philosopher Richard Sorabji and the writer Patrick French — Ashisda proposed, albeit in a provocative way, that if corruption is one of the spoils of social status and political power, then as backward sections of society begin to claim their share of power, they too partake in corruption. We may read this as a sign of increased mobility and more equitable access for those who hitherto have been excluded, or we may be alarmed by the growing catchment area of corruption, which now enfolds even the once-marginal groups like Dalits and tribals.

In the first instance, Nandy himself took the former view, arguing that to be excluded and marginalized is not simply to be denied basic rights, but to be left out of all modes of furthering one’s self-interest — right or wrong, good or bad, legal or unlawful — that are available to individuals and groups in a fast-growing society. To genuinely participate in the life of the nation, the oppressed need to enjoy not only the default advantages of citizenship, but also the perks afforded by the full complement of big and small kinds of graft, cronyism, nepotism, favouritism and incentives — in short, corruption. Such a scenario seems, at last, to be unfolding in India: after centuries of outsiderhood, lower castes have a foot in the door. If privilege is no longer the monopoly of upper castes, neither is corruption. For Nandy, this is not only the case, but — in a perverse way — a good thing too.

We all know that saying as much has nearly landed Ashisda in jail. As I write, the Jaipur police are questioning him at his residence in New Delhi, following on both public outcry and formal complaints against him, in Rajasthan and elsewhere. One of India’s greatest living thinkers, who has written about some of the most sensitive fault-lines in our society with insight and compassion for over four decades, and supported countless social movements with his ideas and words, finds himself accused of hurting the self-esteem of the weak and the disenfranchized. The peculiarity of this situation bears some reflection. On the one hand, it could be argued that it is common knowledge that crime, corruption and venality are not restricted to any class, caste, religion or gender — a quick look at the scams that have surfaced just within this administration of the United Progressive Alliance government, since 2009, would bear out a minimal claim of this order.
On the other hand, we could say that corruption is to be condemned no matter who practises it, or why, or whether it is a new skill or an old habit for the practitioner. Just because you come late to the table does not mean you get to over-eat. An analogous logic is at work in the debates around carbon emissions and climate change, or nuclear power. Developing countries argue that the developed countries have been polluting the world, or arming it, with all the dreadful consequences of these acts, for years; now, when others want to do the same, suddenly it becomes environmentally unsustainable or existentially dangerous. Where were these objections when the West was ruining the planet unchecked? The answer is that it does not matter any more about equalizing the hierarchy between developed and developing countries: if the earth has to survive, we all have to agree to limit consumption universally from this very moment onwards, regardless of the scores we first wanted to settle between the haves and the have-nots.

A third position is that even if we agree that corruption is a bad thing; and even if we grant that new entrants to power, prestige and prosperity in Indian society after globalization are indeed fast becoming as corrupt as thoroughly entrenched elites, it is not okay to call out these groups — the nouveau corrupt, you might say. This is partly because they are no worse than their upper-caste, upper-class predecessors in the game, and partly because their status in the emerging order being uncertain, their self-respect and self-confidence are still fragile. In other words, part of giving the most backward sections a chance is also to be willing to look the other way if and when they begin to misuse power exactly as others have done before them. After being systematically excluded throughout history, why should they be held to a higher standard?

Sometimes, the arts succeed in portraying truths that are harder to formulate in the idiom of social science — and this is true not just in India, but in many other cultures that are at once diverse, unequal and conflicted. For example, novels, films and television shows about, say, the Muslim underworld in Mumbai or the drug-trade among African-Americans in Baltimore or gang violence among juveniles in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, do speak to terrible problems of a sectarian, racial or class character. However, we are not likely to blame them for insulting Muslims, blacks or gun-toting children, because we understand both that the scenarios of social catastrophe portrayed in such works are real, and that there are complex sociological and historical factors because of which they have arisen at a given place and time.

If anything, such portrayals, done properly, show the connection between extreme economic or social vulnerability and the resort to extreme measures of crime, violence and corruption; humanize the victims-turned-perpetrators, and most importantly, indict the entire political structure for degrading citizens — powerful and powerless alike — into beasts. It may be that without the language of affect at its disposal to complicate, deepen and soften the harsh realities of inequality and injustice, social science cannot effectively enter these horrible worlds in the way that a literary or cinematic imagination can.

In all events, at the JLF Ashisda spoke telegraphically and bluntly — in fact, according to many, in an incendiary way — about an issue in our society that is contentious at so many different levels. We have not made up our minds about whether to acknowledge it, how to address it, and what means to use in which to speak about it across differences of identity and ideology. After 65 years of communal and sectarian strife, we may be getting a bit better at talking about our problems in the realm of religion and politics; we have yet to achieve that level of trust and comfort in talking about caste.

But it seems that rather than shooting the messenger, we need to figure out the appropriate means to be honest, about ourselves and with ourselves, and about others and with others, when it comes to assessing the degree to which corruption is eating into the bowels of our republic, with no caste or community left untouched in some primordial state of political innocence and moral purity.

Nandy moves Supreme Court for quashing FIR --The Hindu

NEW DELHI: Eminent scholar Ashis Nandy, facing threat of being arrested for making remarks alleged to be anti-Dalit, today approached the Supreme Court for quashing of FIR against him.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir agreed to hear his plea and posted the case for tomorrow.

Seeking an urgent hearing, advocate Aman Lekhi, appearing for Nandy, pleaded the apex court to intervene in the matter as there is "serious apprehension" of him being arrested.

"The registration of the FIR is itself an abuse of law and there is imminent danger of the same being compounded as the petitioner is being denied of his fundamental rights under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, because of the clamour for his immediate arrest from important political personalities including Mayawati and Chairman SC and ST Commission P L Punia," the petition, filed through advocate Gaurang Kanth, said.

Nandy, in a panel discussion at Jaipur Literature Festival, had allegedly said that people belonging to OBCs and SCs/STs were more corrupt.

Later, a case was registered against him under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Challenging the proceedings, the 76-year-old political psychologist submitted he is facing a serious threat in the surcharged environment against him.

"Because of the surcharged environment against him and the rabid statements made by important political personalities, his physical safety is itself compromised and there is imminent threat of injury to him," the petition said.

"In fact there was no mala fide intent or purpose on the part of the petitioner to make a comment in order to insult or intimidate with intent to humiliate a member of SC or ST in any place within public view," he said.

"The lodging of the said FIR against the petitioner for the alleged offence committed under SC/ST Act is against the basic principles of the fundamental rights which envisages that free speech is the foundation of a democratic society," the petition said.