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Is Prof Nandy a Holy Cow?: K Satyanarayana

February 1, 2013

We are posting below an interview of Dr K SATYANARAYANA on the issues arising out of the ‘Ashis Nandy case’. The interview was conducted by DALIT CAMERA and sent to us by RAVICHANDRAN

The interview raises some important issues that call for a reasoned public debate and we welcome this opportunity provided by this interview.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. Ulaga Tamizhan permalink
    February 1, 2013 2:40 PM

    Finally a voice of sanity. I strongly suggest that Kafila post the entire text of this interview which has been transcribed and posted on the blog Round Table India. http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6195%3Aqis-ashis-nandy-a-sacred-cowq&catid=119%3Afeature&Itemid=132

    • Aditya Nigam permalink*
      February 1, 2013 3:25 PM

      Dear Ulaga Thamizhan,
      Thanks for this link. The video was sent to us without the transcript and so perhaps people can follow your link to read it on roundtable.

  2. ArjunLSen permalink
    February 1, 2013 2:54 PM

    It is absolutely laughable that any person or government body can lodge a legal case against Professor Nandy – or anyone else for that matter – for expressing an opinion. Do we live in a democracy or not? Just because so many politicians and state governments – not to speak of the central government – benefit from the backwardness on enfranchised SC/ST groups is not a reason to launch an attempt to muzzle Professor Nandy. Actually what we are seeing is exactly how that corruption works. The very fact that Rajasthan state government is trying to use the law to muzzle Professor Nandy shows that he struck hot when he made that statement. Those people are worried that too much awareness will arise and eventually the game will be up so they have to shut him up. In fact, India continues to be run on the basis of the disorganisation and backwardness of backward classes. That’s why so many criminals and gangsters were – and are – running the show. That’s not the fault of these classes – but it’s still a fact.

    I haven’t read the transcript of said interview but I am broadly aware of the issue as an ordinary member of the general public.

    • Vandana permalink
      February 1, 2013 6:12 PM

      Please read it/see video. Nandy has made several comments. I expect better from an academic like him. Dont the Dalits live in the same democracy Nandy, or anyone else who jokes about stereotyped qualities of minority groups do?

    • Raj permalink
      February 2, 2013 5:44 AM

      abusing/humiliating people/communities under the guise of ‘free speech’ is called defamation and as per the indian legal system, it’s got no protection/privilege.. only in the brahminical caste universe that such casteisms will be celebrated.. and the liberal consensus of our civil society has shown us their true colour thanks to Nandy’s abusive vulgar remarks. so whether it;s ancient Nandi or Modern Gandhian Nandy, show maturity and sensitivity while making public comments.

  3. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    February 1, 2013 3:13 PM

    Dear Satyanarayana and Ravi,
    Thanks a lot for sending us this video interview. I think in your interview you raise a number of important issues for public debate. I am quite persuaded by what I see as your main point: the fact that there is a way in which Ashis Nandy’s comments, whatever his intentions may have been, do appear either condescending and perhaps, as you put it, also offensive to many Dalits.

    “First of all, I’m really upset at the way this whole discussion is taking place. I am not upset
    so much about Ashis Nandy’s comments, but I am upset at the way that Dalits as a community, including myself, are implicated in this discussion. First, as corrupt people, then as people who are intolerant, then as people who have no sense of humour; (we are implicated) in innumerable ways, as this discussion is showing. In this campaign to defend Nandy, they’re really damaging the image of the community.”

    I agree that a fair degree of stereotyping is involved in the way some of the defenses of Nandy have been made. In particular, I found the following statement of yours really important:

    “Madhu Koda is his model. But we don’t have to emulate that. We don’t have to accept that view. And our opinion has to be taken into consideration. I mean, he is making a comment specifying (that) SCs, STs and OBCs are the most corrupt people and they are creative people (in emulation), and that leads to democracy. We don’t want this kind of characterization...We don’t want this false agency to Dalits as corrupt people.”

    I do really want to think about this issue more seriously and your interview has stated things very starkly. And precisely because you have so powerfully articulated the idea that this imposition of a false agency does violence to the Dalits’ own self-perception, I am taking the liberty of raising some issues that I find very troubling, to say the least, in your interview.
    I cannot but help notice that while you blame your adversaries for representing the Dalits as intolerant etc, you have not even once examined the ways some of the Dalit groups and organizations have gone about addressing this issue.
    Not only that, you have in fact justified the resort to police cases on matters that are at best issues of bad taste rather than of casteism. In fact, the entire last part of your interview is a justification of precisely the intolerance that seeks to address matters of intellectual and political disagreement through resort to the police! And you ask, quite innocently, “what is wrong with that?” and why even someone like Lawrence Liang cannot see that this is essentially the only ‘democratic’ avenue that Dalits have? What is more, your ingenious argument actually raises the question of the failure of the Act to get convictions as a justification for a resort to the law and the police. We all know how the law and the police have been routinely used against the Dalits to falsely implicate them in cases all over the country and it is really ironical that this is to become the chosen method of Dalit activists and further justified by people like you from whom one would never have expected it.
    It seems to me that the entire effect of the first part of your interview is washed away in a single stroke with this defense and refusal to acknowledge the intolerance that lies at the heart of this act and this strategy.
    Since you cited Chandrabhan Prasad, let me also take this opportunity to place on record a conversation that I had with him on the evening of 26 January, where the first thing he told we was that even while he vehemently disagreed with Nandy, the answer to an intellectual and political disagreement cannot be that thana [police station]. His point in fact, went further because he insisted that the Dalits have to actually take the higher moral ground rather than merely mimic their oppressors. I respect that position as it is consistent with the claims of tolerance that Chandrabhan makes for his own politics. I am sure that none of what I say will make you change your mind but as I had said on an earlier occasion, it seems to me that any engagement can only be a critical engagement. I can seen many ‘tolerant’ Dalits immediately rushing to brand me as ‘casteist’ or some such similar label but they are as entitled to their opinion as I am to mine.

    • Kamal K Mishra permalink
      February 1, 2013 5:11 PM

      Thank You, Dr. Satyanarayana and Aditya da for this very important intervention!!

    • Dalit Panther Unbound permalink
      February 1, 2013 10:37 PM

      Dear Nigam Sahib,

      The last sentence of your response to Dr. K Satyanarayana’s interview ["I can seen (sic) many ‘tolerant’ Dalits immediately rushing to brand me as ‘casteist’ or some such similar label but they are as entitled to their opinion as I am to mine."] provoked this digging out. I want to bring to your notice your own post on Kafila about two years back, September 24, 2010, about “the story of a Rajput-owned dog who became outcaste because it was fed a chapati by a dalit woman.” [LINK : http://kafila.org/2010/09/24/we-are-proud-hindus/%5D.

      In this post, if you refer to a comment made by one Mr. Pheeta Ram and also your own response to that comment, i believe, your suggestion ["Can we suggest, like many commentators on Kafila have often done, that every Hindu, notwithstanding his/her modernity or secularity, is at the core, a casteist?"] in the Kafila post i am referring to, will certainly come out to be very true indeed. And by inference, a conclusion as to your being ‘casteist’ won’t be any farther from truth.

