Saturday, February 9, 2013

HindustanTimes: Karan Thapar - TV: a Mea Culpa

TV: a Mea Culpa Karan Thapar February 09, 2013

Are television discussions guilty of  "controversy-manufacturing … (where) a sentence in a complex argument has been picked up to be thrashed out into a controversy … (where) we turn our back on irony, nuance and complexity and, instead, opt for angry bashing … (where) every night someone must be made to burn in the Fourth Circle of Hell …. (in) a 'grab-the-eyeballs' game", as an article by Harish Khare in The Hindu (February 6) suggests? In many cases, I believe, the answer is an unequivocal yes. And, sadly, that does not exclude my own programmes.
Khare's article raises deeply disturbing questions about how discussions on television handled the Ashis Nandy affair. But it goes further. It also raises concerns about what such discussions, whether on Nandy, cross-LoC killings, politics or anything else, seek to do. And, beyond that, it focuses on the new kind of "fundamentalism" they have created. We need to acknowledge these concerns, debate them and, finally, try and find answers to them.

In the Ashis Nandy case it's undeniable that a couple of, admittedly poorly-phrased, sentences were plucked out of a complex argument, which many, including anchors, did not fully understand but, nonetheless, deemed controversial, and put forward for criticism and attack by studio guests who were ignorant of the context and also unaware of Nandy's deeper arguments. It's hard to doubt this was a conscious attempt to generate anger and then convert it into popular outrage.

This example leads directly to the second issue: what is the sort of television discussion we ought to have and what should its purpose be? Surely the idea is to further understanding through analysis or by providing a platform to different opinions? What it can't be is an attempt to bludgeon one man or one viewpoint, whether understood or misunderstood, into conformity. Yet this is what Khare believes our discussions end up doing. I think he is largely right.

It's no consolation that politicians, anxious to please, or academics, eager to be seen and heard, play along. Khare believes they are "overawed by TV studio warriors". Possibly. But that's not an excuse.
As a result, what we produce each night, to use Khare's phrase, is "a new kind of fundamentalism - that of what is touted as the 'media-enabled middle classes'." We saw this when anchors fumed over the beheading of Indian soldiers allegedly by Pakistani troops on the LoC, omitting to mention we had done the same in the recent past. It happened again with L'affaire Nandy. In fact, it's happened many times in the past.

Frankly, this amounts to television reinforcing prejudice or, even, misleading on the basis of ignorance. If you don't want your comfortable convictions to be disturbed this might be satisfying. But it's not enlightening and it's certainly not journalism.

Yet this will only change when anchors and channel heads accept that current affairs discussions are not mass audience programmes and must not be thought of as entertainment. They are for those who care and want to know. And this group will always be a minority.

Now, if this comes up against the imperatives of commercial survival that is a conundrum our television producers must address and solve. I accept it won't be easy. In fact, it could be expensive, both in terms of money and audience. But if it doesn't happen television discussions will soon cease to matter - except in a negative sense.

The future of television debates could be at stake.

Views expressed by the author are personal

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Economic Times: Editorial - Ideas can be debunked but not outlawed

Ideas can be debunked but not outlawed EDITORIAL, 8 FEB 2013

"Democracy in India," said Ambedkar, "is only a top dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic." Constitutional morality, he added, is to be cultivated, since Indians have yet to learn it. Decades after that statement, it would seem that the process of learning is, at best, still a work in progress or, at worst, an impossible task. And when the highest court in the land, meant to uphold and protect the democratic spirit, censures an academic for his utterances, it only buttresses that pessimistic outlook.

The Supreme Court might have spared Ashis Nandy from being arrested — after an FIR was lodged against him for remarks alleged to be anti-Dalit — but in its admonishing the sociologist for his comments, it seems to have, even by default, veered dangerously close to approving the notion that ideas cannot be expressed freely. "We are not at all happy," the SC bench reportedly said, and also told Mr Nandy's lawyer that his client "has no licence to make such comments". The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, of course, within logically permissible limits.

