Privilege of Corruption: An Indicator of Empowerment.

A storm blew up in the face of Ashish Nandy at Jaipur Literary Festival over his remarks linking “Corruption” and “Caste”.
At the session “Republic of Ideas”, to coincide with the Republic Day, he said, “Some may call it a vulgar statement on my part, but it is a fact that most of the corruption comes from OBCs and Scheduled Castes and now increasingly Scheduled Tribes. And as long as this is the case, the Indian Republic will survive“. Reactions to his statement have been varied. Most gave calibrated responses that would be deemed politically correct. A news channel asked a question of its viewers: Is Nandy correct in linking corruption to caste? A viewer from Ayodhya, S K Shukla, his name suggests that he is a Brahmin, asserted that he is a government employee and from his own experience he can tell that Nandy may not be 100% correct, but certainly is 95% correct. I am sure many among high castes would share Shukla’s opinion.
Surjit Das, who appeared on the same show, said that if lower caste persons were confronted with the corruption of their leaders, they are wont to ask “Do Brahmins have a monopoly over corruption”? Das further said, reacting to a caller who was heard on the show in between, he disagreed with caller’s statement that power corrupts everybody [equally], and perhaps that is why Nandy could and did make a statement that no politician dare make. Interestingly, he then  goes on to compare the attires in all their statues of Gandhi -loin cloth and half naked torso- to Ambedkar’s -three piece suit. The latter’s dress-code he says is aspirational and makes lower castes feel empowered when they see one of their own rise to the very top [because of his three piece suit?]. He then cites the example of Dalit leader, Mayawati’s “Corruption”, which he says makes Dalits retort in defence, “Are Brahmins, Kayasthas, alone free to plunder the country?”.
Nandy was forced to clarify. Clarifying what he said was a torturous proposition even for him.
Nandy says here that upper castes and rich are more sophisticated in their corruption and therefore get away with it; while Dalits and OBC lack finesse [they are clumsy] and therefore are caught more easily, which reflects in their larger numbers among the corrupt. Would the Dalits and OBC take the observation, “you are not only corrupt, but also clumsy”, as rubbing salt into the wound?, or would they take it as an exoneration because of their pitiable six decades of (in)experience  with power and corruption when compared to formidable 5000 years of experience of upper castes with the same?  The text of Nandy’s statement issued to media read:
^^
This is not what I meant or what I wanted to say. This is what I actually transpired.
I endorsed the statement of Tarun Tejpal, Editor of Tehelka, that corruption in India is an equalising force. I do believe that a zero corruption society in India will be a despotic society.
I also said that if people like me or Richard Sorabjee want to be corrupt, I shall possibly send his son to Harvard giving him a fellowship and he can send my daughter to Oxford. No one will think it to be corruption. Indeed, it will look like supporting talent.
But when Dalits, tribals and the OBCs are corrupt, it looks very corrupt indeed.
However, this second corruption equalizes. It gives them access to their entitlements. And so, as long as this equation persists, I have hope for the Republic.
I hope this will be the end of the matter. I am sorry if some have misunderstood me. Though there was no reason to do so. As should be clear from this statement, there was neither any intention nor any attempt to hurt any community. If anyone is genuinely hurt, even if through misunderstanding, I am sorry about that, too.
Ashis Nandy
^^
His explanations in fact make matters worse. When he says, “Dalit, tribals, and OBC look very corrupt indeed“, what does he mean? Does it mean that Corruption by Dalit, tribals, and OBC looks obscene, but not so with higher castes? “Not so with higher castes” because it has been their खानदानी पेशा [hallowed tradition] for long? Again, are lower castes to draw comfort from such a statement? Secondly, why would “zero corruption” society be despotic? Despots may rise to power on the promise of “corruption free society” or “government that works”. History has examples of societies that traded freedom for the promise of prosperous and orderly future. But despots don’t give what they promise, neither wholly nor substantially. On the contrary any society governed arbitrarily would be most corrupt in the non-narrow sense of what constitutes corruption. In the second video clip above, one Saayan from Jaipur made an incisive statement, “neither any person, or a society is corrupt, but it is the power that is corrupt. Whoever has the power would be corrupt“. This statement of Saayan had the power to put Nandy and his critiques in their respective places, but it would have knocked the bottom out of the controversy and would have stymied the race for TRP ratings. News anchor therefore safely shuts out the caller from the program after politely agreeing with his observations in general terms.