      Since there is little to no chance of Kafila hosting these responses to Nandy up front, here are the links for those interested:

      1) Dr. N. Sukumar (teaches Political Science at the Department of Political Science, Delhi University):
      http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6194:the-emperor-has-no-clothes&catid=119:feature&Itemid=132

      2) Jyotsna Siddharth ( a postgraduate in Developmental Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences): http://roundtableindia.co.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6187:ashis-nandys-comment-a-need-to-think-and-re-think&catid=119:feature&Itemid=132

    • kumarpushp permalink
      February 17, 2013 1:01 AM

      Dear Mr Nigam, What Mr Nandi had said in Jaipur about dalits are wrong and dalits will take it intellectually .Mr Nandi and other hindu intellectuals are born with same Bharat mata and they learn same language and tricks to oppress the dalits in different way.before 1984 all the jokes were made on Sikhs because hindus were defeated bySikhs in all walk of life and now same words is used for balmiki and jatav and I would not like to write derogatory word given by hindu Dharma.British had been ruling Ireland for about 840 years and Irish never bent down or defeated by British so they started making jokes of Irish people. Mr Nandi and other intellectuals are same and 120 million dalits have to find there own mother land where they can stand ans shout Mr nandi and his mind sets.

  4. passerby permalink
    February 1, 2013 10:40 PM

    will this be a repeat of capitulation by some to demands of political correctness made by some others, as it has happened in the case of text book cartoon controversy?

  5. February 2, 2013 10:11 AM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTKYORaT_0U: Bojja Tarakam is a Senior advocate who has been associated with dalit movement since Karmachedu to the present Lakshmipeta. It is important to know his view as an activist and senior advocate about SC/ST Act.

  6. February 2, 2013 3:02 PM

    Thanks for posting the interview with Dr. K Satyanarayana. One rarely sees these days a well-meaning, self-respecting Dalit representative who explained how it all can be interpreted. He was intelligent yet not unreasonable, represents the hurt that caused by Nandy’s comments and the debate around it. Unfortunately in India, you cannot assume any intellectual can speak for and represent all communities. Let’s listen to them. I appreciate Dr K Satyanarayana and your posting the interview.

  7. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    February 2, 2013 4:09 PM

    Dalit Panther Unbound,
    Thanks for reminding me of this exchange. I still believe that in many significant ways, the story of the excising of caste from public discourse is part of the repressed story of Indian modernity and secularism. I have written about this at least for the last 12/13 years. As such my comment refers to those who claim that if they do not talk about caste, because they want to address poverty and class (for instance), or those who think that they are non-casteist because they do not mention caste or claim to think outside it, but see Dalits and OBCs as casteist, because they raise the question of caste. I still stand by this position.

    However, I think one thing that I may not have emphasized earlier but want to insist on now is that from the above statement, it will be puerile to derive the argument that therefore all political positions are determined by birth! From what you say, I seem to be suggesting that since the above is true, therefore, there is no way any non-dalit can also have something to say on anything – because s/he will always bear the stamp of inauthenitcity!

    I am afraid, neither on the issue at hand nor on many other important issues can we simply take the ‘Dalit’ standpoint (itself a false description since all dalits do not share Satya’s or your position) for granted simply becuase it is being articulated by dalits. You will have to argue and show why the resort to law and police is the most preferred and legitimate way of addressing questions of political difference. You will have to show why, if you do that, you should not be called intolerant? Why can’t you write and polemicise against Nandy? If he gave one statement, you can give five hundred. Why the police? And you want us to meekly accept this diktat in the name of a so-called dalit standpoint?
    When you say that “there is little chance of hosting these responses to Nandy on Kafila” my answer is that while we can and have (in this case too) approved comments with all the links to those responses, we post only those articles on Kafila that are open to public debate. If you want us to simply post them and guilt-trip us into silence, we will beg your forgiveness.

    • Vandana permalink
      February 2, 2013 8:37 PM

      Could you please ensure that this link is active: http://kafila.org/2010/09/24/we-are-proud-hindus/%5D
      How are “all” the dalits expected to agree with or perform at the level of Dr. Satyanarayana or Bojja Tarakam? After generations of being subject to maltreatment of the ‘caste-unfair-democratic-system,’ how are the discriminated tribes enmasse supposed to ‘know’ how to fight or write or represent themselves?
      They can only be meek/forgiving or angry/violent in face of frustrating behaviours meted out to them. And, if they wish to file a report with the police, how does that effect anyone?
      Is there a fear that the police will act on it? I fail to understand why the police dont file FIRs against minorities such as rape victims or SC, STs and if they do, it may be under another code or not even followed up sometimes? And more incomprehensible is the fact that now we dont want people to go file a report because ‘lets use intelligent approach through media first’ which is not a resource that minority group has enough of!
      In any case, every group is represented by their stronger leaders, in this case, those who managed to get educated and move up the society ladder inspite of odds.
      Let them do what they need to do to better their lot!

  8. Satya permalink
    February 2, 2013 6:23 PM

    Would be very grateful if anyone on this forum can point me to any statistics or research showing breakup of corruption cases in India over the last couple of decades (or earlier) according to caste, class, gender or language group of the person prosecuted? Any criteria for defining corruption will do, just to get an idea of the numbers, percentages we are talking about. Surely in a country where there seems to be constant 24/7 discussion of corruption someone somewhere may have actually come up with evidence of what is really happening? Or should we invite some British scholars back to do all this research for us?

  9. February 2, 2013 7:47 PM

    These are some of the issues I’m trying to grapple with in this discussion:
    1. Whether freedom of speech should be absolute or whether it is desirable to have particular legal havens that can be invoked to limit it, in this case, the POA Act.
    2. If it’s the latter, whether Nandy’s utterance can be interpreted to qualify for claiming legal protection under said Act.
    3. If yes, whether the POA is even an effective instrument capable of dispensing justice and redressal to the aggrieved.

    I absolutely agree with Satyanarayana that freedom of speech should not amount to absolution. Responsibility is implied in any freedom but I personally don’t have enough data to comment on whether it should be absolute or whether it should be limited so I’m going to go with Sengupta’s distinction in his article(exception being when speech acts as direct incitement for violence) and move on to the 2nd qsn.

    The POA Act defines atrocities as “crimes which have ingredients of infliction of suffering in one form or other” (on SC/STs in India). While we can persuasively argue that Nandy should not have made that statement, it is more contentious to determine whether his remark should be construed as perpetrating atrocity or causing suffering to said community and my bias is in favour of absolving Nandy’s intent. I’ll go with the people who have found enough cause to pursue action against him and move onto the 3rd qsn, the design of the POA.

    The Act that we are invoking itself states that it is based on the assumption that “where the victims of crime are members of Scheduled Castes and the offenders do not belong to Scheduled Castes, caste considerations are really the root cause of the crime, even though caste considerations may not be the vivid and minimum motive for the crime”. The law also states that members of the SC/ST community cannot be charged under this act for any action against fellow members. This is a HUGE problem:

    1. The law sees its juridical subjects as unproblematically and uninterruptedly divided between two categories: SC/ST and non SC/ST. Therefore, the law cannot even Imagine a situation where I can use my agency to hold my community in contempt. My intent always Has to be restricted to personal malice.
    2. Continuing the same line of reasoning, the law Always assumes that an individual who is not from my comunity is exercising more than a personal grudge against me and is maligning the community i represent. The law therefore sees only the Dalitness or otherness of the persons involved. I may choose to foreground my Dalit identity, which is a positive self understanding, but it is problematic when the law fixes me and everybody else in watertight categories.

    The implication of invoking such a law is to affirm this terrible understanding of ourselves as purely Dalits or non-Dalits. Are we saying that Mayawati is naturally absolved of all responsibility to behave in a manner conducive to a more positive understanding of Dalits and is not subject to legal scrutiny while somebody else can be just because they are not Dalit? Is it desirable to see every personal affront on every Dalit regardless of the specificities of the alluded conflict in and through the context of our community? Under the law as it exists today, the answer to both questions will have to be in the affirmative and i see this as deeply offensive to our capacity for agency and self-determination.

    In Nandy’s case, you can argue more emphatically that caste considerations are the root cause of the crime and proceed to prosecute but the whole problem of how this law determines intent and our eagerness, through this Act, to see him as a natural outsider bent on harm still remains.

