Nandy, part 3

My previous two posts about Ashis Nandy were based on his clarifying statements, not on what he actually said in Jaipur (that I had not seen). Thanks to S Anand in Outlook magazine, who links to the video and also transcribes it carefully, we know exactly what happened.

I would like to see how Nandy’s defenders handle this.

I still don’t support arresting Nandy but I totally understand those who do. We don’t have a US-First-Amendment-style free speech in this country. This is hate speech extremely bigoted speech by any measure. [UPDATE 03/02/13: On reflection I feel “hate speech” is not appropriate. See comments below.] Nandy’s gestures and intonation are as important as what he said. As Anand (who also doesn’t support arresting Nandy) points out, if we support Nandy on free speech grounds, we must also support thugs like Thackeray and Owaisi.

Why do I not support arresting Nandy? I’m not actually sure. And that may be revealing. I think the US takes free speech too far, but I also think India takes protestors too seriously. If Nandy were a politician campaigning on a platform of hatred against lower castes, I may think differently. But he is not a politician, but a self-styled “political psychologist” who ought to be irrelevant, and in his own warped way he believes he is defending them, not attacking them. If he ceases to receive invitations from serious forums, if the media ceases to solicit articles from him, if we stop buying his books, that is surely adequate.

As for people like Gautam Barua who want me to apologise: let me put it this way. When I am angry, a personal test for me is whether my anger decreases or increases with time. If the former, I usually do apologise. In this case, let’s just say no apology is forthcoming. Barua accuses me of ‘reacting like a “scientist”, with “facts”‘. Well, ok. Last I checked, psychologists regarded themselves as scientists too and their statements are as data-driven as those of physicists or biologists, if necessarily a little less rigorous.

Ashis Nandy needs to decide whether he is a “political psychologist” or just a cocktail-party muckraker. And if the former, let him produce the data.

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14 Comments

  1. Rahul: Round Table India has many critiques on Nandy, including these two: http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6195:qis-ashis-nandy-a-sacred-cowq&catid=119:feature&Itemid=132

    and

    http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6198:qi-am-not-for-ashis-nandys-arrest-i-want-to-expose-himq-&catid=119:feature&Itemid=132

    The argument that it doesn’t really matter if FIRs are filed against him, because clearly no action will be taken against someone as well-connected as Nandy is compelling (as events have proved).

    (Personally, I am against arrest but like you, haven’t yet thought out why.)

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  February 3, 2013

      SB – thanks (and long time no see!) Yes, it’s depressing that random young women can be arested for harmless comments on Thackeray’s funeral, while Nandy will face none for his vile comments – and it is a comment on Indian academia that they are either leaping to his support ot will quietly wait for it to die down. Unlike, as Anand points out, James Watson – he could have also said William Shockley – Nobel laureates who faced ostracisation for their racist views which are actually much milder than what Nandy said.

      Reply
  2. Rahul,
    I am puzzled. Some of the articles I have seen seem to imply that Ashis Nandy belongs to ‘upper castes’. But he does not seem to be a Hindu.

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  February 3, 2013

      Swarup – I don’t understand your puzzlement. I did not call Nandy “upper caste” — I don’t know what his caste is and I don’t think it’s relevant. Or are you saying a Christian does not have a caste? That’s not generally true in India. And even if they manage to live caste-free, their ancestry is not. But again, it’s not relevant.

      Reply
  3. Anandaswarup Gadde

     /  February 3, 2013

    Rahul,
    I did not mean your posts; I was browsing through various articles. I find his comments very strange but in view of his background (seems Christian) whether those can be really termed ‘hate speech’.
    The comments seem to come under some sort ‘foot in the mouth’ or ‘not even wrong’ category and as far as I can see are not intended to incite violence. That inclines to me think that he should not be arrested.
    I must add that I was only browsing through various articles and did not read very carefully. Since your ideas about the comments and arrest seem to be close to my not so carefully thought opinions, I was just wondering about your ‘hate speech’ comment.