But it is in drawing the boundaries of those limits that a polity can display whether the democratic spirit is a mere top dressing or a lived reality. A truly democratic society is one where ideas, particularly contentious ones, can be debated — whether accepted, celebrated or debunked — in a free exchange. Short of deliberately and actively promoting hatred or violence, little else by way of words need be censured.

And, unfortunately, even though perhaps unintentionally, the SC might appear to be adding to the unsavoury clamour for restrictions on ideas and expression. That is quite avoidable.

Giving in to various sections claiming offence at the drop of a hat can only make for a republic of hurt sentiments. A statement or an idea, whether obnoxious, nuanced or contentious, is matter for a rational, even if heated, debate. Logically, freedom of speech should imply even a right to offend, given the many holy cows and shibboleths that retard the progressive development of our society. Intolerance needs to be binned.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ABC Radio Australia - Intolerance growing as India's intellectuals fight for free speech

Intolerance growing as India's intellectuals fight for free speech Updated 6 February 2013, 15:14 AEST

In recent weeks, writers, academics, actors and artists have come under attack from India's political class and fringe parties for criticizing the established order.

Intellectuals feel intolerance is growing in India and freedoms are being curtailed

Reporter: Murali Krishnan
Speakers : Ritu Menon, publisher and writer; Makarand Paranjape, Indian poet and professor; Santosh Desai, social commentator; Kamal Hassan, south Indian actor

KRISHNAN: It has become increasingly easy these days to offend the Indian government, and to incur the wrath of the censor or even the threat of legal action. Actor Kamal Hassan learnt it the hard way and was forced to reach a settlement with Muslim organizations in southern India, agreeing finally to delete seven scenes from his latest spy thriller.

Earlier the actor had threatened to leave his state and was pained by the response of the authorities to his mega production "Vishwaroopam" or The Gigantic Guardian Figure that revolves around an Indian intelligence agent thwarting a "terrorist" attack by fighters from Afghanistan in New York.

KAMAL: I think I will have to seek a secular state for me to stay in. I have lost what I have done. I have nothing to lose, so I might as well choose. And that choice could be a secular state from Kashmir to Kerala excluding Tamil Nadu.

KRISHNAN: Artistic expression is being increasingly given a political and communal color. And over the weeks this has set off protests on the streets, court battles and loud debates on artistic freedom across the country. Ritu Menon, a publisher and writer who has been active in the South Asian women's movement for over 20 years explains this disturbing phenomenon.

MENON: It is actually an indication of two things. One the prevalence of what we call street censorship or laissez faire censorship… which is to say no one can be held responsible …the mob forms and dissolves so no one can actually be criminialized. The second one is that it is happening much more often as we know - the more regressive the state, the more aggressive the mob. The state is simply withdrawing from the public sphere.

KRISHNAN: At the just concluded Jaipur Literature Festival hundreds of people staged a protest demonstration outside the venue demanding the immediate arrest of eminent sociologist Ashis Nandy for his reported remarks against members of the backward classes, scheduled castes and tribes. Though Nandy said he was misunderstood, the clamor for his arrest grew. Makarand Paranjape is a poet and English professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

PARANJAPE: It seems to me the state which is the guarantor of rights which are enshrined in the constitution is extremely amenable to pressure groups, all kinds of minority and fringe elements who have nuisance value And essentially since the state is run by, I mean they are worried about maintaining their power, they kowtow to these interests.

KRISHNAN: The unpleasant events over the last few weeks also saw writer Salman Rushdie being denied entry into Kolkata to promote Deepa Mehta's film Midnight's Children, based on his book by the same name. He was not allowed to enter the city and the reason cited for stopping him was that some Muslims felt the author was anti-Islam.

Last year amid death threats to the organizers and fears of violent riots by Muslim groups, Rushdie was prevented from making an appearance or even addressing the Jaipur Literature Festival through a video link.

Ms Menon again.

MENON: Civil society is becoming much more vocal as a group and individuals are voicing their dissent through the arts. Through cinema, books, film theatre and so on. It is becoming extremely uncomfortable for the state to address this. And in order not to address this, they are allowing a mob which really has nobody's interests at heart to do their dirty work for them. Mr Paranjape agrees.