  10. February 3, 2013 10:42 AM

    I fail to understand the differences between the reactions shown by mainstream towards few issues in the past. The campaign to arrest Owaisi for his alleged hate speech. Read Kaneez ‘s article on the same: http://www.muslimmirror.com/view-points/1955-suppression-of-muslim-community-under-the-garb-of-political-vendetta where she writes ” Few sentences are needed to be quoted here which have been twisted and presented due to which a sense of outrage has been created among the people. The sentence that is most quoted and mispresented is, ‘Muslims are 25 crores and Hindus are 100 crores, remove police for 15 minutes then we will kill the Hindus’, this is not the correct version. Mr. Akbaruddin Owaisi said, “Aye Hindustan we are 25 crores and you are 100 crores, remove police for 15 minutes then we will deal the situation ourselves”. Mr. Akbar has never used the word HINDU in his whole speech, everyone should accept this fact. The above sentence is in the broader context, it is not reference to any community, but in fact it is reference to the state and the police, to the genocide of thousands of Muslims in various parts of the country especially Gujarat and it means that whenever Muslims want to protest they are not allowed to protest by the state and the police is deployed everywhere and if at all the Muslims are allowed to protest, then that protest is turned into violent by some anti-social elements. On one hand the state suppresses Muslims and on the other hand the anti-Muslim group in the police department target the Muslim youths and implicate them in one or the other case. The above sentence should be seen in the context of Gujarat genocide, Mumbai protest etc. ” While people are saying that Nandy’s statement should be understood in the context, why they fail to see Owaisi’s context.

    After owaisi’s arrest Kamalanandha Bharati delivers a hate speech after few protests he was arrested and now he is in bail. But how can the police and the civil society act in dual manner.

    Also we have to remember that in each trip of Togadia to Hyderabad delivers a hate speech, why was he let aloof and why the TV’s never campaigned on the same. Now again on Viswaroopam, people talk about freedom of speech. And many are extending support, But why when the movie “a Women in Brahmanisim” was banned by the state government, I never heard anybody even the so-called “The Hindu”, which talks about Viswaroopam was mute and dumb in the issue. And also we should remember that theaters were reluctant to screen the movie “Shudra the rising”

    To put my point, if Owaisi’s speech is hate, then surely Nandy’s speech is also. And dalits have filed FIR and let the court decided whether it falls in the preview of the act. If Nandy gave only an intellectual statement, then may be he can also say “RSS has to be banned in India” or “Hinduism is the root of all caste, Gender problems” Or else he can say “I really think Osmania University should conduct another beef festival”, Will he say? Never.
    Afterall I suppose only the supporters of Nandy are intolerant.

  11. yenna rascala permalink
    February 3, 2013 12:46 PM

    I found the first statement by K Satyanarayana very interesting i.e. the one where he says he feels more hurt about how his community is being implicated in the discussion as being intolerant and lacking a sense of humour.

    As a member of the non reserved classes and in particular a Brahmin I feel the same way. It has become par for the course to abuse Brahmins for any and all evils in India. The type of articles that you see in the leftist and Dalit intellectual circuit arent very different from what Hitler proposed with the jews. This unending cursing of ‘Brahmanical Hinduism’ while promoting other religions and overlooking their negative aspects just shows the motivations of such groups and above all displays dishonesty and a very narrow mindedness. The Brahmin as an individual is continually subject to this guilt by association and guilt by birth. He is in fact expected to declare himself as reformed and reject his brahminness whereas a Dalit or tribal will consider it an affront to be told to give up his clan identity.

    I wonder if the good prof in the video is able to put himself in the shoes of a Brahmin who pays his taxes, works hard, discriminates against no one but is constitutionally deprived of equal opportunity thanks to reservation, one whose children will find it ever more difficult to get admission to educational institutions while the good profs children will always have reservation on their side. If he, and other leftist /dalit crusaders do put themselves in the shoes of this the average middle class brahmin they will realize how unfair and self serving this whole policy of reservation and special benefit to the Dalits is. This is not equality – it is just revenge , in fact a blood libel, against the descendants of the alleged perpetrators of crimes committed generations earlier.

    Our affirmative action policies have created a class of super people. This super class can repeatedly claim the benefits of reservation in their own lifetimes, pass on the benefits of this reservation to their progeny and forever claim disadvantage and discrimination benefits. It is now reaching a point where accussing a Dalit of corruption is a crime itself. It is almost like we are creating a bunch of people who are above the law itself. This super class isnt the economically backward Dalit who needs upliftment – it is the Dalit bureaucrat and the Dalit crusader / intellectual. They , like the government, need to inflict poverty and backwardness on the community in order to preserve and institutionalize their own benefit.

    These policies have done very little to erase the caste sytem and its ills, on the contrary, they have set the caste system in stone and given it greater vigour. In the new caste system of modern India it is completely legal to discriminate against the non reserved classes in perpetuity. With every passing year the vultures amongst the politicians and the crusaders look for how much more they can pick off from the rest. Discrimination begets discrimination and violence begets violence. We are sitting on a tinderbox and are well on our way to greater caste confrontation. The only bright spot in the last 15 years has been that greater prosperity and urbanisation is actually reducing caste identity and faultlines which again is anathema to people having a certain worlview. I guess thats the reason why political blocks in India are often so opposed to economic policies that encourage business and investment that in turn bestow economic empowerment to the poorer amongst us.

  12. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    February 3, 2013 2:59 PM

    Vandana, You misunderstand my point about there not being a single dalit standpoint. It is not about whether everybody is ‘at the same level’ as Satyanarayana. The differences are not because some are more intellectually advanced while others are not! The differences within dalit intellectuals are no different from differences within other social groups: just like all upper caste people are not united in their thinking on all matters and all Muslims do not think alike on all issues, so too, all dalits do not think alike – even on matters of what is good for the community. This has been evident on many occasions and this ‘not thinking alike’ is not a negative thing but is a very positive sign of the fact that people are thinking and are not ready to simply fall in line with the custodians of identity and their ideologues. The dominant voices in all communities always try to suppress this difference of opinion and try to pose as if there is a unified voice. And there are such dominant voices among dalits as well who will brand any dalit who disagrees with them as an upper caste agent or some such thing. When you say ‘let them do what they need to in order to better their lot’ you are making the mistake of taking the blackmail of some dominant voices of the community as the only voice of the community. As long as their is thought, there will be differences and those need to be recognized – whatever one may think of Nandy’s statement/s.

    • Vandana permalink
      February 4, 2013 3:14 PM

      I agree that these leaders do not represent the whole community and politics is sometimes just a tool in the hands of power seekers.
      As you pointed out they may/may not better their lot but then we must hold all our other leaders accountable too. Otherwise this would be simply one more.
      Meanwhile, will he prove himself in the pursuit of the dalit cause or not…time will tell. For now, he is one of their thinkers and speakers and I can respect that.
      Democracy offers the same to all – is my main point with regards to Nandy’s SOTs and those who may be impacted by it.
      Thought and persistent action are the only hope we have for social change. Thanks for elucidating on that and finding the link to the outcasted dog story.

  13. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    February 3, 2013 3:12 PM

    Urvashi Butalia who chaired the by-now controversial session at the Jaipur Litfest, writes about how she understands what happened, and asking some questions of her own:
    “The protestors were all outside, which raised an important logistical question: how did they know what Nandy had said? The video of the session wasn’t available then (it is now), so clearly all protestors were there on hearsay. Rather like the Vishwaroopam protestors who have not seen the film, but are angry nonetheless that it will hurt their sentiments. Further, when the FIR was filed with the police, was any evidence provided – a video, a recording – of the offending speech? Did the police even ask for it? Or did they just file an FIR on hearsay? Why is no one asking this question?