Corruption is a systemic or structural problem, where power or money or both are encouraged to be concentrated in the hands of the few, and it manifests itself in many ways beyond bribery. For example, the caste system by its very nature is highly corrupt when it bestows hereditary privileges and rights on high castes, and deprives basic necessities and dignities from so called low castes or Ati-Shoodra [अतिशूद्र]. This is what Nandy alludes to when he cites the hypothetical case where two friends promote the other’s progeny, but instead of holding it as corruption, it is seen as talent scouting. Mega corporate contracts are often struck on the golf course. It is not self serving “cosying up”. It is striking “business deals”. It is not “corruption”, it is “business as usual”. That is why top posts often come with pre-tagged prestigious and expensive golf-club memberships. Similarly, memberships of political parties are sought as a vehicle to power and money eventually, and parties themselves have become elaborate mechanisms of transmitting patronages.
The former chief minister and supreme leader of Bahujan Samaj Party, Mayawati, responded in most predictable fashion: ^^For social scientists in the country to turn a blind eye to the inequities of society is very unfortunate. In fact, it is the SC/ST community and other weaker sections who suffer the most due to corruption. I would like the government of Rajasthan to initiate legal proceedings against Nandy and move towards his arrest. I demand that the organisers of the literary festival remove him from the programme^^. She has declared justifiably that SC/ST and other weaker sections of the society suffer the most due to corruption, but what did she do when in power to mitigate their suffering? In fact, she is embroiled in her own court cases on charges of corruption? There in lies the real rub.
One expects higher standards of conduct and morality from the leaders and persons that emerge from depressed classes. One feels that since they know first-hand what deprivation and discrimination means, they would rise above the myriad weaknesses that bedevil the high caste leaders, who are accustomed to hold riches and power. One hopes that leaders from weaker sections of society would be more humane, more sensitive, less corrupt, and would work vigorously to improve the lot of the poor. But minute the leaders and persons from depressed classes rise to positions of power and influence, the system co-opts them, moulds them, and turns them into its defenders. A system that is premised on concentration power and wealth in the hands of few may or will definitely improve the lot of many from the depressed classes, but it would be futile to expect it to improve the lot of majority, whether from depressed classes or not. Going ahead, more and more leaders from depressed classes are expected to rise to power in proportion to the numerical strength of classes they represent. Since power and corruption are bosom buddies, so would rise the number of corrupt among them. This is one unassailable fact. The point is that high castes are finding it very difficult to adjust to this shift in power and corruption, which has been their privilege till now; though the share of many even from among high castes in either power or wealth would be meagre. Nandy’s remarks echo their growing discomfort. 
The issue is not that SC/ ST or OBC are corrupt. It is not that upper castes are not corrupt, of course they are. There is an unspoken agreement that most in power are corrupt whatever the caste, or more to the point, how is it possible to be in power if one is not corrupt? Had Nandy said that SC/ST or OBC are as corrupt as high castes, then no one perhaps would have taken notice. Had he even said that as more and more leaders or persons of depressed classes rise to positions of power, the corruption among them is keeping pace, it may have still passed the muster. In fact, that is what he “probably meant” by his sentence, “…And as long as this is the case, the Indian Republic will survive“. Put differently, he used “the rise of corruption among the persons from depressed classes” as an indicator of their empowerment. One cannot be corrupt unless one is in power. Therefore, the fact that corruption is rising among persons from depressed classes is a sign of their rising power. He had a point, but he made it most poorly when he said that “most of the corruption” is to be attributed to SC/ST or OBC. Nandy may be faulted only for his “poor formulation” if one gives due weightage to his “survival of Indian Republic” remark. More over, his formulation won’t stand the test of veracity. But those who call for his prosecution or threaten to blacken his face should think twice where would they be if every lie one spoke led one to jail? One needs to join debate in a democracy, not shirk it. If one has issue with what Nandy has said, then join the issue. But to call for his arrest is to show one’s own bankruptcy of ideas. 
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7 Responses to “Privilege of Corruption: An Indicator of Empowerment.”