PARANJAPE: What is actually happening is that the political class is unable to stand up and finds it easier to appease such elements and what they are doing is they are leaving their jobs to other people like the media that will raise a hullabaloo or to the judiciary where people go when they are in trouble. So my point is what is happening is a failure of governance.

KRISHNAN: Social commentator Santosh Desai is a keen watcher of how India faces new threats to artistic freedom.

DESAI: What we are seeing is almost an idealism of earlier times turned out to be a kind of a thin veneer which has worn out and the newer forces that are coming into power are seeing power in more transactional terms as a force to be exercised. And therefore have much less compunction about using the power to restrict basic freedoms.

KRISHNAN: The big question is whether India will be able to be to find the right balance that leans more towards freedom and less towards repression.

Murali Krishnan, Connect Asia, New Delhi.

New York Times OpEd:Suketu Mehta -India’s Speech Impediments

Op-Ed Contributor  
India’s Speech Impediments By Published: February 5, 2013

INDIA is in the throes of what Salman Rushdie rightly calls a “cultural emergency.” Writers and artists of all kinds are being harassed, sued and arrested for what they say or write or create. The government either stands by and does nothing to protect freedom of speech, or it actively abets its suppression.

This year, the world’s largest democracy ranked a miserable 140th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index — falling nine places from last year. Today, Afghanistan and Qatar have a freer press than India. 

In recent years, the government has cast a watchful eye on the Internet, demanding that companies like Google and Facebook prescreen content and remove items that might be deemed “disparaging” or “inflammatory,” according to technology industry executives there. 

In November, police in Mumbai arrested a 21-year-old woman for complaining on Facebook about the shutdown of the city after the death of the nativist politician Bal K. Thackeray; another Facebook user was arrested for “liking” the first woman’s comment. The grounds for the arrests? “Hurting religious sentiments.” 

Mr. Rushdie, who after the 1988 publication of “The Satanic Verses” became, to his chagrin, a human weather vane for the right to free speech, was to travel to Kolkata last week to attend a literary festival. At the last minute, he says, he was informed that the police in West Bengal would block his arrival. Local politicians chimed in to support the ban. “Rushdie never should have been invited,” an official in the party that rules the state told me. “Thirty percent of Bengali voters are Muslims.”

The organizers of the literary festival had held up Kolkata as the “cultural capital of India.” The notion that any cultural capital would try to silence speech — or punish artists who do speak out — is, of course, preposterous. But then, Kolkata is hardly alone. 

At the other end of the country, at the Jaipur Literature Festival, a similar spectacle was unfolding. With 120,000 visitors in 2012, Jaipur’s bookfest is among the world’s largest, living proof of Indians’ hunger for literary voices. Or some voices. This year, local leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which advocates Hindu nationalism, demanded that Pakistani writers be banned from the festival. (To their credit, festival organizers stood their ground, and several Pakistani authors did speak.)

Then, just after the festival leaders navigated this controversy, another sprang up. On a panel titled “Republic of Ideas,” the sociologist Ashis Nandy, perhaps the country’s most prominent public intellectual, offered a nuanced argument about the prevalence of corruption among the lower castes. The remarks, arguably, were no more provocative than an American professor’s saying that some early Irish and Italian immigrants joined corrupt political machines like Tammany Hall to climb the socioeconomic ladder. 

And in any free society, it would be fair to debate the point. But in Jaipur, Mr. Nandy was charged with a crime under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. 

In India today, it seems, free speech is itself an atrocity. 

A film, for example, might pass the Censor Board, but then be summarily banned by a state government. That’s what happened with “Vishwaroopam,” a Tamil spy thriller released worldwide — but not in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where officials prevented its screening, fearing that it might anger Muslims. 

Next door, in Bangalore, the police demanded that an art gallery remove partially nude pictures of Hindu deities lest they hurt Hindu sentiments and cause mob violence. 