    • February 3, 2013 4:26 PM

      “Rather like the Vishwaroopam protestors who have not seen the film, but are angry nonetheless that it will hurt their sentiments. ” Around 21 Muslim organizations along with Kamal watched the movie in Kamal’s house. Its after this the Muslim organization approached the government and publicly criticized the movie. What surprised me was the TV anchors was telling the representative of Muslim organizations that you cannot decided for others. But how can a Corporate TV anchor decide what is right/wrong.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP7pmxeCLOw: The debate is in Tamil, where important issues about Kamal, and his movies in particular ‘Viswaroopam’ is discussed.
      Another point here is that, we should not forget that “a women in Brahmanisim” women was certified by the censor board, the trailers were released, and Brahmin organization went and asked for a Ban for the movie stating it shows brahmins in the bad light. The director of the move said his movie is based on the novel “Chalam”. Whatsoever, the movie was completely banned. In this contexts no Brahmins watched the movie but demanded a complete ban on the film. And not a single progressive thinker in Hyderabad were ready to talk about ‘freedom of speech’. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-10-21/news-interviews/34626943_1_award-winning-film-girish-karnad-telugu: the nove was written by UR Ananthamurthy.
      In one of the TV debate the director was brutally harassed with vulgar words and the video was removed by the tv channel later.
      Its also to remember that ‘Shudra the rising’ movie though was certified the movie theatres were relectuant to show the movie even in New Delhi. (as told to me by my friend). No body spoke of this.

      In relation to FIR on Nandy. Most of the dalits/adivasis would be really surprised to see that an FIR was lodged on Nandy under SC/ST Act. I remember that even in Khairlanji, SC/ST act was not lodged. In the recent massacre in lakshmipeta again SC/ST act was not registered at first after a long protest the police added the act. However, the Sc/ST act lodged on Nandy and later the Supreme court intervention is nothing but a ‘fake’ FIR. The intervention of Supreme Court in SC/ST Act is only going to be a bad precedence. Already FIRs are not lodged but now even if anyone is lodged under the act, they can use the supreme court as an example to stop the arrest.

  14. February 3, 2013 6:50 PM

    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.”
    How can the same man say such absurd things. May be a strange sense of humor or satire.

  15. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    February 3, 2013 7:01 PM

    Anandaswarup Gadde, thank you for sharing those unambiguous words of Ashis Nandy that reveal his views on caste oppression, and Dalit and tribal cultures. Nobody who knows his work would be surprised by this.
    Perhaps your question in the end “How can the same man say such absurd things. May be a strange sense of humor or satire” would be better phrased as “The same man could not have said such absurd things (as are being attributed to him). What did he really mean?”

  16. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    February 4, 2013 12:33 PM

    Dishonesty as profession:
    A certain gentleman who goes by the name of Anand Navayana on some forums has posted one of the comments in the above discussion (by Dalit Panther Unbound) with a link to one of my 2010 articles. This was published on Kafila in September 2010. ‘Dalit Panther Unbound’ – either by mistake or by intent – gave the incorrect link to that piece. The link it gave was:
    http://kafila.org/2010/09/24/we-are-proud-hindus/%5D
    This gentleman Navayana, always in a hurry to make a quick snarky comment on anyone he chooses, so that he can get some attention gratis, pasted the above comment with his own two-pice’ observation:

    “And the said article by Nigam no longer exists—404 error! Page not found. How so convenient…”

    Others too in a hurry to condemn upper castes like me, ‘liked’ the comment, till one of them had the good sense to google/ search site and find it. Interestingly, most of those who liked it including the original poster, are themselves not dalits, but just trying to establish their own ‘radical’ credentials by a simple click of the mouse. Thankfully, before more yarn could be spun about how conveniently we had removed the post, the correct link was posted on facebook by the gentleman who found it, after having liked Navayans’s post. Thanks a ton, for this little mercy, sir!
    Navayana however, did not even find it necessary to express even a little embarrassment, so convinced is this brahmin -dalit about his own self-righteousness.
    There are other people too, who make a living out of being snarky and cantankerous. So another gentleman, not to be left behind, had a smart comment to make, attributing the error to us. Radical credentials come quite cheap these days and dishonesty on even such a small matter is enough to reveal how the innards of these folk work!
    For those who want to check out the post still, here is the link:
    http://kafila.org/2010/09/24/we-are-proud-hindus/

    • Bhav Sagar permalink
      February 5, 2013 6:42 AM

      Dear Aditya

      That certain gentleman is a charlatan, many know about that. But why you have to call him brahmin-dalit instead of simply a brahmin which is his real caste? Why u have to invent something new using the word dalit when what all you want to do is to abuse him? a Freudian slip?

      Hope you respect my freedom of speech and publish this comment and sincere apologies if you find this comment tasteless. I have been an ardent follower of your engaged academics. :)

      • February 6, 2013 1:28 AM

        I think referring to any commentator’s caste or calling him a ‘charlatan’ on a forum such as Kafila is unfortunate. Abuse is not a substitute for cogent arguments to refute whatever you think is the problem with the other person’s point of view or even manner of presenting his/her view. You can use satire, wit in as acerbic a style you choose but to indulge in name-calling is a sign that you are losing the plot completely.

  17. neerja permalink
    February 4, 2013 4:36 PM

    It’s remarkable that the EPW piece linked above was written in 2012. I’m pretty sure much of what he says in that piece has been said by hundreds of writers/activists/academicians for well over a few decades now. This to me is the really sad part of this entire debate, the unwillingness to critically examine the words of our ‘greatest minds’ and their impact on society – as if just the fact that they sprung from them should validate their greatness. For instance, how great is the fact that he endorsed (of course with much nuance, humour, irony, etc, etc) mohan bhagwat’s views on rape and urbanism? does it not indicate a lack of caste awareness? http://tehelka.com/ashis-nandy-says-bhagwat-is-right/
    Here’s somebody trying to do that and the best part is he doesn’t refer to him as Ashisda! That’s ironic too, isn’t it, that the ones uncritically supporting Nandy have themselves gone on to prove what could be the most generous interpretation of ‘his’ theory, that ‘people like us’ are always scratching each other’s backs?

    • Nivedita Menon permalink*
      February 6, 2013 12:41 PM

      Neerja, anybody would tell you that Ashis Nandy has been making this kind of argument since the early 1980′s and the general acceptability of this countermodernist viewpoint today among “writers/activists/academicians” directly owes a debt to his first articulations of it long ago. The 2012 piece cited above is the distillation of his life’s ideas in a public lecture (Ambedkar Memorial lecture organized by AUD), subsequently published in EPW.
      As for his apparent endorsement of Mohan Bhagwat, based on a telephonic interview, it’s really not far from the argument made by Left voices too – that rapid transformations, especially in the urban sphere, brought about by rampant neoliberalism are responsible for increasing violence against women:
      What is “casteist” about Nandy’s argument from the link you posted to Tehelka?
      “These are typical characteristic of anonymous cities. Highly individualised, personally thin cultures and it is so not only in India, I repeat, but perhaps all over the world from which we have data. So in one sense, Bhagwat is not wrong, but he has absolutised this difference to make a different kind of point to protect India perhaps, its so called pristine purity as it survives outside urban India.
      The sensational heading is quite misleading, and the only thing I would say to Nandy is – please check the transcripts of telephone interviews before they are published! (“in one sense he is not wrong” becomes “he is right”!)
      Here’s Arundhati Roy making a similar argument:
      “But, the other thing is that there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Earlier at least the rich did what they did with a fair amount of discretion. Now it’s all out there, on television, all the sort of conspicuous consumption, and there is an anger and a psychosis building up. Women at the top, at the middle and the bottom are going to pay the price for it, not so much at the top but certainly the dalit women are continuously going to be subjected to violence, and young urban women like the one to whom this happened are very very vulnerable to this kind of psychotic rage.”
      (Except for her explicit mention of Dalit women, the argument is the same.)
      And here is another articulation – Miranda Kennedy in Washington Post:
      “It makes sense that this attack happened in Delhi, one of the fastest-growing cities in the world…As Indians leave their villages behind, they are losing the protection and accountability that such communities provided. Even if city migrants live in a neighborhood with family members and others from their villages, as at least four of the attackers did, their ties to community are effectively broken. They are more anonymous than would ever be possible in a village. This frees them from repressive expectations, but it can also mean that they lose a sense of pride and belonging.”

