By Upasana Sharma:
Living as we are, in the times of 140 character tweets and 24 hour news channels, it has become rather easy to pass a judgement on any situation, person or comment. Even before scrutinising and understanding the relevance of the context, we are ready with our reactions. This tendency to be judgemental has been on display, more so, in the recent times. The latest one receiving flak is the eminent political psychologist, social theorist and a contemporary and cultural critic Ashis Nandy who made a statement at the Jaipur Literary Fest, 2013.
In the session named Republic of Ideas, Nandy spoke about many social and political issues. While talking about the widespread corruption in India, he pointed out that the elite of the country is as corrupt as other sections but they get away with it by using means of hiding their wrongs. On the contrary, instances of corruption are highlighted in SC/ST and this he considered was because of the fact that these sections of society did not have the same resources to hide their wrongdoings which often draws more than their fair share of the blame. His main point however was that now that everyone was equally corrupt, India might very well survive as a republic.
In a country where jumping the gun can be used in many contexts than one, this statement drew immediate ire from political leaders. He was blamed for commenting that the backward classes are responsible for corruption in India and so must be arrested for hurting the sentiments of these classes. But the statement made, was far from blaming corruption on just one caste or section of the society. He went on to give a personal example stating that the elite, when being corrupt has means to show it as a promotion of talent rather than crude corruption, which the backward class due to lack of means, can’t do. A comment trying to break through the hypocrisy that has woven itself deep in our system has been caught in the trap of populism.
This controversy leaves us with many questions. Primary one being, when did we become so hypersensitive? A statement, a book, movie, songs all have the capability of hurting our sentiments. We go on a spree to teach the ones behind them a lesson being unmindful towards the repercussion of softly killing the fundamental right to freedom of speech. Every such issue is turned into an opportunity and used as the perfect stage to display their views and hurt. When will we truly turn into a democratic nation and give everyone the space to put forth their views without the fear of an FIR being slapped on them the moment they make a statement? Why is the immediate response vigilantism rather than intellectual debates? Can’t we be tolerant enough to entertain others views without accepting them?
This situation has led to the turn of an intellectual thinker into a defensive person who has to time and again justify his statements. That too, statements that could have led to an original, genuine and intellectual debate that could have questioned the rhetoric and shed some light upon the actual socio-political scenario of India. The fanaticism and intolerance of the so called leaders and representatives of the social class, seems unnecessary and something only to gain cheap political points, especially, when the masses they seem to be speaking for, fight much bigger battles. Instead of indulging in a cynical political ploy, they should focus on issues that actually matter to those they speak for.
India is the largest democracy is the world. One can’t help but wonder, have we, the citizens, turned truly democratic even now?