Under the modern Indian Constitution, freedom of speech is highly qualified, subject to what the government deems “reasonable” restrictions. The state can silence its citizens for any number of reasons, including “public order,” “decency or morality” and “friendly relations with foreign states.”

India’s courts, meanwhile, do little to rein in government authorities. The country’s Supreme Court, in the end, did stay Mr. Nandy’s arrest, but it also reinforced the state’s position that he had “no license” to make such statements: “An idea can always hurt people,” the chief justice opined. “An idea can certainly be punished under the law.” 

But India cannot hope to be a true cultural capital of the world — let alone a truly free society — until it firmly protects the right to speech. Without an unqualified constitutional amendment that guarantees this freedom, as the American Constitution’s First Amendment does, the country cannot fairly claim to be the “world’s largest democracy.” 

Indians must understand that free speech — the right to think and exchange ideas freely — is at the core of the democracy they cherish. If the former is weak, the latter cannot help but be as well.

Suketu Mehta, an associate professor of journalism at New York University, is the author of “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.”

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Indian Express: Shail Mayaram- Misunderstanding Nandy

Misunderstanding Nandy Shail Mayaram : Feb 04 2013    

His remarks must be read along with his critique of modernity and the middle class

It is troubling that the public debate in the aftermath of the Jaipur Literature Festival is assuming a Dalits versus others dimension. That this is clearly not the case is obvious from the support Ashis Nandy has received from prominent intellectuals, including Chandra Bhan Prasad, Badri Narayan and Kancha Ilaiah. Had D.R. Nagaraj been around, he would have castigated this framing. In the last decade of his life, Nagaraj was one of Nandy's closest friends. As he put it, "Nandy is at his best when he explores the comic, violent, wicked and absurd relationships that come into play in the lives of communities when they try to represent themselves as nation-states".

The question we must ask is if Nandy is anti-Dalit, anti-tribal and anti-backward castes, as has been suggested. I have known Nandy for a quarter-century now, and in various capacities. He was supervisor of my doctoral dissertation and we went on to become colleagues and friends. Over the years, his support has been invaluable for my exploration of what are, in statist terms, the "backward castes", including the Mewatis, Gujjars and Meenas. He has been particularly happy about a film Rahul Roy and I are making on the Mirasis, a Dalit community of largely illiterate bards/ musicians, but whose literary universes intimate linkages with Sanskrit, Farsi and Braj bhasha.

One way of being pro-Dalit is to support affirmative action. But there is a deeper way, which is to take the cultural inheritance of the Dalits and shudras seriously. Much of Nandy's theorising rests upon an argument about history. Historical consciousness was exported from the West and has deeply affected non-Western cultures, he maintains. Hitherto these cultures lived with open-ended conceptions of the past articulated in their myths and epics. Millions still live outside "history" and have been described as ahistorical (read pre-historical, primitive and pre-scientific). History fears subjectivities, Nandy argues. The idea of history has led to new forms of exploitation and violence in our times, and the freezing of civilisational, cultural and national boundaries. Instead of history, he emphasises constructions that are more creative, ambiguous and arise from marginality and self-doubt.

He also argues that Nehruvian India, despite its brahminic patronising socialism along with a democratic polity and statist affirmative action, had released much creative energy at the bottom and peripheries of India. Nandy points out that Dalits have a rich repertoire of cultures and memories manifest in their knowledge systems, technologies, gods and goddesses. "They comprise another set of analytic categories, forms of ingenuity and creativity, a robust imaginary that includes the record of their suffering and humiliation, their constructions of the past, even what might be called the 'algorithms' of their resistance." Unknowingly, these explore a dialogue of cultures within India. Nandy views the mythic as constitutive of personhood, forming a bridge between literature and life, and refers to epic cultures of the global South that have maintained some continuity with their past. He suggests that Southern intellectuals must develop a critique of ideology itself and refers to Nagaraj's politics of acknowledgement that the diverse, rich cultures of Dalit communities possessed both self-esteem and dignity, which centuries of structural violence and humiliation had not deprived them of. But they must move beyond self-pity. Nandy affirms Prithvi Datta, who points out that in these essays, Nagaraj moves from an identity politics to a civilisational politics, and from a politics of rage towards a politics of affirmation. Nagaraj sees Gandhi as a radical descendant of the great radical saints Basava and Allama, while Ambedkar represents the militant, socialist, Western method and the idea of equality.

