Justice Markandey Katju, chairman of the press council of India, who used to quote from the "website Google" in his Supreme Court judgements, is no stranger to mathematical exactitudes such as: “90 per cent of Indians are fools”, "90 per cent vote on the basis of caste or community", "90 per cent Indians believe in astrology", "The real problems facing 80 per cent of the people are socio-economic" or "80 per cent of our people are poor" [though to be fair, he later conceded that the figure might be 85 per cent, on the other hand it could be 95 per cent].
The PTI reported that while addressing a seminar organised by the South Asia Media Commission in Delhi on Saturday last Katju had said that 90 per cent of Indians were "idiots" who can easily be misled by mischievous elements in the name of religion. "I say ninety percent of Indians are idiots. You people don't have brains in your heads....It is so easy to take you for a ride," he had said.
"You mad people will start fighting amongst yourself not realising that some agent provocateuris behind this," he is reported to have said.
In response, two students sent him a notice: Apologise or Face Court: Students Threaten Katju.
This is Justice Katju's response
Dear Tanaya and Aditya,
I have received your email, and am giving my reply, but before doing so in detail I wish to make some preliminary remarks:
1. I have been misquoted in the press reports, but it is true that I have said that 90% Indians (not all) are fools. My intention in saying so was not to hurt anyone but to awaken people to the realities, that is, the widespread casteism, communalism, superstitions, and other backward traits in the mindset of a large section of our people which is blocking our progress and keeping us poor.
2. The figure 90% is not a mathematical figure, it simply means that in my opinion a large proportion of Indians (and again I repeat, not all) are fools.
3. I never named you, nor any community, caste, or sect, and I never said that you are in the category of 90%. Hence I do not see how you are defamed.
4. I made this comment not to humiliate or harm anyone but because I love the Indian people, they are my people, and I wish them to prosper and have decent lives, which is only possible if the Indian masses develop the scientific outlook and scientific temper and give up casteism, communalism, superstitions and other mental attitudes which a large part (not all) of them presently suffer from. I wish to see India in the front ranks of the advanced industrialized nations of the world, with our people having a high standard of living, instead of suffering from the present evils of massive poverty, unemployment, price rise, corruption, farmer's suicides, child malnutrition, absence of health care and good education, casteism etc. So you see I made that statement not to harm the Indian people, whom I love, but to benefit them. The truth is sometimes bitter, but sometimes bitter medicine has to be given to an ailing person.
Having said this, I may proceed to give a more elaborate explanation.
I wish to first of all clarify that I do not regard Indians as inherently stupid or foolish. It is only at present that large parts of our people are foolish. But there was a time when we were leading the whole world in science and technology, and India was perhaps the most prosperous country in the world. It is now that we are having bad times, but we had a glorious past and shall have a glorious future too, but for that we have to get rid of casteism, communalism, superstitions and other backward traits in the mentality of a large part of our people (because of which I call them fools).
With the aid of science we had built mighty civilizations thousands of years ago when most people in Europe( except in Greece and Rome) were living in forests. We had made outstanding scientific discoveries e.g. decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine, etc (see in this connection my article 'Sanskrit as a Language of Science on my blog justickatju.blogspot.in and on the website kgfindia.com). However, we subsequently took to the unscientific path of superstitions and empty rituals, which has led us to disaster. The way out of the present morass is to go back again to the path shown by our scientific ancestors, the path of Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta, Sushrut and Charak, Panini and Patanjali, Ramanujan and Raman.
It is not necessary to mention here all the great achievements of our ancestors, but I may just mention a few.
1. The decimal system in mathematics was the most remarkable and revolutionary invention in the past, and it was created by Indians. To understand its significance, one must know that the ancient Romans, who built a great civilization (The civilization of Caesar and Augustus), felt very uncomfortable with numbers above 1000. This was because they expressed their numbers in alphabets, I standing for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50, C for 100, D for 500, and M for 1000. There was no single alphabet expressing a number above 1000. Hence to write 2000 an ancient Roman had to write MM, to write 3000 he had to write MMM, and to write 1 million he had to write M one thousand times, which would drive him crazy.
On the other hand, our ancestors discovered the number 0, and hence to write 1 million they had simply to put 6 zeros after 1.
2. Plastic surgery was invented by Sushrut 2000 years ago, whereas Europeans invented it only about 100 or 200 years back.
3. The English alphabets are all arranged haphazardly, there is no reason why D is followed by E, or E by F, or F by G, etc. On the other hand Panini in the first 14 sutras of his Ashtadhyayi arranged the alphabets in Sanskrit scientifically. Thus , the first sequence of 5 consonants (the ka varga i.e. ka, kha, ga, gha, na ) are all sounds which emanate from the throat, the second sequence from the middle of the tongue, the third from the roof of the mouth, the fourth from the tip of the tongue, and the fifth from the lips. The second and fourth consonants in each sequence are aspirants in which the sound 'ha' is combined with the previous consonant e.g. ka+ha =kha.
