The Idea of India
Well known academic and sociologist, Prof Ashish Nandy’s remarks at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) that “it is a fact that most of the corrupt come from OBCs and the Scheduled Castes and now increasingly Scheduled Tribes, as long as this is the case, the Indian Republic will survive”, have shot up this year’s JLF in news headlines. He was citing West-Bengal as an ‘example’ to his statement, “In the last hundred years, nobody from the OBCs, SCs and STs has come to power there. It is an absolutely clean State.”
In this tehelka.com article, he states, “What we call religious violence is secular violence — it is the violence of people who have lost their faith. If you look at the data about communal violence in India in the past 50 years, you will find that of those killed by communal violence, only 3.5 percent were people in the villages. 96.4 percent killed were from the cities. Now, ask yourself which population is more immersed in tradition? It is obvious you have nothing to teach the rural population; they have something to teach you. We need courage to admit the need for faith. It is the anonymity and the loss of your culture that leads to disaffection. All our faiths in India — Hinduism, Christianity and Islam — are local. It is a faith based on personal gods, ishta devatas, family gods, village goddesses. There has always been a tradition of being friendly with gods. You can bicker with a god. You can abuse him or her. You can make fun of her. Nobody is offended. Now everyone is offended by everything.”
It is like reading Daily Mail’s nostalgic obsession of a glorious English past, that was lost by modernity.
Not surprisingly, Dalit activists and politicians are demanding the authorities to take action according to Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3 (1) of the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, against Nandy.
Bizarrely, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), has come out in support of Nandy, stating that “he [Nandy] was not exhorting hate and not being casteist and was only making an academic point which means that nobody is free from corruption.” The problem is that there is no “academic point” currently available – in the form of a vigorously carried out study or research – particularly looking at this phenomenon. Also I am not sure that any decent university-research-ethics-committee would allow such a research to be conducted.
His statement reiterates the Indian caste-consciousness regarding Dalits: they are not “clean”.
Recent controversies, scandals and corruptions, emanating from India – that we have been witnessing for past few years – are not isolated incidents; in fact these are the ‘blowback’ of the very act of the imposition of India as an ontological phenomenon.