Sociologist and political psychologist Ashis Nandy defended his statements on Dalits and other backwards classes saying he stood by what he said and that he apologised only to those who were hurt by his statement.
Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Nandy said, "I don't feel hounded. I stand by what I said. If people listen to my full statement carefully, it was actually pro-Dalit. I apologised to those who were hurt by my statement."
Nandy also said that corruption was seen in Dalits, OBCs and Adivasis because they say it as an 'equalising force'. "Elite corruption can easily be hidden whereas Dalit corruption makes a splash," he added. Below is the transcript of the interview.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Joining me now of the country's foremost social scientist who finds himself in an eye of storm in a sense. Dr Ashis Nandy joins us, thank you very much professor Nandy for joining us on CNN-IBN. There are calls for your arrest; you have been forced out from Jaipur Literature festival, FIRs filed against you. When you are heading out politicians speaking out against you, do you feel hounded, and perhaps a little frightened?
Ashis Nandy: No I don't feel hounded and frightened because I know if people read the script of what I said, or even see the video they will know that even the statement they are quoting frequently was part of an aggressively pro-Dalit, pro-OBC plea. I did stand by them and I do want to stand by them.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But Dr Nandy there will be those who will say that you have actually gone ahead and apologised. If you feel so strongly about what you said, what was the need to apologies? Was that because of the pressure that was put on you either by the organizers or by politicians to apologies so that the issue could blow over?
Ashis Nandy: I apologized to those hurt by my statement, not to those who are using my statement to make a point which is against to what I have said in this particular presentation, as well in earlier occasions, and constantly throughout my life in the last 45 years.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Dr Nandy no one doubts the huge body of work that you have done, but let me come to the specific statement you have made which created this statement. You said and I quote, "It will be an undignified and vulgar statement but the fact is most of the corrupt come from the OBCs, SCs, and now increasingly the STs. As long as this is the case the Indian republic would survive." Taken in isolation this statement may well be seen by some as castes.
Ashis Nandy: No it can also be seen as a fact that I'm supporting the corruption which I was of the Dalits, OBCs, and Adivasis because that corruption is partly an equalising force; it balances the discriminations in the society to come extent at least. Because the corruption that is coming from other communities is more and they have better resources to fight acquisitions for corruption. In the cases of Dalits, OBCs, Adivasis the corruption at least gives them some access to the resources of the society. And that is why I said that I stand by that fact as a hope for the future of the country.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You are actually saying that corruption is a great equalizer, but Dr Nandy, would it be fairer to say that the elite have set the ruse of the game, the upper casts in a sense have set the rule of the game, to that extent they must bear the principle responsibility for corruption. They created a corrupt order and the backward casts, SCs, STs, have just joined in.
Ashis Nandy: I exactly said that, if you had heard earlier two sentences you would have known that, I gave examples of how an elite corruption can be hidden, where as the corruption by the lower orders seems to many people as seemingly corrupt, crudely corrupt. That is why it makes a greater splash in news.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Are you therefore saying that the upper cast get away with their corruption while as Dalits and backwards do not get away with their corruption?
Ashis Nandy: Yes that is what I was trying to say. And this point has been made by others. It was made my Tarun Tajpal in that meeting, right before I spoke and I did say that I endorse that point. That point has also been made my Shaker Gupta of Indian Express in an edit page article, and it has been made my others. So it is not that I have only made this point. This point has been made by number of persons. I have also made this point in one of my public lectures only a few months ago, where nobody objected, nobody protested to it.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But do you think you could have been perhaps more nuanced in making that that argument in a public platform, given the sensitivity involved when you say that most of the corrupt today come from OBCs, SCs, and increasingly the STs.
Ashis Nandy: Well increasingly is the crucial word, I should have emphasised on that part more. I have never thought of it as a public form, I have thought of it as a literary meet. So it is unfair to ask me to choose words cautiously. I was not speaking in Parliament or in a court of law.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Is that your worry, that in literally meet, or where every you make a public statement, debating issues has become more and more difficult because the level of intolerance, the culture of intolerance has grown.