Personally, I do not agree with Nandy's thesis on corruption as redistributive justice. But his statement must be read in the context of his larger work and his critique of modernity and the middle class. Modernity, in his view, is responsible for a technocide, which has made Indian artisans, most of whom are Dalits, its victims.

The debate on Nandy's remarks post-JLF posits individual rights against community. This distorts the life's work of a theorist who has viewed the subcontinent as comprising communities whose lifeworlds have been marked by creativity and cultures of faith, despite their being imbricated in structures of violence.

The writer is senior fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, DelhiThe Indian Express

 

The Hindu: A.S. Panneerselvan-Artists' angst

 Opinion » Readers' Editor
Artists’ angst A.S. Panneerselvan

Some readers feel that I jumped the gun and celebrated freedom, and failed to anticipate what happened to academician Ashish Nandy in Jaipur, filmmaker Kamal Haasan in Tamil Nadu and writer Salman Rushdie, who was ‘uninvited’ from visiting Kolkata. We live in difficult times, and, often events overtake written words in forms and manners that cannot be prejudged or even remotely predicted. 

I am not going into the details of what happened to these three fine minds or their plight, but share some vignettes from my personal interactions with all of them, spread over the last two decades, and let readers form their own opinion and decide whether these artists deserve the harsh treatment that has been handed out to them. 

I met Ashis Nandy for the first time in 1988 in the company of Shiv Visvanathan at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi. He spent nearly three hours talking about two outstanding Indian scientists — J.C. Bose and Srinivasa Ramanujan — and multiple trajectories of science. From liberating to being ruthlessly misanthropic, science seemed to straddle multiple horses, and it was Nandy’s eloquence, laced with humour, provocation and sarcasm, that helped me overcome my romantic idea of science and my own unidimensional understanding of its use and its intrinsic value. Since then every meeting was a chance to widen my own positions and to reduce my own certainties about a range of issues that are confronting us. 

At a private festival
The late scriptwriter and an associate of filmmaker K. Balachander, Ananthu, introduced me to Kamal Haasan in the mid-1980s. Since then, I have spent many hours discussing with Kamal Haasan not just films but literature, politics, society and things that ranged from profound to trivia. In the late 1980s, he organised a private film festival at his home to look at the entire work of German avant-garde filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Screenings were always followed by intense discussions. It was during one of those evenings, Kamal read out a poem by Bertolt Brecht titled “The Burning of the Books”.
“When the Regime
commanded the unlawful books to be burned,
teams of dull oxen hauled huge cartloads to the bonfires.
Then a banished writer, one of the best,
scanning the list of excommunicated texts,
became enraged: he’d been excluded!
He rushed to his desk, full of contemptuous wrath,
to write fierce letters to the morons in power —
Burn me! he wrote with his blazing pen —
Haven’t I always reported the truth?
Now here you are, treating me like a liar!
Burn me!”
Ananthu pointed out that also among the books burned were those of the great German-Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, who in his 1820-1821 play Almansor accurately predicted, “Dort, wo man B├╝cher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen. (Where they burn books, they will also ultimately burn people.”) 

When artists were defended
My last meeting with Salman Rushdie was at Barnes and Noble in New York. He read out a short story, In the South, set in Chennai, in Besant Nagar to be precise. Line after line, as it rolled off his tongue, made my wife and I look at each other meaningfully as it mirrored this southern metropolis more truthfully, with its best and worst coming out starkly. Post reading, he told us that Chennai is a place where one can be endlessly argumentative without the fear of being lynched.
Let me just recollect one paragraph from his memoir, Joseph Anton, and leave the issue to the readers to introspect: “He was not, after all, the first writer to be endangered or sequestered or anathematised for his art. He thought of mighty Dostoevsky facing the firing squad and then, after the last-minute commutation of his sentence, spending four years in prison camp, and of [Jean] Genet unstoppably writing his violently homoerotic masterpiece Our Lady of the Flowers in jail. The French translator of Les versets sataniques, unwilling to use his own name, had called himself ‘A. Nasier’ in honour of the great Francois Rabelais who had published his first book, Pantagruel, under the anagrammatic nom de plume of ‘Acofribas Nasier’. Rabelais too had been condemned by religious authority; the Catholic Church had been unable to stomach his satirical hyberabundance. But he had been defended by the King, Francois I, on the grounds that his genius could not be suppressed. Those were the days, when artists could be defended by kings, because they were good at what they did. These are lesser times.” 

