Daily Archives: June 26, 2008

Ashis Nandy and the tragedy of the Argumentative Indian

Ashish Nandy is an influential political psychologist and has written sensibly so far. However, he is being legally persecuted for writing an allegedly provocative piece in the Times of India. His article is been touted as an assault on national integration and hence, its claimed, that he should be tried under the Indian Penal Code. An NGO claiming to deal with civic liberties has filed the case.

First question is where was this NGO during the riots? We do not have to go into the details of who started the riots and for how much of it is Modi government responsible. It would be reasonable to expect that a NGO which finds Nandy guilty of writing a provocative piece should also find Modi government guilty of not being able to control the riots or mishandling of the relief work post riots. Is this failure of Modi government not a violation of civic liberties or detrimental to national integrity? And does not it deserve the same treatment as has been doled out to Nandy?

Well, we know that when actions are politically motivated it is kind of hard to expect fairness. Having said this the important question still remains. Is Nandy’s article detrimental to national integrity? It is definitely not. Is it provocative? I think the only thing that it provokes is thought! But isn’t that is what the written word is supposed to do?

It is indeed high time we question the divisive politics that seems to be catching a significant number of people by fancy. So yes there is a need of continuous efforts to educate people about games that the politicians play. And to this end we need thousand times more of Ashis Nandys writing in all sorts of languages and forms and debating on all sorts of forums. Through reason we progress and see things which emotions try to cover up or at least color up.

If you still disagree with what Nandy has written put your thoughts in words. There is a reason why the system of writing to the editor of a news paper came to exist. With internet it has infact become even easier to use. You can comment then and there itself. The fruits of technology should be used to harbor social cohesion and not division. And cohesion will arise only through dialogue and exchange of views. It definitely cannot come through frivolous lawsuits launched by even more frivolous organizations. I would be more than happy to see BJP condemning the law suit and hope that it sincerely does so. It should do it despite the fact that Nandy accuses most of Sangha Parivar for the divisive politics. It would signal that it is open for dialogue and arguing its case rather than flexing muscles through organizations like Bajrang Dal.

Even I do not agree with some points that Nandy makes. In having a penchant for voilence he clubs Bengali babus, Maharashtrian Brahmins and Kashmiri Muslims together. While mentioning countries as maneaters he forgets to mention Chinia (we have not forgotten Tianmen square) and USSR. He also fails to mention the Maoist factions of left having a penchant for violence. By blaming Sangh parivar for radical Islam he absolves all the fundamentalist Islamic groups in India of any responsibly for their actions. I think these are good examples of gross simplification and selective empiricism. It can actually amount to distortion of history and Nandy of all the people should not be engaging in it.

However, I do agree with his objection to the role of the media. News papers in general and regional news papers in particular have failed to play their role as educators of the society. In catering to market demand they seem to be more than happy to role out pages of crap, bland and sterile psycho babble.

With all these agreements and disagreements the point still remains-pen it down and let people respond to it! Common man, as is often supposed, is seldom a fool.

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