    Reply
  4. Anandaswarup Gadde

     /  February 3, 2013

    Here is a quote from a 2012 article of Ashis Nandy
    http://www.epw.in/perspectives/theories-oppression-and-another-dialogue-cultures.html
    “Pity and sympathy, after a point, can be degrading and vulgar. Instead of shedding copious tears for the poverty and the exploitation of the dalits and adivasis, the time has come to celebrate their self-affirmation and the enormous diversity of cultural, ecological, artistic, technological and intellectual riches they, as communities, have nurtured over the millennia. I refuse to believe that in these communities grandparents do not tell stories to their grandchildren and mothers do not sing lullabies to their babies. I refuse to believe that, outside the reach of sloganeering and propaganda, they do not have mythic heroes and myths of origin, their own and that of the world. There are impressive ethnographic works on the healing traditions, technological knowledge and agronomic practices of some of these communities. Now there is even some interest in their distinctive cuisines and there has been some serious interest in their artistic traditions. All this can be a reasonable vantage ground to launch a search for different world views and different visions of the future. I am tempted to adopt the plea of the Zapatistas that one of their finest thinkers, Gustavo Esteva articulates: the challenge today is nothing less than “to host the otherness of others”. We have been terribly busy all these years hosting the sameness of others.”
    Soo, it is difficult for me to believe that it is a hate speech.

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  February 3, 2013

      Swarup – well, on reflection I too feel “hate speech” is wrong and have edited the post. At the same time, am I the only one who finds that quote you supply monumentally condescending? I don’t know of anyone who denies that all cultures have their mythology and traditions and storytelling grandmothers. For that matter I don’t know that most serious people offer merely “pity and sympathy” to the historically dispossessed, rather than demand equal opportunity.

      Reply
      • pramod

         /  February 4, 2013

        I too thought that the quote was rather condescending. It does seem like there’s no defending Nandy here. That said, I disagree with some of the assertions in the article that the “real” corruption relates to arms deals and SEZs and other such crap. I’d argue that this stuff is mostly irrelevant happens pretty much everywhere in the world. The real corruption that plagues our lives happens much closer to home and has to do with corrupt contractors who lay poor quality roads, or cases like one I heard about yesterday where children in a government school were forced to pay Rs. 50 to take them on something that was sold to them as a government mandated picnic where they would be shown a patriotic movie, or an incident from a few years ago when an organization my mother was associated with was offered Rs. 300 per person to vote for a specific candidate in the BBMP elections.

        Reply
        • Rahul Siddharthan

           /  February 4, 2013

          Pramod — exactly. And these are the sort of corruption that hurt the disadvantaged disproportionately, certainly not equalise things! If Mayawati can become as rich as Jayalalithaa, who cares. But if, as alleged, Mayawati robbed funds meant for rural employment, one should certainly care. But even that is not something seen directly by the poor. What they see is the bribes and extortion they face on a daily basis. That’s not something you or I or Ashis Nandy need to deal with.

          Reply
  5. Anandaswarup Gadde

     /  February 4, 2013

    Rahul,
    Thanks for the replies. It is all very strange; his comments and support for him from some intellectuals. Whatever his intentions, he made very strange statements which are now confirmed. Why not apologize and be done with it.

    Reply
  6. Anandaswarup Gadde

     /  February 4, 2013

    I meant Ashis Nandy, not you.

    Reply
  7. Yes, long time!

    And re Nandy and his statements, I have now come to the conclusion that I should ignore him on all fronts. I don’t even see how reactionary comments like this and his comments after Bhagwat’s ridiculous ‘rapes happen in India’ thing are intellectual provocations. (Tehelka, I think. Googleable)

    His ‘friends’ should get a grip.

    Reply
  8. Anon

     /  February 7, 2013

    Just a clarification regarding Swarup’s coment that Nandy does not seem to be a hindu. As far as I am aware, Nandy (also spelt as Nandi) is a bengali hindu kayastha surname.

    Reply
    • Rahul Siddharthan

       /  February 8, 2013

      Yes that was probably his ancestry, but many Bengali Christians kept their original caste names. And, as I said, it is not that easy to lose your caste identity.

      Reply

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