Caste and corruption: Nandy triggers storm in Jaipur

It isn’t novelist Salman Rushdie this time. But controversy and the
Jaipur Literature Festival have met yet again. Just three days into
the fest, sociologist Ashis Nandy’s controversial comments that people
from the Other Backward Classes, the Scheduled Classes and the
Scheduled Tribes – the marginalized communities – were the “most
corrupt,” sparked anger and protests, forcing him to leave the city
within 24 hours after a case was slapped on him by police.

Nandy was to address a session on ‘Hindi English Bhai Bhai’ at the
festival on Jan 27, but failed to turn up as the SC/ST Rajasthan
Manch, a group that fights for the rights of the marginalized
communities, which had filed a police complaint against him held
protests. Rajpal Meena of the SC/ST Rajasthan Manch, who lodged the
complaint, along with his supporters protested against Nandy and the
organisers. “We are demanding immediate arrest of Nandy for derogatory
remarks against STs and the organizers of the festival for allowing
him to make the controversial remarks,” said Meena.

Meanwhile, the Rajashtan Police have sought from the organizers and TV
channels video recordings of Nandy’s controversial comments. “We have
sought the video footage and also his clarification to be put on
record,” senior police officer told a news agency. Hours after Nandy
made the controversial remarks, he was booked under penal provisions
for criminal intimidation and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes(Prevention of Atrocities) Act – the Indian law to safeguard the
honor and rights of the communities which have faced centuries of
oppression in a society dominated by caste-based hierarchy.

Nandy’s comments triggered a storm with Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister
Mayawati, demanding jail term for Nandy. The Congress, BJP, JD(U), CPI
and the SC Commission Chairman P. L. Punia also condemned the remarks.

While seeking to clarify, Nandy made a flip-flop, saying he would
apologise if he had been misunderstood. However, when questioned
further, he said, “I don’t apologize at all because I hold it very
close to my heart. I was, in fact, supporting the cause of those who
are marginalized and those who are in minority and those who are
oppressed. I have spent all my life supporting their causes and will
continue doing it.”

He said he actually meant that if people from OBC, SC and ST indulge
in corruption, it is “corruption indeed” while those from upper caste
can go scot free.

At the literature festival last year, Muslim protestors demonstrated
against Rushdie’s visit to Jaipur and had forced him to keep away. The
author had cancelled his visit, but chose to address the Jaipur
Literary Festival audience via a video link.

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