      I dont agree with this kind of argument, and Sreenanthi Ninan makes a powerful critique of the ways in which Right and Left wing critiques of modernity and neoliberalism respectively, converge, in explaining away violence against women in this way. But that is another matter.

      To so freely resort to the label of “casteist” without actually engaging with the writings and life work of a complex thinker, is the kind of easy radical position that is available today for anybody who is in the business of competitive radicalism, alas.

      • neerja permalink
        February 7, 2013 3:13 PM

        Nivedita, Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment, though the personal hostility that comes up sometimes on this forum is unfortunate. I never claimed to be a radical, if indeed that was what you were insinuating, but when I do take the exam on radicalism I’ll make sure to study harder.
        It might interest you to know I wasn’t referring only to Indian academics etc. when I said his position was not in any way unique, but to the international debates around these issues. In particular to this quote that has been a source of inspiration for several years:
        “If you’ve come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” (1985)
        -Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder
        The irony is that Watson herself ‘expressed discomfort at being credited for something that had been born of a collective process’. Quite the opposite stance to your statement: “anybody would tell you that Ashis Nandy has been making this kind of argument since the early 1980′s and the general acceptability of this countermodernist viewpoint today among “writers/activists/academicians” directly owes a debt to his first articulations of it long ago.”
        Also, I never referred to Nandy as casteist. With my limited radical understanding, I do clearly know that a lack of caste awareness or reference to caste in a particular analysis does not translate to being casteist. Once again the examples you provide in your own comment illustrate what I meant. I may be wrong in how I read them, but to me all three examples were indicative of three very different ideas. The fact that Roy specifically mentions caste seems to me to be quite significant as is the the fact that Nandy doesn’t. Roy seems to be suggesting that rape has been committed for years with impunity in the feudalistic and casteist set-up that is India and it is only now that we have started paying attention. Nandy’s stance is quite different in that he sees it as an outcome of the anonymity of cities where community ties are weak and kinship dies. The absence of any mention of caste here is what is surprising, considering that an increasing number of dalit women are being raped every single day in this country and these are often extremely violent gang-rapes, but mostly, as Roy said, we don’t notice. The third example doesn’t acknowledge caste or feudalism at all but is more in line with a lot of the western media coverage of the ‘there are two Indias’ kind.
        Since our discussion is on caste and not rape, the three perspectives are not so similar. Finally, my comment meant no disrespect to Nandy’s lifelong scholarship but to question a sort of deification of a few select public intellectuals. I thank you for engaging, hopefully we can have more of that and less of ‘competitive radicalism’.

  18. Dalit Panther Unbound permalink
    February 5, 2013 10:01 PM

    Dear Nigam Sahib,
    Let me tell you that your past record of “writing about this [caste] at least for the last 12/13 years” doesn’t absolve you of the charge of ‘casteism’; the Honourable Supreme Court shall tell you that now in the light of Verma Committee Report. It further gets substantiated by your garbled response (%5D; now I want to know which editor facilitated my response on Kafila; that Sarai scriptkiddy must be singled out for target-practice!) to my post. But this claim is very revealing in one instance: Why is it that there are no Dalits/OBCs in CSDS? And, if they are there, then why is it that we have not heard even a murmur from their side on this important issue? Have they been intimidated into silence by the ‘presiding deity of CSDS’ and his fan-club?
    OXFORD AND HARVARD KIN-SHIP AND A CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN PETTY-TION
    By the way, the online petty-ition by Mr. Ravi Sundaram is an ‘event’ of paramount importance in the history of Dalits and OBCs and other suppressed communities of India (henceforth Dalits). By one single stroke, Mr. Sundaram has laid bare the secret circuits, nexuses to be more precise, of cultural/academic capital that Nandy himself has very innocently revealed in the heat of the moment. I don’t think Mr. Boole would get offended if I quote a comparatively ignored, but very significant, statement of Mr. Nandy at JLF:

    If I do a good turn to Richard Sorabjee, he can return the favor by accommodating my nephew at Oxford perhaps with a fellowship on, if he was in United States, it would be a substantial fellowship.

    Later, in his clarification he made the same point albeit with a significant addition: the name of another Ivy League, Harvard, where his writ runs large, and where he can play God. The part of the statement I am referring to goes like this:

    I said that if people like me or Richard Sorabji want to be corrupt, I can send his son to Harvard giving him a fellowship and an allowance fellowship, and he can send my daughter to Oxford. No one will think it to be corruption. Indeed, it will look like supporting talent.

    With this revelation, I think all the interviews, whether they be for fellowships (in India or abroad) or jobs, that Mr. Nandy has conducted or recommendation letters/references which he has given come under (at least Dalit) scanner. Similarly, it won’t be wrong to assume that CSDS, where Mr Nandy is the presiding deity, is the hot-bed of such kind of ‘corruption.’ Now our task simply remains to unearth it; and one of the clues we have to work with is the list of names that adorn Mr. Sundaram’s petition. We take Nandy’s challenge and promise that we will ensure that such kind of you-scratch-my-back-and-i-scratch-yours corruption doesn’t go unnoticed by the larger public, or the ‘multitude’ to be more precise. The free-lunch brigade at CSDS should particularly start counting its days now.
    Further, this reason-busting revelation by Mr. Nandy raises serious questions about the credibility of such institutions like Oxford and Harvard and their conveyer-belt scholarship. I am surprised why these institutions have not denied such ‘revelations’ or taken Nandy to task for tainting their reputations. But don’t worry we will ensure that they take note and be doubly suspicious of people who carry references of CSDS brand. I have often wondered as to why we, in our times, never got to know of such passages to greener pastures, or never came across such deities who could push us through the doors of hallowed institutions, while upper-caste privileged people were availing of Rhodes-and-what-not scholarships and were going to the US on full-fellowships. A substantial cache of scholarship that has come via Cambridge-Oxford and other Ivy League universities of the West bears the ‘twice-born’ mark. I know, I know I need to substantiate this assertion but that’s only a matter of time, and let me assure you we have set our eyes on doing exactly that! A considerable body of forthcoming revisionist Dalit scholarship in the social-sciences and humanities shall validate my assertions.
    Now, chalte-chalte, let’s tackle Mr. Ravi Sundaram aka ‘The Pirate Modern’ via his petty-tion: He maintains that Mr Nandy’s “method has been to illuminate through anecdote, aphorism and irony.” I wonder why Mr. Sundaram is not able to understand that Mr. Nandy’s irony could be lost on many a people. He also thinks that “Nandy’s deliberately ironic remark…may not be to the liking of all…” Most stupidly he is convinced that Nandy’s remarks fall in the purview of ‘likes and dislikes’ and hence they cannot be challenged intellectually. ( I don’t like Baingan and Karela by the way!) Now if he, a representative of entire twice-born brigade, thinks so then why is his clique throwing a challenge at the Dalit community to engage with Nandy only at the level of intellect. While we promise to do that too, I believe the so-called ‘street fighter’ should not be kept away from the streets for long. And one strategy to do that would be to boycott all the interviews where Nandy and his CSDS acolytes appear as ‘experts.’ Now that so many Freudian slips have revealed the casteist muck that constitutes the twice born Brahmanical unconscious, it is imperative that these Gods are not given the responsibility to determine the careers of our people.