4. 5000 years ago in the Indus Valley Civilization the system of town planning was created with straight streets, covered drains, water and sewage system, etc.
Before the coming of the British India was a prosperous country. Its share in world trade in 1700 was about 30%, which fell to 2% by the end of British rule and is still not more than 3%.
Today there is no doubt that India is a poor country. While there are some pockets of affluence, about 80% of our people are afflicted with poverty, unemployment and other evils, and one major cause of this is the mental backwardness of a large part of our people.
(though there are also brilliant people like the Indian scientists and engineers in Silicon Valley) Consider the following:
1. When most of our people go to vote they cast their votes on the basis of caste or religion, not the merit of the candidate. What else is the meaning of vote banks? And this is exploited by some unscrupulous politicians who know how to manipulate and manage these vote banks. That is why many persons with criminal backgrounds get elected.
2. 'Honour' killings are common in many parts of the country. This is a barbaric practice, and shows how backward many of us still are.
3. Dowry deaths are common in India, and as a former Judge I can tell you that our courts have a large number of cases of young married women who are murdered in a barbaric manner by their in laws for not getting dowry e.g. by pouring petrol on them and setting them on fire.
4. Scheduled castes are still often treated inhumanly, and an example is the recent attack on dalits in Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu.
5. Female foeticide is common in many parts of India. Often when a male child is born the relatives are happy and distribute sweets, but when a female child is born often relatives get dejected. This is also a sign of backwardness among many of us.
6. Communalism, which was almost non-existent in 1857, is widespread in our society today. Muslims often face discrimination in getting jobs, houses on rent, etc, as the Justice Sachar Committee report has highlighted. Muslims are often falsely implicated in bomb blasts and they have to spend years in jail though ultimately found innocent.
As I mentioned, upto 1857 communalism was almost non-existent in India. There were no doubt differences between Hindu and Muslims, but there was no enmity between them. In the Mutiny of 1857 Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. After crushing the Mutiny the British decided that the only way to control India was divide and rule.
Consequently, the policy came from London to create hatred between Hindus and Muslims. The British Collector used to secretly call the Panditji and gave him money to speak against the Muslims, and similarly he gave money to the Maulvi Saheb to speak against Hindus. All communal riots began after 1857. The communal award in the Minto-Morley 'Reforms' of 1909 introduced separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims. Year after year, decade after decade, the communal poison was injected by the British into our body politic, and even after 1947 there are elements which continue this (see online 'History in the Service of Imperialism' and my article 'What is India' on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in)
Certain agent provocateurs take advantage of our backwardness to incite communal riots, and unfortunately many people fall prey to these evil designs and get emotionally carried away by communal propaganda and fight with each other.
5. Superstition is rampant in India. Most people believe in astrology, which is pure superstition and humbug. And it is not just the illiterates who believe in it, it is also most of the so called educated people in India. Many Ministers and Judges prefer to take oath of office at the 'auspicious' time.
A few years back it was announced that Lord Ganesh is drinking milk, and there was a rush of people to offer milk to Ganesh. Earlier, a 'miracle' chapati was circulating.
6. A large section of the media, taking advantage of the backwardness of a large section of our people, dishes out lives of filmstars, cricket, etc as if these are the real issues before the people, when the real issues are socio-economic.
As I said above, when I called most people (not all) fools I did not wish to harm them, rather it was just the contrary. I want India to become a prosperous country, but this is possible only when the mindset of a large number of people changes, and their minds are rid of casteism, communalism, superstitions, and other backward ideas and they become scientific and modern.
By being modern I do not mean wearing a nice suit or a beautiful sari or skirt. By being modern I mean developing a modern mind, which means a rational mind, a scientific mind, and a questioning mind. As already stated above, at one time we led the whole world in science and technology, but today we are undoubtedly far behind the West and even China. How did this happen? Why were we left behind, why did we not have an Industrial Revolution like Europe? This is known as 'Needham's Question' or 'Needham's Grand Question', named after Prof. Joseph Needham of Cambridge University (1900-1995). It is high time Indians try to answer this question, instead of trying to evade the reality of the backwardness of most of us.
The worst thing in life is poverty, and 80% of our people are poor, which is largely because of the mental backwardness of most (not all) of us. To abolish poverty we need to spread the scientific outlook to every nook and corner of our country. It is only then that India will shine. And until that happens the vast majority of our people will continue to be taken for a ride.
Justice Markandey Katju