New Delhi: Facing a barrage of protests for his comment that "90 per cent of Indians are fools", Press Council Chairman Markandey Katju has clarified that he does not regard Indians as inherently stupid or foolish.
Katju wrote an elaborate defense of his statement directly addressing two students Tanaya and Aditya, who had sent a legal notice to the PCI chairman for making the remark.
"The figure 90 per cent 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," Katju said, adding "I do not regard Indians as inherently stupid or foolish. It is only at present that large parts of our people are foolish."
He addressed the students as 'Dear Tanaya and Aditya' and went to state that he had been misquoted in the press reports. Katju said his intention 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.
In their notice to Katju, Tanya Thakur and her brother Aditya asked him to issue a public apology. They promised to drag Katju to court in case he didn't apologise within 30 days.
Clearly on a back foot, Katju said "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."
He explained that he wanted the Indian masses to develop a 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.
"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," he said.
He compared India's past - full of glorious achievements including outstanding scientific discoveries (e.g. decimal system in mathematics, plastic surgery in medicine) with its bleak present.
"Today there is no doubt that India is a poor country. While there are some pockets of affluence, about 80 per cent 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," he said.
Most of our people cast their votes on the basis of caste or religion, not the merit of the candidate, honour killings are common in many parts of the country, dowry deaths are common in India, scheduled castes are still often treated inhumanly, female foeticide is common in many parts of India and communalism, which was almost non-existent in 1857, is widespread in our society today, Katju argued.
He blamed a large section of the media of taking advantage of the backwardness of a large section of our people and dishing out lives of film stars and news of cricket as if these were the real issues before the people.