  1. Sankara Narayan Says:

    Swami Vivekananda talked this way: ”This land has seen Brahmin rule, Kshatriya rule and Bania rule. It is going to see Sudra rule too. But the degradation will continue”.

  2. Sadanand Patwardhan Says:

    Implicit in your statement is the assumption that things have gone from BAD (Brahmin Rule) to WORSE (Kshatriya rule) to far WORSE (Bania Rule) to the WORST (Sudra rule). This is potent for another controversy much like what Nandy said.

  3. A.K.SHARMA. Says:

    Sadanand Ji,You are very much right in your analysis of the whole issue.Mr.Nandy might have erred in formulation of his thoughts or may be he was misquoted by the over zealous people,who saw a chance of sensetionalising the issue and quite successfully too,but he was not quite off the mark.Before making derogatory remarks about Mr.Nandy and asking for his arrest and all that,Mayawati should stand before a mirror and think for a moment about her own corruption.She may not even squeak after that.As a matter of fact the way the ineligible SCs,STs and OBCs grab the jobs,seats and other privileges simply because of their castes is itself a corrupt practice on moral and logical grounds,inspite of the fact that it is Constitutional provision,which was incorporated for a maximum ten years experimental period and was extended time and again simply because of vote-bank politics,played by the selfish politicians,inspite of the hard fact that it miserably failed to get thedesired results.Actually Mr.Nandy meant that corruption is such a HAMAM,in which all are equally naked,cutting accross caste,creed,colour,gender,religion,region,linguistic,political and other barriers.Instead of hounding Mr.Nandy all of us should unitedly make efforts to eliminate corruption of all types from all walks of life. A.K.SHARMA.

  4. Sankara Narayan Says:

    Swami Vivekananda talked this way: ''This land has seen Brahmin rule, Kshatriya rule and Bania rule. It is going to see Sudra rule too. But the degradation will continue''.

  5. Sadanand Patwardhan Says:

    Implicit in your statement is the assumption that things have gone from BAD (Brahmin Rule) to WORSE (Kshatriya rule) to far WORSE (Bania Rule) to the WORST (Sudra rule). This is potent for another controversy much like what Nandy said.

  6. Sadanand Patwardhan Says:

    Yogendra Yadav writing in Indian Express of today para-phrased Nandy’s statement really well:
    It [may appear to be an] undignified and vulgar statement but the fact is that [those who get caught and are publicly denounced by the media as] corrupt come [disproportionately] from the OBCs, Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes. [Thus corruption serves a larger, though unintended, function of equalisation by compensating for historical injustice.] As long as this [compensatory mechanism] exists I still have hope for our republic.”

    Read his whole article here:
    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/call-it-censorship-not-social-justice/1065446/0

  7. Sadanand Patwardhan Says:

    Yogendra Yadav writing in Indian Express of today para-phrased Nandy's statement really well:It [may appear to be an] undignified and vulgar statement but the fact is that [those who get caught and are publicly denounced by the media as] corrupt come [disproportionately] from the OBCs, Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes. [Thus corruption serves a larger, though unintended, function of equalisation by compensating for historical injustice.] As long as this [compensatory mechanism] exists I still have hope for our republic."Read his whole article here:http://www.indianexpress.com/news/call-it-censorship-not-social-justice/1065446/0

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