Can we honestly deny that these are lesser times?

HindustanTimes: Karan Thaper-Shame on us

Shame on us    Karan Thapar, February 02, 2013
 
The truth is we've become an intolerant people. When we don't like a film we stop its screening. When we disapprove of a book we ban it. When we disagree with someone's speech we censor it. We forget that other people have different views, different tastes, different ways of doing things. Our way, we insist, is the only way.

Yet we call ourselves a democracy and believe we uphold freedom of speech. But free expression is not just for those who we think are right. It's also for those who we believe are wrong. More critically, freedom of speech includes the right to offend. That has to be the critical test.

Sadly, that's where we fail. If Rushdie's interpretation of Islam upsets us, if Hussain's depiction of Hindu goddesses annoys us, if Nandy's analysis of caste and corruption raises troubling questions or if Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam disturbs our self-image we turn on them with viciousness and vengeance. 

The answer should be very different. If you disagree with something counter it with fact and argument. If a book upsets you, write another. If a painting annoys you, don't see it. If a film troubles you, criticise it and, if you can, counter its message with one of your own.

None of this do we do. Instead, we seek the easy but wrong solution: ban the work, jail the author, wipe out from existence what you don't like.

Voltaire is supposed to have said, "I disagree with what you're saying but I will defend to the death your right to say it." We've changed that to "I disagree with what you're saying and you will die for it."

Let's examine the Ashis Nandy incident a little closely. I concede that he expressed himself clumsily. I recognise that the point he was making was both complicated and, for many, novel. It wasn't easy to grasp or comprehend. Many got the wrong end of it. Additionally, some television channels and newspapers misrepresented him by editing what he said and omitting the context in which he was speaking. And, yes, those who know him say he has a penchant for speaking in surprising ways, even at times sensationally. So, perhaps, it was easy to misunderstand him.

However, once you realised you had, once it became clear he was making a very different point to what you initially thought, surely our response should have changed? But that didn't happen. We doggedly stuck by our initial impression even after it had been proven wrong.

But suppose for a moment we had been correct in our initial understanding of Nandy. Suppose he was out to offend. Does he not have a right to do so? Did that call for an FIR? Did that warrant the attempt to send him to jail?

Provided he was not inciting violence - and he wasn't, he was only speaking at a seminar in a literary festival - and provided he was not stirring up hatred - which he clearly wasn't - he has a right to say what he wants. Otherwise what is the value of our democracy? And our claim to champion freedom of speech?

The truth is this sorry affair reveals more about us than Nandy. We need to examine our behaviour. We need to question our responses. We need to ask whether we really understand what freedom means.

The Nandy episode and the treatment of Kamal Haasan's film diminishes us. Today we're smaller because of our actions. We've shamed ourselves.

Views expressed by the author are personal
 

India Today: Ritu Bhatia -Nandy deserves better

Ashis Nandy deserves better
Ritu Bhatia  New Delhi, February 3, 2013 http://indiatoday.intoday.in/

There is a beautiful story, a poignant one by the Swiss writer Frederich Durrenmatt it is about a detective. He is dying and his one dream is to convict a criminal, he has been hunting all his life. They meet each other and the criminal says "you can never convict me for a crime I have committed". To show his contempt for the law, he then pushes a man off a bridge. The policeman is stunned and then has the wits to reply that 'I will convict you for a crime you have not committed". Durrenmatt's novel Judge and the Hangman is a story of how he achieves this.

