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Can we sympathize with Ashis Nandy just because he is a noted sociologist?
The elite and the media seem to be sympathetic towards noted author Ashis Nandy, who landed in a major controversy due to his uncharacteristic attributions to the marginalized sections of the society. After he stroked a row with his comments that 'most corrupt people come from Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes', several people, who claim to be champions of the cause of those sections found it difficult to condone or condemn Nandy.

Participating in a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Nandy added: “I will give an example. One of the states with the least amount of corruption is state of West Bengal when the CPI(M) was there. And I must draw attention to the fact that in the last 100 years, nobody from OBC, SC and ST has come anywhere near to power. It is an absolutely clean state.”

Many, who are unable to support his outbursts, raised the question of Freedom of Speech and Expression. The so-called elite version goes like this:  Ashis Nandy’s choice of words, phrases, and examples can be questioned. He is not an orator or a public speaker. One can also differ with his argument and analysis, for instance, his failure to distinguish between “corruption of the poor” and the “corruption of their leaders,” whose subversion of rules often results in them robbing the very poor who are also their constituents.”

However, the same people pointing out Nandy’s argument that the “rules of the game” have been set by an elite class to which he belongs, certainly has merit. General views being expressed are clamping down on nuanced utterances and elliptical statements of the kind Nandy made will only make us a poorer democracy and Republic.

Even national media also seems to be silent on these remarks. Instead of showing courageous posture to withstand and face rough weather after his remarks attracted police intervention, Nandy preferred to leave Jaipur silently. Even the police are now not showing any major willingness to move forward on the case.

The Tehelka team, which showed Bangaru Laxman receving Rs 1 lakh as bribe in a sting operation, is attempting to save Nandy from this trauma. It seems they have destroyed tapes of recorded proceedings of the Literary Festival, to prevent presence of any authentic record of Nandy’s ‘controversial’ talk. Whatever the merit of his point of view, his ‘tirade’ against marginalized sections of our country only reflects his egoistic nature.

It is unfortunate that the elite are biased and selective on the issue of freedom of speech. When young BJP MP Varun Gandhi was arrested under National Security Act for his speech in an emotional and surcharged environment, all such champions were silent.

The same people were silent when MIM legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi ‘hate speech’ attracted ire of certain sections of the society. CDs of his speech in public meetings, in the presence of police, were telecasted by both local and national TV channels. Nobody even bothered to talk about freedom of speech and expression then.

With regard to merits in Nandy’s comments, it is true people belonging to OBC, SC and ST communities are being exposed more than people from upper class communities. Take the example of JMM chief Shibu Soren, who was caught accepting an amount of Rs 50 lakh to support P V Narasimha Rao government in no-confidence motion. As he hails from most backward tribal community, he was not ‘professional’ in dealing with money. He innocently deposited the amount in his bank account. Nowadays, we are hearing transactions of hundreds of crores of rupees in various deals. Can any investigative agency reveal the whereabouts of these cases?

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