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.