Sunday 28 August 2016
facebook.com/Outlookindia twitter.com/outlookindia digimag.outlookindia.com instagram.com/outlookindia youtube.com/user/OutlookMagazine

The Point Of Incision

Prosecuting Nandy for what he said is patently wrong. to not challenge him would be folly too.

The motto of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) is ‘Be Job Givers, Instead of Job Seekers’. Its agenda is to “create new role models of job-givers and to contribute even more in nation-building”. What would the members of this nascent body have to say about Ashis Nandy’s gratuitous comments, which virtually excuses bribery among the SC/STs and OBCs as a way of levelling the playing field in India?

My guess is they would find them extremely offensive. Not merely because they suggest corruption is a good way to advance one’s station, but also since they imply corruption is what has entrenched upper-caste hegemony. Which is why, he says, the corruption of the Madhusudan Kodas and A. Rajas is welcome, because it equalises the situation. Nandy says he was being ironic and that his remarks were not anti-Dalit, but actually in their favour. He may think so, but their import is excessively cynical.

The reactions of the Rajasthan government and Minorities Commission chairman P.L. Punia are absurd in the extreme. However inelegantly Nandy phrased his point and however provocative he may have been, he has the right. The window of tolerance in this country is rapidly closing. When an academic has to worry about what he says at a literature festival, it’s the thin end of the wedge. On this, Nandy has the support of every liberal and right-thinking Indian. But had Punia and other  Dalits really considered the substance and tenor of the remarks, they would still have grounds to be offended. For, Nandy’s nostrum is problematic on several fronts. To begin with, it mocks the millions of honest Indians, from all castes, creeds and linguistic backgrounds, who may be trying to carve out a place for themselves by virtue of hard work and merit. Their role models are not shady crony capitalists or rentiers or sundry crooks who take short cuts. They crave for an environment that allows for those who want to play it straight. Yes, gaming the system gives an unfair advantage to many. Is that something to aspire to?

Advertisement

It is also patronising to suggest that young, educated Dalits now entering the workforce as professionals or entrepreneurs would necessarily want to pick up tips from the Kodas and the Rajas. Their biggest icon Babasaheb Ambedkar rose by dint of hard work and intellect. Wouldn’t they want to emulate him? Why wouldn’t they want to create a new paradigm that moves away from the existing one? M.N. Srinivas spoke about Sanskritisation, the urge among the lower castes to mimic the Brahminical order. Is corruption the new Sanskritisation? That’s what Nandy would have us believe.

Most important, though, Nandy neglects the fact that millions of Dalits (as much as other poor Indians) are the bribe givers, not the takers. They find it is the only way to negotiate a society that can be deeply unfair. What would their takeaway be from Nandy’s glib assertions? Once again, prosecuting him for what he said is patently wrong; but letting him get away unchallenged for his flip theories would be a mistake too.


Sidharth Bhatia is a journalist and author based in Mumbai; E-mail your columnist: sidharth01 AT gmail.com

READ MORE IN:
AUTHORS: Sidharth Bhatia
PEOPLE: Ashis Nandy
SECTION: NationalSociety
SUBSECTION: Opinion
OUTLOOK: 11 February, 2013
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
OUTLOOK ON TWITTER
POLLS

In 1999, India and France entered into a $3.5 billion deal for the supply of these submarines. The first of the 6 subs is out on sea trials for the last three months and is to be commissioned later this year. At this stage, a newspaper in Australia has revealed secret data on the submarines, plausibly stolen from India. Indian Defence authorities have ruled out any pilferage of data from India.

POLL STARTED ON: Aug 26, 2016
Quiz
Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 31st Olympic Games from August 5 to 21. This is the first Olympics being held in South America and is going on even as a majority Brazilians are unhappy with their rulers. Here’s a quiz on some random Olympic facts and related trivia.
QUIZ STARTED ON: Aug 11, 2016
Advertisement