Nandy’s pigheadedness – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

The unedifying spectacles Ashis Nandy’s stupid remarks have generated are as much symptomatic of the perversity of public discourse as of the pettiness of politicking. On the face of it, his statement seems to indicate that dementia has afflicted the academic. But a little analysis will show that dementia is the logical culmination of the axioms, lemmas, theorems, and theories that infest academics in our country.

But let’s begin with Nandy’s statement. “It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from OBCs [other backward classes] and Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes,” he said at the literary event in Jaipur. He went on the buttress his questionable thesis: “I will give an example. One of the states with the least amount of corruption is state of West Bengal when the CPI(M) was there. And I must draw attention to the fact that in the last 100 years, nobody from OBC, SC and ST has come anywhere near to power. It is an absolutely clean state.”

Apart from factual inaccuracies, blaming members of SCs, STs, and OBCs for being most corrupt is in bad taste. It is unbecoming of a renowned sociologist to make such disgraceful remarks. Nandy has been roundly, and rightly, condemned for the outrageous comments. However, the way many people are baying for his blood and trying to harass him legally is not in consonance with the highest principles of liberal democracy. In fact, their efforts can be self-defeating: the scholar has exposed himself; his half-a-century-old work and reputation are in tatters; persecution may end up rehabilitating him. It is better to let him perish in the perdition of ridicule and irrelevance.

His journey to perdition, however, began when he unquestioningly accepted the premises and dogmas of dirigisme: the state, like God, is omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent; the individual is weak, helpless, unimaginative, unintelligent, and incapable of redeeming himself; the state has to redeem the individual; and long is the list of dirigiste principles.

It is not that Nandy never showed brilliance. In an article a decade ago, he wrote that it is only the Hindu nationalists who “have been left pleading for a uniform civil code. Almost all other mainstream parties oppose it. India must be the only country in the world where the ethno-nationalists plead for a uniform civil code, while their opponents oppose it.”

Further, he said, “India is the only country where the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, leading what some might call the world’s largest fundamentalist formation, can boast that all its founding fathers (Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Keshav Hegdewar and Balakrishna Munje) were non-believers… Indeed, their Bible, Hindutva by Savarkar, explicitly flaunts its author’s atheism.”

These lines show that the man could indeed boast of some discernment, though he does not have much regard for facts—Savarkar, Hegdewar, and Munje had nothing to do with the founding of the BJP; Hegdewar actually died in 1940, or 11 years before even the BJP’s forebear, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, was born! But let it pass; after all, Nandy is an intellectual; for him, views are sacred, while facts are irrelevant. The irrelevant should not vitiate the sacred.

For quintessential intellectuals, ideology is what matters. They fall in love with it at a very young age; and they remain faithful to it forever. Nehruvian socialism has failed badly, entailing slow economic growth and development, gross empowerment of the functionaries of the state, a plethora of bad laws (one of which, the SC-ST Act, has come to haunt Nandy), curtailment of Fundamental Rights and civil liberties, and monumental corruption. But, instead of questioning the ideology that spawns such a system, Nandy accepts its evil as something natural, even desirable!

In his later clarification, he said, “I endorsed the statement of Tarun Tejpal, Editor of Tehelka, that corruption in India is an equalizing force. I do believe that a zero-corruption society in India will be a despotic society.”

As I mentioned earlier, Nandy has not gone insane or senile; the disreputable statement is the product and function of an egalitarianism that has gone berserk. I repeat berserk because the egalitarian policies are adornments of the democratic body politic the humors of whose metabolism are the rule of law, liberty, and fairness. Over the years, the adornments have inflicted more and more piercings and deformities; the body has got infected severely with the proliferation of embellishments, also known as entitlements.

Nandy is not worried about the rot; like a pig happy in mud, he actually relishes in it. As long as the equalizing corruption persists, he said, “I have hope for the Republic.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On YoutubeVisit Us On Google PlusCheck Our Feed