Ashis Nandy: Yes absolutely; I have seen this happen to number of artists, painters and even other writers.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But let me give another statement that you made that is controversial. You say, "I will give you another example, the state of West Bengal has least corruption, in the last 100 years nobody from the backward class or SCs, STs have come anywhere near power in West Bengal. It is an absolutely clean state." Now that statement read with your earlier statement would almost suggest that you believe that when the SCs, STs, and OBCs come to power that is when corruption begins, or corruption goes to new levels.
Ashis Nandy: No on the contrary, I said it looks incorrupt, it looks clean because corruption has been institutionalised and beautifully handled that it doesn't look corrupt. But we have paid for that apparent cleanliness by keeping out the SCs, STs, OBCs, anywhere from close to power. Bengal is in that case one of the most backward state in India, if not the most backward state of India.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Let me flip you argument, the flip side would be that Dr Nandy is rationalizing the corruption of SCs, STs, OBCs, that could be the other flip side of what you are saying. That if Mayawati is corrupt, she is corrupt because that is the only way she can equalise herself with the upper cast. Do you believe that is also a danger?
Ashis Nandy: I was not basically taking about individuals, I'm taking of collectivities which are at the margin of desperation.
Rajdeep Sardesai: No the reason I'm saying that because it appears that we have reached to a stage in this country where particularly you can't criticise Dalits, and STs. In anyway to that form of politics can a Mayawati be criticised for example for allege corruption without the fear of retributive violence. In that sense they are almost like holly cows.
Ashis Nandy: Yes that danger is always there but that is the price we have to pay for democracy.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You know, you are saying that it is the price we have to pay for democracy but as someone who has spent a life time, Dr Nandy, in the crucible of ideas, debating great issues concerned to contemporary India, including cast and communalism, today when a Narinder Modi government charges you with sedation, Mayawati calls for your arrest - how do you see the future of ideas and debates and academic freedom in this country?
Ashis Nandy: I fear for it because we have become afraid of ideas. People will be talking more and more in banalities, and I think that is a great pity that our public life with be to that extent impoverish.
Rajdeep Sardesai: In that sense, if Dr Nandy was called next year to Jaipur Literature festival, or any other festival would you speak any differently, would you speak any differently if you were called for a public lecture. Have you in a sense leant a lesson, as someone would say, and would you be a little bit more discreet about what you say, or you would stick to what you have always been over the last 454 years, some kind of iconoclast.
Ashis Nandy: I probably will not be able to change by style at the age of 75. But I will probably speak more to other societies, which are more tolerant. Many of them are not; I have in the same way in the same tone to Chinese audiences in China, knowing fully that it might lead to trouble. So I doubt whether I will change, very much. I might in considerations of the sensitivity of people who have known this only from TV, or newspapers. I will add also the fact that I am sorry if I have hurt the feelings of those who have only heard those two sentences. I they had heard the previous two sentences and the subsequent sentences they would have had a different feeling.
Rajdeep Sardesai: And what would you like to tell all those politicians who are calling for your arrest, saying that SC, ST chairperson calling for your arrest, Mayawati calling for your arrest. What would you like to call Dalit politicians today, are they playing politics with academic freedom and freedom of thought?
Ashis Nandy: Playing with more dangerous things. They are playing with a possibility that more and more they will lose their friends. Or more of their friends will not express their opinions as aggressively in their favour as previously did. And I think that will be pity. It will be pity if those intellectuals who work with ideas that are often at the margin, which are often dangerous stop doing so, because in that sense not only the Dalits, not only the OBCs, but the entire Indian society will be impoverish.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Ashis Nandy I appreciate you speaking to us and giving us your prospective. I know it is a complex argument and it is pity sometimes that complex arguments are reduced to 10-20 second sound bites. Thank you very much for joining us.