Sociologist Ashis Nandy has found an enemy in political forces. This time, he has annoyed the SCs, STs and OBCs, saying the most corrupt come from these three sectors. Naturally, Dalit leader like Mayawati, chief of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes PL Punia, also a Congress leader, LJP leader Ramvilas Paswan and others slammed the veteran scholar and also a police case was registered against him.
What did Nandy say? He said that the upper castes and rich and the powerful are bettr-equipped to protect their corrupt practices as compared to those social categories that he mentioned. He said: "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. But when Dalits, tribals and the OBCs are corrupt, it looks very corrupt indeed."
Nandy made a mention about West Bengal. He said that state saw the least amount of corruption, particularly when the Left was in power. He said no OBC, ST or SC person came anywhere near the power centre in the last one century and because of that, corruption was never let out in the open because the ruling elites gave an ideological justification for the corrupt practices they indulged in, which did not make it look like corruption.
According to Nandy, if one wants to hide corruption, then the Dalits, tribals and OBCs need to be kept away from power, for they have lesser chance of engaging elite lawyers or giving an ideological justification for the corrupt practices. The elite CPI(M) knew how to manipulate thus aspect and hence, Bengal was a relatively cleaner state.
The scholar, the former director of the Centre for Study of the Developing Societies, New Delhi, also said that as long as corruption existed among the backwards, OBCs and tribals, the Indian republic had some hope. He thinks it is because there exists some hope for "redistributive justice and equalisation of handicaps". Nandy said he supported journalist Tarun Tejpal's view that corruption is an equaliser for a no-corruption society will only pave way for a despotic society. He cited the example of Singapore, considered the cleanest society in the world.
Did Nandy say anything wrong? Or was the reaction too much? Nandy, named one of the top 100 public intellectuals by a foreign magazine, is an acclaimed intellectual. There is no point in criticising Nandy for people like him do not say anything to cater to any vested interest. This isn't the first time that
Nandy faced such a situation, either. A few years ago, the veteran scholar found an ally in the apex court of the country to get relief after he drew wrath of the right-wing forces.
What happened at the Jaipur literary fest is a concern in present-day India. Sociologically, India offers a very complicated picture. No simplified and single-layered analysis can be offered to understand the social dynamics in this pluralist nation. The deepening of democracy with each passing day makes the situation more difficult to comprehend and nothing short of top intellectual quality will be effective to make the right observation.
And this is where the problem arises. While people like Nandy make interesting observation which is not obvious, after putting in years of study, those who are running this country are equally naive in understanding the nation's society and polity. I won't be surprised if those shouting for Nandy's head did not understand what he actually meant to say. They are expressing agitation just by hearing Nandy say that most of the corrupt come from the ranks of the SCs, STs and OBCs.
Why aren't the same protesters feeling happy when Nandy said the Indian republic had hope as long as corruption existed among the backwards, tribals and OBCs for that would stop the rich from getting richer? No wonder. Populism doesn't feed on analysis and is an easier mantra to learn. Nandy said in an interview that it is an appropriate for some groups to gain some political mileage by attacking one's right to say something for the big election is not far. This time, Nandy said the obvious. And even if his entire viewpoint is wrong, how can his right to express his views be attacked?
We have reduced our democracy to an affair of election and results. Significant issues of social significance have been overshadowed by petty politicians who have no undrstanding of what is India and how it functions. It is a tragedy that people like Nandy are being attacked instead of heard and understood. And the media is busy finding a new sensation. We need to decontruct India if we want progress, not destroy it.