Social commentator Ashis Nandy, whose remark about corruption and the Dalit community has triggered a major controversy, has declared that he stands by his comment.
In an interview with CNN-IBN, he explains how corruption balances the discrimination in society and is partly an equalising force.
On being hounded over his comment: “No I don't feel hounded or frightened. I know if people read the script of what I said or see the video, they will know what they are quoting most frequently is part of a most aggressively pro-Dalit, pro-OBC, pro-Adivasi plea. I did stand by them and I do want to stand by them.”
On offering an apology: I apologise to those hurt by my sentence, but not to those who are using my statement to make a point, which is against the thrust of what I have said in this particular presentation as well on the earlier occasions and consistently though out my life in the last 45 years.”
On the statement being branded casteist: “It may also be seen as me supporting the corruption of Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs, which I was, because corruption is partly an equalising force. This balances the discrimination in the society to some extent. The corruption in the other section of society actually has more finish and they have better resources to fight the accusations of corruption. In the case of OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis, corruption gives them some access to the resources of society. That's why I said I stand by the fact that there is hope for the future of the country.”
On the upper caste being responsible for the corrupt order: “I said exactly that. If you had heard the earlier two sentences, you would have known that. I gave an example of how elite corruption can often be hidden -- seen almost like benevolence, social good, whereas the corruption by lower orders is seen as un-seemingly corrupt, as crude corruption. That's why it makes a greater splash.”
On the upper caste getting away with corruption: "That's what I wanted to say. This point was made by many others like (journalists) Tarun Tejpal and Shekhar Gupta. So this point is not made by me alone. This point has been made by a number of people. I had made this point in the 'Sachar Memorial Lecture' few months ago, where nobody objected to it.”
On the most corrupt increasingly hailing from SC/ST and OBCs communities: “Increasingly is the crucial word. I should have emphasised on that word more but I did not think of this as a public forum in that sense. I thought of it as a literary meet. So it's unfair to ask me to choose my words. I was not speaking in the Parliament or in a court of law.”
On the growing intolerance in society: “Absolutely. I have seen this happening to a number of artistes, painters and authors.”
On West Bengal being least corrupt due to ‘upper-caste rule’: “I said it looks clean because corruption has become institutionalised and is beautifully handled. We have paid for that apparent cleanliness by keeping out SC/STs and OBCs from getting close to power. In that sense, Bengal is one of the most back backward states in India, though not the most backward state.”
On rationalising the corruption of SC/STs and OBCs: “This is dangerous. But I was not talking about individuals. I'm talking of collectivities which are at the margin of desperation.”
On Dalit leaders becoming holy cows: “Yes that danger is very much there. But that's the price we have to pay for democracy.”
On the freedom of debates and ideas: “I fear for it. We have become afraid of the clash of ideas. People will be talking more and more in banalities and in platitudes. That's pathetic. I think our public life will be impoverished.”
On standing by his views: “I probably will not be able to change my style at the age of 75. But I will probably talk to other societies which are more tolerant. Many of them are not. I have spoken in the same way in the same tone before a Chinese audience in China, knowing fully well that it would lead to trouble. So I doubt whether I will change very much. I, in consideration of the innocence of many people who would have probably learnt about this from television or newspapers, also add the fact that I am sorry if I have hurt the feelings of the people who have only heard those two sentences of mine. Had they heard of the two previous sentences and then the subsequent sentences, they would have had a different feeling.”
On Dalit politicians: “They are playing with more dangerous things. They are playing with the possibility of more and more; they will lose their friends. More friends of theirs will not express their public opinion as aggressively in their favour as they previously did. I think it will be a pity if those intellectuals -- those who work with the ideas which are often at the margin, which are dangerous and troublesome -- stop doing so. Then the entire Indian society will be impoverished and toothless in its intellectual domain.”