The Durrenmatt anecdote reminded me of the Nandy controversy. Here was a gadfly that the state and the radicals have never forgiven for the triumphant dissenter he has been. Oddly Nandy has grown in respectability with every controversy. As a friend observed feminists have not forgiven him for his writings on Sati, scientists have not forgotten his comments on the scientific temper document and the official Left has never forgotten that he has always questioned their intellectualist pretensions. When the Jaipur controversy on Dalits and corruption took place, there was a sense of vicarious justice. The Gadfly was going to get his "just" desserts.

Episode

The few letters issued in defence of Nandy appeared cautious and sounded more like good conduct certificates with caveats about his unorthodox and provocative style. They exuded a political correctness. Oddly the one Dalit present at the occasion, the usually vociferous Kancha Ilaiah was the most open about Nandy, cautioning against false accusations by observing that Nandy's was a bad statement made with good intentions. Contrast this sense of fairness with a well known TV anchor who seems to be playing both judge and hangman. TV anchors often become Kangaroo courts in pursuit of publicity. One is at least grateful that U.R. Ananthamurthy, the author issued a strong statement in Nandy's defence. Nandy must have missed the presence of his old friend D.R.Nagaraj, a major Dalit voice who might have brought balance and laughter to this dismal event.

The question is what was Nandy trying to do and how well did he do it. Nandy is always impatient with hypocrisy and especially the hypocrisy of the elite. He was critical of what one may call the corruption envy of the elite, which is noisy about the blatant corruption of Khoda and smug about its own welloiled nepotism. Probably reacting to the way scholarships and fellowships are nations. If Scott looked at the moral economy of resistance and even corruption as a form of resistance, Nandy examined the cognitive power of these groups, allowing them a certain ambiguity and paradox. This is not an elitist mindset that the CPM leader Brinda Karat attributes him. This is a creativity which goes beyond Marxist party categories which have been knowledge proof for decades. It is his critics who play the labeling game, freezing margins into stereotypes. Nandy on the other hand plays an enabling game with a full sense of irony. Nandy's writings while playful are clear; his conversation can leapfrog linear arguments. Sometimes it is almost as if he is talking to himself. But Nandy's style requires experimentation, of muddling through. It always remains a sensibility that has fought for the marginal but perpetually questioned the radicalism of middle class representatives. There is a pomposity to a lot of critique. I read one that drove to me tears at its sheer illiteracy.

One author compares Nandy's fall in the current controversy with Martin Heidegger's sinister Nazism, Michel Foucault's enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution or Hannah Arendt's bizarre celebration of the military prowess of the Israeli state. The pomposity and illiteracy of the comparison merits reference. It shows how far some of our academia will go to both misread and malign a leading intellectual. The writer presents it as a fable while the style turns it into a farcical representation of critique today. I was just imagining the process of interrogating Nandy. He has cheerfully admitted that he is ready for jail claiming prisons are great places to write books. In doing so he was claiming a genealogy of distinguished dissent going back to Thoreau, Gandhi, Gramsci and Nehru.

Issue

The question we must ask however is that while no one is above the law in a normative sense, can laws become so oppressive that they trigger a form of political correctness that eliminates parody, black humour and irony? Should our lives become a bleak search for uniformity and political correctness which has made intellectuals wary of entering the fray, of carrying on the debate, of going beyond Nandy in understanding the ironies of change? Nandy is one of the few public intellectuals left in India. He is a survivor at a time when public policy and public spaces have become shrinking spaces. Reflecting on the controversies his work generated, he told me impishly, the bureaucrats might hate me, but their children come and talk happily about my ideas. He felt a sense of hope and chuckled quietly about the fate of ideas. Nandy's comments at the Jaipur festival would have been translated into Hindi and then scrutinised by the police.

