Nandy and the plight of original thinker in Twitter age

But his eminence is not worth a vote for Mayawati, Paswan and others baying for his blood

ajay

Ajay Singh | January 28, 2013


Sociologist Ashis Nandy
Photo Arun Kumar

In an age where 22-second sound bites become the source of heated political debate and vacuous intellectual discourse, eminent sociologist Ashis Nandy’s indiscretion may seem unpardonable. Clearly, he is too old to adapt to bites-induced intellectualism, making him almost incompatible with an impatient class of social elites whose intellectual span is defined by the limits set by TV studios and Twitter.

Don't miss our previous interview with Nandy: “An anomic, anarchic, free-floating violence... is looking for targets”

Nandy was hounded out by Dalit activists, social media and a section of the mainstream media for saying that the involvement of OBCs, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in corruption cases has increased of late. Nandy is known to be one of the most original Indian social thinkers and psychoanalysts whose body of work is of an exceptionally high standard. His thesis about the state being a “criminal enterprise” is often referred to by researchers to explain the foundations and rationale of the state.

But Nandy’s eminence is not worth a vote for Mayawati, Ram Vilas Paswan or those baying for his blood. His perceived indiscretion in a 22-second bite came in handy for jealous academics who see virtue in consistency and mediocrity. By any stretch of imagination, Nandy is none of that.

It would have immensely enriched the political debate if Nandy’s proposition on corruption had been carefully dissected for an improved understanding of statecraft. But then, this is the age of shooting first and asking questions later. What Nandy says deserves attention, for of late a large number of political leaders coming from the underprivileged classes have got enmeshed in corruption cases. This is certainly not a reflection on their caste but on the quality of politics and governance being practised.

Will anybody deny that A Raja, when caught in a scam, took shelter behind his Dalit identity? Is it not true that the corruption cases against Mayawati andMulayam Singh Yadav, being probed by the CBI, are being leveraged by the Congress to solicit political support for the ruling coalition? Can anybody ignore the fact that mineral-rich Jharkhand is impoverished because of the corrupt and venal ways of tribal politics in the state?

It is hardly anybody’s case that corruption is endemic among certain social groups. Far from it, Nandy explained it by giving a personal example to show how corruption is disguised as talent promotion by the upper castes. Apparently, Nandy’s formulation was intended to delve deeper into the socio-political malaise and diagnose the ills that plague us.

But the whole project seems to have been scuttled mid-way as the scholar has been put not only on the defensive but also on the run by slapping police cases against him. He was forced to say sorry for an inference he never intended to make. He is paying the price for being an original thinker who tried to turn the political discourse from rhetoric to genuine intellectualism.

What appears strange is that this streak of fanaticism and intolerance is discernible in a function organised not by an orthodox religious or caste forum but those who claim to be espousing liberalism and secularism. And in the din of rhetoric and platitudes is lost an occasion for genuine, enriched and informed debate on contemporary politics and society.

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