    LISTENING TO A CERTAIN GRASSHOPPER (WITH IN-EAR MICROPHONES!)
    The entire twice born, upper-caste assemblage has accused us of being ‘deaf’ and ‘in need of hearing aids’ to be able to ‘hear’ the ‘nuances’ of theory and fine thinking. The title of Mr. Lawrence Liang’s post at Kafila (“A Guide to Infantalising and Trivialising the Public Sphere”) and the content itself is starkly illuminating, nay revealing, of his ‘adopted’ albeit by now very deep-seated twice-born Brahmanic prejudices full of treachery:

    Those who are up in arms against him seem to have huffed and puffed to a point of breathlessness and shortness of breath- doctors will tell you- can affect your hearing. So it might be worth our while to pause, take a deep breath and agree that even if we disagree with what Nandy said it may at best be a disagreement about form in which case one can generously shrug the statement as an awkwardly construed statement. And if one disagrees with him in substance then lets pretend for a while that we are a mature democracy and challenge him intellectually.

    He first insults us by calling us ‘infants’ (very much like nineteenth century Orientalists) and then names our sense of hurt and the resultant response as being ‘trivial.’ He further commits a grave category mistake by conflating two opposing, always-at-war and irreconcilable categories, that is of Twice-born and the Dalit (what some of the illustrious twice-born scholars have very revealingly often termed as ‘Self’ and the ‘Other’) into a pseudo democratic singularity ‘we’. Still further, despite having termed Nandy’s statement a ‘speech-act’ he very pretentiously challenges us, the Dalits, to shift the arena of contestation to the home-turf of the twice born (Language-Games Village) and “challenge him intellectually.” In another sentence in his write-up, he justifies “a verbal or intellectual redressal rather than resorting to legal remedy or street protest.” Dr. Satyanarayana castigates him very appropriately for his denigrating ‘legal institutions’ and looking down upon ‘street protests’ despite himself being a trained lawyer and that too of a certain progressive hue. I want to ask you why the Dalits can’t resort to ‘street protest’ against a so-called ‘street fighter’. This also betrays an unconscious fear of twice-born elite of the ‘multitude’ and its stepping on the grass.
    Interestingly, Mr. Liang’s last sentence in the quotation above can also be productively read and interpreted in another way: He makes a call to the twice-born intellectuals saying that even if the Dalits disagree with Mr. Nandy, let ‘us’ (that is, the twice-borns) “pretend for a while that we are a mature democracy and challenge him intellectually.” With a single stroke, he declares the Dalits incapable of taking on Nandy ‘intellectually’ and instead exhorts the Nandian syndicate by saying: “Aao dimag-dimag khelen for the infants’ amusement!” I am wondering that if these so-called public intellectuals nurse such deep-seated antipathy for the Dalits, revealed only in fleeting fortuitous Freudian slips, how can we ever trust them to be our comrades-in-arms.


    Filing a case under the SC ST (Prevention of atrocities Act) and the IPC against a speech act with absolutely no malicious intent only trivializes the intent that corrective legislations like the former were meant to address.

    I would suggest you to train your eyes specifically on the fragment “a speech act with absolutely no malicious intent.” Here Mr. Lawrence Liang un-intent-ionally fashions out a rich example out of himself of the true character of a major body of twice-born ‘scholarship’ on the Dalits and oppressed communities of India. He claims to know Nandy’s ‘intent’ as if he were Nandy himself. He claims to have a privileged access to the deep recesses of Nandy’s mind. And a corollary of this would be, that Mr. Lawrence Liang can also adjudicate in this matter at the affective register and tell the Dalits whether they have the right to get hurt or not. So, do I mean that twice-born don’t have the right to speak on behalf of the Dalits or that they don’t have the right to theorize their experiences, their life-worlds? See, the ‘writing machine’ let loose by the Brahmins can’t be stopped; they will write, and all sorts of things, and commit all sort of fallacies whether they be intent-ional or affective. They will write of Dalits, write their histories, create knowledge systems around them, write their auto/biographies and produce literatures and critical ‘scholarship’ around them. But they shall remain twice-born nevertheless! It means that Dalits haven’t spoken yet, and let me assure the likes of Lawrence and Nandy’s Shivji, that the day Dalits would start speaking you would lose the ability to hear, the ‘art of listening’ as it were.
    People may jump to ask: how can you lump Lawrence Liang with the twice-born? My reply would be, of course breft of all theoretical nuance, ‘jab tarbooj tarbooj ko dekh ke rang badlata hai, to kya aadmi twice-born ke sang reh kar rang nahi badlega kya ji? ’This is what the company of twice-born does to you; it colours you in its own hues. It doesn’t matter whether you have a different identity, no-identity or multiple identities; you shall be co-opted into their system ultimately. That is exactly the reason why some of the Dalits lounging in twice-born citadels have started misleading themselves and the coming generations of being born not once but twice: the second birth takes place when they join some institution of repute as a student or an employee. I will propose to you…it is a fact, in Nandian vein, that most of the Dalits (infact, entire generations) who have been ‘privileged enough’ to make it to these institutions by virtue of reservations, which were fought for and won after a prolonged struggle (some people writing in TOI tell us a contrary though curious tale: “Purely mathematically, since most people in the country belong to the underprivileged sections (which is why we provide 50% reservations to them), most cases of corruption must also come from them.” See Prashant Pandey: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-real-truth/entry/ashish-nandy-s-statement-shows-how-poor-our-language-and-mathematics-skills-are), are still reeling under a huge inferiority complex. I am ashamed to have met quite a few of these gentlewo/men who have not even read Ambedkar’s biography leave it his entire volumes of collected works.
    Conclusively, Mr. Lawrence Liang’s arrogance, typical of his twice-born cohorts, is amply reflected when he doesn’t even con-descend to reply to responses to his post on Kafila. Shuddha atleast has some humility to do so. Keep it up, Mr. Liang!
    A DEAF DALIT LISTENS TO MR. SHIV VISHWANATHAN (WITHOUT HEARING-AIDS)
    Now let’s take on Shiv-ji maharaj again who has entered the arena to rescue Mr. Nandy (according to Hindu mythology he had a bull which went by the name of Nandy, if I am not wrong). He says :

    Nandy’s argument is a complex one. To understand it, one has to first understand that the electoral system circulates corruption. New groups entering the system therefore, see election as an opportunity for corruption. Indian democracy becomes a game of musical chairs of corrupt practices.

    I wonder why we even need to take such masters and their bulls (stalwarts of ‘twice-born social sciences’) by their horns. “Nandy’s argument is a complex one” indeed (chuckle), but Shiv-ji forwards even more nuanced and complex one: he nearly equates ‘democracy’ and its key mechanism, the ‘electoral system,’ to ‘corruption’ itself. I wonder what better system he is hinting at, but we must remind him that what thousands of years could not give us, the Dalits, democracy has provided us with that: it has situated us with him as his equals. Democracy for us is enabling and provides us agency; and, we don’t want to emulate their corrupt practices and ‘sanskritise’ ourselves to a ‘better’ lot. We will learn what is better for us and our future generations, but certainly not your corrupt ways. We shall render threadbare the entire bankrupt subterranean apparatus, carcass to be more precise, of your knowledge systems by producing knowledge about it. We shall write about you, the twice-born Brahmin elites, write theses about your ‘kin-ship’ (why is this word so resonant, pregnant with theoretico-historiographical possibilities?) relations, about your relations of knowledge production and the attendant ideologies. In fact, we would like to train your conceptual guns towards your own citadels but in ironical ways. (Just to give you a hint of forthcoming book titles: ‘Theoretical Frames for Emancipatory Transformation: A Report on the Present State of Health of Twice-born Brahmanic Elites in the Academia’; ‘CSDS and its Juggernaught of Kin-ship Relations: A Primer for the Unsuspecting’ to name just two). We shall invent our categories, our concepts and ascribe them our definitions, and by doing so, we shall ensure that the republic holds a hope for futurity.
    While defending Nandy, his erstwhile CSDS-colleague and now doing theory at the behest of Jindals, Mr. Shiv Vishwanathan, glorifies him as a ‘street fighter,’ one who is ‘ready to grapple with the fate of ideas, (and) obsessed with the idea of democracy.” I think it is this ‘street fighter’ in Nandy that made him run away from the Police instead of grappling with the fate of ideas. Nandy’s ‘obsession’ with the idea of democracy is more revealing in fact. This twice-born fear of the Police (“Tumhain Police ke paas jaane ki kya zaroorat hai, ghar main hi sort out kar lete hain na?”) instead smacks of a deep distrust for democracy and the democratic public institutions; and the reasons are quite obvious and unsurprising given the fact that now the twice-born have started getting intimations of the signs of coming times which don’t bode well for them and their corrupt systems based on ill-gotten cultural capital.

