Call it censorship, not social justice

You may not agree with him; I certainly don't. The point about corruption serving the end of compensatory justice is akin to Dalit intellectual Chandra Bhan Prasad's position that English and capitalism will come to the rescue of Dalits. Such arguments are factually incorrect and flawed in reasoning. But to say that Nandy's position is anti-SC/ST/OBC, or worse, that it is a casteist slur on disadvantaged communities, is a dreadful misreading of his position. If anything, his is an overstated defence of the socially disadvantaged communities. You could say that he asked for it, that his statement lent itself to this misreading. But only if you believe that there should be no space for irony in public life, if you agree with the contemporary media practice of picking one sentence out of a complex argument and turning it into a public statement for mass consumption.

Sadly, this is happening in the name of Dalit, adivasi and OBCs. Those who have suffered from social censorship for centuries now seek to wield the same instrument. There is a demand for purging public life of irony, wit, satire and humour the classic weapons of the weak in the name of social justice. This is what makes this case so tragic. The real tragedy is not that one of our finest scholars is caught in a case of mistaken identity of an argument. The real tragedy is that the leaders and friends of the Dalit-bahujan movement find it difficult to distinguish between their friends and foes, between what works for and what works against them. This, Nandy would say, is the real curse of social marginality.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, where Ashis Nandy is senior honorary fellow

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