I believe there are charges against him filed at five separate police stations. I am imagining the questions, the detailed ethnographic examination. At one level it could be routine, at another it could have a touch of Alice and Kafka. I can imagine him arguing in his labored Hindi, trying to capture nuances, injecting humour into a ritual of clerks. It is a pity that he has to be subject to this. One wonders about the fate of public intellectuals when political correctness and intellectual caution rules the day. Nandy and the struggles for intellectual justice deserve more. The writer is a social science nomad awarded in Delhi, Nandy exposed this process by claiming the elite sees nothing wrong in its reciprocities of nepotism while condemning the general decline of honesty among Dalits and OBCs.

Nandy recognised this latter trend as a sociological fact contending corruption is blatant among OBCs, Dalits and increasingly scheduled tribes. He was not attributing essentialism to Dalit corruption. In fact corruption, he claimed, signified agency, a sense of the rules of the game and the ability to manipulate them. What others saw as the noise of Dalit corruption, Nandy would designate ironically as a welcome music. Corruption is seen as a political bureaucratic skill which new elites must learn to survive in the system. What Nandy constructed as agency was read as a genetic or an in born quality. He was implying that electoral democracy is a circulation of corruptions and as a result, becomes an ironic form of distributive justice. The argument is systemic, though in Nandy's presentation, the emphasis is on the performative aspects of corruption. This is the argument that critics like Arvind Kejriwal did not understand or chose not to in their rush to enter the fray.

Criticism

I must add that text has to be understood within context. Nandy is a truly subaltern writer who focuses on the imagination of marginals. Like James Scott the Yale social scientist, he has understood the voices of the weak and explored them as imagi-nations. If Scott looked at the moral economy of resistance and even corruption as a form of resistance, Nandy examined the cognitive power of these groups, allowing them a certain ambiguity and paradox. This is not an elitist mindset that the CPM leader Brinda Karat attributes him. This is a creativity which goes beyond Marxist party categories which have been knowledge proof for decades

It is his critics who play the labeling game, freezing margins into stereotypes. Nandy on the other hand plays an enabling game with a full sense of irony. Nandy's writings while playful are clear; his conversation can leapfrog linear arguments. Sometimes it is almost as if he is talking to himself. But Nandy's style requires experimentation, of muddling through. It always remains a sensibility that has fought for the marginal but perpetually questioned the radicalism of middle class representatives.

There is a pomposity to a lot of critique. I read one that drove to me tears at its sheer illiteracy. One author compares Nandy's fall in the current controversy with Martin Heidegger's sinister Nazism, Michel Foucault's enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution or Hannah Arendt's bizarre celebration of the military prowess of the Israeli state. The pomposity and illiteracy of the comparison merits reference. It shows how far some of our academia will go to both misread and malign a leading intellectual. The writer presents it as a fable while the style turns it into a farcical representation of critique today.

I was just imagining the process of interrogating Nandy. He has cheerfully admitted that he is ready for jail claiming prisons are great places to write books. In doing so he was claiming a genealogy of distinguished dissent going back to Thoreau, Gandhi, Gramsci and Nehru.

Issue The question we must ask however is that while no one is above the law in a normative sense, can laws become so oppressive that they trigger a form of political correctness that eliminates parody, black humour and irony? Should our lives become a bleak search for uniformity and political correctness which has made intellectuals wary of entering the fray, of carrying on the debate, of going beyond Nandy in understanding the ironies of change?

Nandy is one of the few public intellectuals left in India. He is a survivor at a time when public policy and public spaces have become shrinking spaces. Reflecting on the controversies his work generated, he told me impishly, the bureaucrats might hate me, but their children come and talk happily about my ideas. He felt a sense of hope and chuckled quietly about the fate of ideas.

Nandy's comments at the Jaipur festival would have been translated into Hindi and then scrutinised by the police. I believe there are charges against him filed at five separate police stations. I am imagining the questions, the detailed ethnographic examination. At one level it could be routine, at another it could have a touch of Alice and Kafka. I can imagine him arguing in his labored Hindi, trying to capture nuances, injecting humour into a ritual of clerks. It is a pity that he has to be subject to this. One wonders about the fate of public intellectuals when political correctness and intellectual caution rules the day. Nandy and the struggles for intellectual justice deserve more

- The writer is a social science nomad