Call it censorship, not social justice

I remember reflecting about his outburst. As usual, he was overstating the case, but he did have a point that all of us overlook. We use double standards in thinking about corruption. An educated, media-consuming Indian tends to think of a Mayawati and Mulayam Singh as "corrupt", but somehow upper caste politicians with equally dubious records escape this image. Narayan Dutt Tiwari can brazenly flout all social norms, legal obligations and even the orders of the courts, and yet appear a sagely statesman, but a whiff of a perfectly normal relationship can cost Uma Bharati her political career. Ashisda was to extend that argument and say that the dispossessed classes can compensate for their historic disadvantage by claiming their share in corruption. This was one path to distributive justice and equality.

This is exactly what Nandy appears to have said in Jaipur. His co-panelist, Tarun Tejpal, had said that corruption is a great equaliser. Ashisda endorsed Tejpal and said "It will be an undignified and vulgar statement but the fact is that most of the corrupt come from the OBCs, Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes. As long as this exists, I still have hope for our republic." If you read the first sentence by itself, it appears false, offensive and casteist. But if you read it in the context of what he has been arguing for long, you reach a completely different meaning. Allowing for the fact that this was a spontaneous response to a question, you could rephrase what he said to get the point he was making: "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." This is roughly what his clarification also says.

... contd.

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