In Defense of Ashis Nandy: for academic and intellectual freedom
It is against this intolerant culture that voices should be raised so that ideas and opinions remain unthrottled and free says a statement by Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association
On 26 January, 2013, at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Ashis Nandy, an eminent scholar and intellectual was attacked for his alleged "offensive" remarks against the backward communities - OBCs, SCs and STs - of India. He has been accused by a section of the media and political class of holding the backward communities responsible for the widespread corruption that ails the country. Those who are familiar with Nandy's work and his impeccable credentials would know that the accusation is farthest from the truth. Not only has he been grossly misunderstood but the accusation is an affront to his decades long deeply sensitive scholarship including that on the backward communities.
A section of the media, IBN group senior journalist Ashutosh in particular, in the garb of safeguarding the dignity of the underprivileged has not only harmed that further but has also disgraced the eminent intellectual by forcing an apology out of him. It is interesting to note that those in the political class and media who now claim to stand for the rights of the backward communities vis-a-vis Nandy have been active participants in the violent anti-Mandal agitation that rocked Delhi and other parts of India two decades ago. This hypocritical attitude and type of media sensationalism has eroded the culture of free ideas and speech in India; it is unfortunate that all complex and nuanced arguments are being sacrificed at the altar of hunger for TRPs and two minutes of sensationalism.
It is against this intolerant culture that voices should be raised so that ideas and opinions remain unthrottled and free, and individuals are not forced to publicly apologise and face police action, as Nandy does, for crimes they have not committed. We, in solidarity with Ashis Nandy, stand against such kind of media violence and culture of intolerance.
Ambarien Al Qadar
M S Bhatt
University of Delhi