    A provocation can be domesticated by an argument. Sadly one heard very few arguments. What one saw instead, was provocation being met by a vigilantism of political correctness. One hopes that more playful minds enter the debate.

    ‘A provocation can be domesticated by an argument.’ Exactly! That’s what the twice-born have been doing to the Dalits since time immemorial. They have elaborate arguments as to why the Dalits don’t have the rights to knowledge and why it is their birthright to clean the twice-born tatti (‘maila’ is too euphemistic so much so that it even stops smelling). The twice-born production of so-called ‘knowledge’ about the Dalits is another way of ‘domesticating’ them like cattle in their homes. It is because of this curious tendency of the twice-born intellectuals that we have embarked upon a study whereby we are teasing out the ingenuity of metaphors, images, phrases and other theoretical ‘nuances’ which are being employed by the twice born to reify the Dalits in this Nandy fiasco. And believe me, it is a very productive exercise.
    An example of this can be furnished right now: Shiv-ji accuse us of being deaf and in need of ‘hearing aids.’ Now this assertion of his won’t ring any bells in twice-born ears (I can bet my 500 cc Enfield on this!) but for the ‘Deaf’ Dalits it evokes painful historical resonances. It is Manu, the twice-born lawgiver, who had ordained that the Dalit ears be filled with molten boiling sheesha if they get to hear, even by mistake, some words of twice-born wisdom. These Manu-putras made it sure that this injunction be carried out with missionary zeal and for centuries they have been rendering us, the Dalits, deaf. Mr. Shiv-ji, a Manu-putra himself, knows the history of his ancestors too well to suggest us ‘hearing aids’!

    ‘INTOLERANCE’, ‘UNFORGIVENESS’ AND ‘ANGER’: THEORETICAL AUJAARs/HATHIYAARs FOR DALIT EMANCIPATION
    “Since you cited Chandrabhan Prasad, let me also take this opportunity to place on record a conversation that I had with him on the evening of 26 January, where the first thing he told we was that even while he vehemently disagreed with Nandy, the answer to an intellectual and political disagreement cannot be that thana [police station]. His point in fact, went further because he insisted that the Dalits have to actually take the higher moral ground rather than merely mimic their oppressors.

    I differ with Chandrabhan Prasad on both counts: first on his assertion that the Dalits are wrong in resorting to ¬law, and second, on his insisting that the Dalits need to take a ‘higher moral ground’ and not merely mimic their oppressors.
    I shall tackle the latter first. My proposition is that challenging the twice-born using the category of ‘tolerance’ and ‘fogiveness’ would only prove counterproductive. Instead, we will do well to use counter-intuitive categories like ‘intolerance’, ‘un-forgiveness’ and ‘anger’ and witness the productive anarchy of emancipatory ideas. Further, it is less a case of anger management or control and more of its channelization. It is this affective category of ‘anger’ that shall keep the substratum of memory away from the dangers of erasure that the Dalit community is currently confronted with. This harvesting of anger and the spirit of rivalry shall further the cause of Dalit emancipation. The category of ‘anger’ can also be foisted to provoke and challenge the twice-born theorists (TBT) into showing their ‘nuanced fangs’. When we stop playing on your turf, and by your rules, it is then that the actual theoretical battle begins. I would further like to suggest two extremely productive yet opposing theoretical frames. Though counter-intuitive in exactly the Nandian sense yet worthy of use while ‘weaving’ further knowledge about the Nandy affair/fiasco these opposing categories are ‘Twice-born Fear’ and ‘The Dalit Anger.’ And while doing so, we can marshal tools and methods of his own trade, that is, psychoanalysis, to show him his place. Psychoanalysis, like magic realism, will provide our imagination-fired-with-‘anger’ enough agility, elasticity and maneuvering space to show that the emperor has no clothes because, we the weavers, have stopped producing clothes for him!
    Now the first. It is interesting that at least two people (Shuddhabrata Sengupta and Lawrence Liang) have taken the trouble to invoke the category ‘speech act’ while discussing the Nandy affair/fiasco. It comes handy exactly here. A ‘speech-act’, as we know, is a performative act; rather than constituted of ‘all hot air’, it ‘does’ something during its becoming, brings something into being, initiates or initializes it, or blows something in proportion, for example, like the already existing hostile discourse against the Dalits in the twice-born public sphere. Not only does it lead the twice-born to invoke all kind of imagery and categories in relation to the Dalits, but more harmfully, it also leads to a negative change in the Dalit self-perception, as Dr. Satyanarayana valorously maintains. An apologetic and a rather juvenile and pedestrian use of ‘acceleration’ to talk of media-machine by a new age Nandy fan in Nandy’s defense can be counterpuntally applied in order to emphasize the gravity, and severity of Nandy’s offensive ‘speech-act/s’ and ‘Freudian slips’ (oops!). It is exactly because of this iteration and ballooning of the speech-act to exponential proportions that Nandy’s offense against the Dalit community justify their resort to democratically instituted bodies, that is the Police, to enforce law of ‘we, the people.’ s
    AND YOU MR. NIGAM!
    “but as I had said on an earlier occasion, it seems to me that any engagement can only be a critical engagement…I can seen (sic) many ‘tolerant’ Dalits immediately rushing to brand me as ‘casteist’ or some such similar label but they are as entitled to their opinion as I am to mine.

    Now I am tired of this continuous rant of the twice-born, English educated Brahmanic elite, of which you are an esteemed member, when you say: “but they are as entitled to their opinion as I am to mine.” You think that this amounts to furthering the Right to Free Speech. Of course it does but before jumping this rollercoaster we need to question the inherent assumptions of this assertion. This apriori entitlement to our opinions somehow obfuscates, nay gives a false impression to the effect that ‘Right to Free Speech’ also means being ‘Right’. What it discreetly doesn’t tell you is that though the Dalits have the right to their opinions (owing to media ‘acceleration’) yet the Truth (‘brahma-wakya’) is what the Brahmins, twice-borns have ordained. Ultimately, it is your opinion that shall bear the stamp of Truth duly validated by twice-born protocols; our assertion shall always remain an opinion, that too a ‘trivial’ one vide Mr. Liang. So this false sense of agency and equality that the Dalits experience at your patronizingly giving them the right to their opinion is quite misleading. The terrain of ‘Truth’ is highly contested one as someone who goes by the name of (I am missing his name..errr) would tell you. In our present context too, whoever commands the twice-born public sphere shall finalize what the Truth in this matter would be. We have entire twice-born machinery armed with their inherited epistemology and hermeneutics challenging us to dare make ‘five hundred’ ‘truth-claims’ with regard to Nandy and his Shiv-vani. Since there are no apriori truths and it is the ideologies that ram truths down our throats, this time we would like to get hold of that mythical truth producing hammer. As I said before, we take your challenge and you shall see! You can’t challenge us on grass, and we shall defeat you off the grass too!
    Challengingly yours!
    Dalit Panther, Unbound!

