Anil Thakraney: They should go easy on Ashis Nandy

28 Jan,2013

By Anil Thakraney


Sociologist and author Ashis Nandy made a controversial point about the Dalits at the Jaipur Litfest, and he now finds himself in a soup. Although the man later clarified and apologized for his comments, an FIR has already been lodged at the time of writing this piece. And because Nandy has been booked under the SC & ST Act, his arrest would seem like a very possible event.


For those not in the loop, Nandy had said: “Most corrupt people come from Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.” He later said that he was misquoted and misunderstood, and that he is sorry. This would ordinarily be the end of the controversy. But it isn’t, because he’s charged under the abovementioned Act.


I have stated in a previous post that freedom of expression is not absolute; it does not give you the license to defame people, and deliberately provoke communal/religious tensions. The Indian Constitution states this as much. However, I don’t think Nandy did any of that, he merely expressed a point of view (and later clarified). The logical thing would be to ask him to explain his statement in detail, and if it’s found to be defamatory to a community, Nandy can be tried in a court of law. Indeed, that’s what might have happened if he had, let’s assume, said that most corruption comes from Hindus or Sindhis or Kashmiris or UPwallahs or Tamilians, etc. However, under the SC & ST Act, casteist statements invite criminal liability, and therefore an FIR and subsequently the arrest come into play. And as per law, this is a non-bailable offence.


Now, I am not a lawyer, but I would imagine the said Act makes even minor criticism of our SC, ST and OBC brothers and sisters a matter of criminality. This doesn’t seem fair. Perhaps the time has come to re-define this Act a little more clearly and a little more fairly. So that while atrocities can invite criminal charges (as they must), general points of view (even if factually incorrect) don’t land people in jail. Especially so if the person has already apologised for the remarks. Really think time has come to move towards a more equal play for all citizens and groups in this nation. This is 2013 AD.




PS: An amazing 3-D hoarding mounted in Chicago. This is for a brand of rum (in India it would be playing cards, haha). Wonderful use of 3-D to attract attention, and one wonders why we don’t get to see such creativity in our cities. It’s not really costly to execute, and we have the contractors to do it.



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