    • Lawrence Liang permalink
      February 6, 2013 5:19 PM

      what can I say after you have so lovingly exposed me as a disguised twice born, orientalist, treacherous watermelon, I guess I will just have to go to the corner and play with some fruits and nuts or would that make me a-kela? oh well there is always the aam aadmi party

  19. Aditya Nigam permalink*
    February 6, 2013 12:07 PM

    Dear Dalit Panther Unbound,
    Thanks a lot for your long, largely substance-less, ill-informed rant that is so full of deliberate distortions and misinterpretations that I could simply rest my case by publishing it without comment. We are publishing it, however, mainly for the benefit of people who might not otherwise get to see the gems of wisdom you have spouted. I will not answer most of your assertions – how can one answer a rant? Some things however need to be placed on record:
    1. Did I say I needed your ‘good conduct’ certificate? I have never written anything to get a certificate from you (you, who do not even want to come out with your name, despite signing off as “challengingly yours”!!). I write what I believe in and you can suit yourself with whatever labels you want to give me. I have had many others in the past: anti-national, agent of the Indian state, anti-Hindu, anti-Left, anti-Right, pseudo-secularist, pro-Hindutva and so on. So one more will hardly make any difference.

    2. Kafila is not an outgrowth/ offshoot of the CSDS. So please direct your inquiries related to CSDS to the CSDS administration.
    However, since I personally work there, let me state:
    (a) that there are and have been dalits and OBCs in CSDS faculty in the past and in the present; that our Ph D programme has always given special attention to getting dalit students associated with the institution.
    (b) This is done because we believe this is an important task that an institution like CSDS should be performing – not in order to get your approval.
    (c) You should contact the Dalit and OBC members in CSDS privately and ask them whether they have been silenced on this issue, before you shoot your mouth off. Nothing gives you the right to make such insinuations without doing your homework.
    (d) CSDS is a public institution that is regularly scrutinized by government bodies that fund it, our main funder being ICSSR, headed currently by Prof Thorat. You may also want to do a social audit of the ICSSR and make relevant inquiries from Prof Thorat himself about CSDS.

    3. I look forward to your books exposing the academia and the CSDS. I also look forward to the new epistemological project outlined by you. I have always learned from dalit wiritngs and I hope despite all your efforts, I do not lose the faculty of learning even in engagement with an adversarial opinion.

  20. Ram permalink
    February 6, 2013 10:17 PM

    Dear Dalit Panther,
    The only two things which are making sense:
    Even the backhanded so-called compliment given by Nandy is in bad taste and offensive, w.r.t Madhu Koda etc. – fair enough
    In the critique, defense and in this whole controversy, there has been stereotyping of Dalits – agreed.

    On whether going to the police was necessary etc, some more discussion is needed.

    The rest of it is, to put it politely, absolute tripe. Your whole rant rests on the premise that X or Y is not Dalit, you presumably are, and therefore you must be more authentic and better placed to comment or understand etc.
    it might appear as productively anarchic, or radical or whatever else, but in my opinion, it’s only going to result in navel-gazing.

  21. Rajshree Chandra permalink
    February 6, 2013 10:34 PM

    Dalit Panther un-bound ( and unraveled),
    Thanks you for your expose’ on the “presiding god” Ashish Nandy; his twice born darbaari, Aditya Nigam who has not been able to hide the taint of casteism from his writings thus far; on shiv ji maharaj ji, whose Shiv-vani is at the behest of Jindal Global Univ and who still retains his loyalty for his erstwhile abode, the brahmalok (read CSDS) when he talks of hearing aids; on Lawrence Liang, a first born who has now taken on the colour of a twice born tarbooz without being either tarbooz or twice born (my personal favourite amongst your similes – though you could be accused of being racial you know!); on the modern pirate, Ravi Sundaram and his Petty-tion (you could have productively called him a petty (twice born) son – that would have been a more punny take on the twice born citadels of privilege…. Did someone accuse you of infantilizing public sphere? You have done worse – you have trivialized it to an extent where it’s difficult to separate the rave from the rant. I wish your “speech act” was not on behalf of the dalits – they deserve better.

  22. Kaveri Gill permalink
    February 7, 2013 11:14 AM

    Judging by their official voice above, if the Dalit Panthers’ – i.e. dalits by birth; only those dalit sympathiser intellectuals / activists from the entrenched elites who value political correctness over complex, if bluntly put, arguments, backed up by a lifetime’s intellectual integrity in both intention and act; and other such narrow identity / BOUND categories who have the right to assume the mantle of representing the authentic dalit voice and sentiments in a revolutionary struggle – if their prime obession in India today is Ashis Nandy and CSDS, it’s a terribly sad and vacuous day, reinforcing of the very given categories and marginalisation they’re against, some might say. The word humbug comes to mind, too. Given their cause, their time would be better spent analyzing ‘speech acts’ just down the road from CSDS, at SRCC, no? More gravely, has nothing been learned from the formal Left’s recent past, how they actively went about making themselves irrelevant? But connecting the dots needs hard and at times, uncomfortable, thinking and questioning, of oneself, one’s positionality and alliances – too much effort and nuance, I suppose, easier to just rant and bash away.

  23. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    February 7, 2013 4:44 PM

    Neerja, I apologize if the general tone of everybody on this issue got to me too. Indeed, you did not claim to be radical, nor did you call Nandy casteist. But you do seem to be unaware of Nandy’s scholarship even if you meant that global voices (and not just Indian) had been saying for decades what he was only saying in 2012. What point exactly are you making by quoting Lilla Watson? I really dont understand. Surely you dont think I meant that aboriginal people owe a direct debt to his articulation of some ideas? The point I’m making is that Nandy has been a critical and key voice, taken seriously among global counter-modernist voices, and he in fact takes aboriginal wisdom seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him quoting Watson somewhere in his writings. He has always emphasized the collective nature of pre-modern knowledge and subject positions as something that was being lost to us through the incursions of individualist modernity. I have been a critical reader of Nandy and very far from endorsing his romanticization of the pre-modern, and he certainly shows like many others, a “lack of awareness” of both caste and gender. But dealing with that is what serious intellectual engagement is about. What we see in the attacks on him is very far from serious engagement.
    As for how you have chosen to read the three extracts I provided, I think you’re missing the point altogether, and it does seem that you want to hold on to an a priori characterization of Nandy that you’re not ready to have shaken.

    • neerja permalink
      February 7, 2013 5:11 PM

      Nivedita, I assure you, I want every a priori characterization in my head to be shaken! And I thank you for always doing so in my limited exposure to your scholarship. I absolutely agree with you that most of what we’ve been hearing is far from critical engagement but I just wonder if we can, in moments like this, do so ourselves by being a little conditional, when needed, in our support for the important voices in the intellectual establishment? That was what I was attempting in my limited way. Somehow the debates on the ‘hurt sentiments of dalits’, especially during the whole ambedkar cartoon controversy, seem to indicate an emergence of an otherwise unspoken divide between comrades, which is often taken advantage of by our right-leaning friends, and I’m hoping for more voices to bridge that, like Shuddabrata’s piece here, which brought in an important angle to this. I hope I haven’t wasted too much of your time here and I want to thank you once again for making me think!

  24. February 17, 2013 10:19 AM

    Satish Poduval speaks about Freedom of expression, where he refers to Lawrence’s point and differs with it. Do watch it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kz5MZOAQY7Q

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