Ashis Nandy’s New Role

Rediff describes Ashis Nandy–who has been suitably psychoanalyzed on this blog earlier–in glowing adjectives: thinker, political analyst, but above all, he is India’s most famous liberal thinker, in this five-part interview where Nandy shares his expert views on Sonia Gandhi’s performance as the chairman of the UPA. Having read the entire interview–much against the counsel of my inner voice (bless Mata Maino)–I feel compelled to add another adjective to Nandy: Sonia’s personal psephologist.

Nandy defends Sonia almost venomously throughout the interview. When he does not defend, he stops short of idolizing her: the living Saint of Vatican. Okay, I’m not exaggerating. In some eerie way, he criticizes everybody that Sonia prefers to keep at bay but has nary a good word about anybody except her. He calls Arjun Singh a control freak, Ramadoss inefficient, and so on. He calls out UPA failures but justifies them on the grounds of “compulsion of coalition politics.”

To his eternal discredit, Nandy bares his ugliest side when he talks about Manmohan Singh and the office of the Prime Minister per se. The relevant portions below should be self-explanatory.

Are you comfortable with this arrangement? Doesn’t it degrade the post of prime minister? Should the people and the prime minister of the country not have a direct connection? Have you seen a single photograph of Dr Singh with ordinary Indians on the front pages of our daily newspapers?

All prime ministers are not the same. It is a coalition of structures in India, in any case. Even in the BJP it is a coalition of structures. You need not pursue that line of analysis.

What about the status and stature of the post of prime minister?

I am not bothered about it. It is not my job to ensure that the prime minister has a stature. He doesn’t deserve the stature because he doesn’t have political clout. He has got more than most could have fought for. I think he has got more than he might have bargained for in his life. He should be happy. He is happy, it seems.

You are talking about Dr Singh. I am talking about the post of the prime minister. Don’t you think that the Indian people should have a direct rapport with the prime minister?

Why should people only be in touch with the prime minister? What was Mr (H D) Deve Gowda’s touch with the aam aadmi outside Karnataka? You tell me? We had these kinds of coalition structures. Just because he has a base in Karnataka it doesn’t mean he has a base outside it.

What was Inder Gujral’s political base? The only thing is that Inder Gujral’s political power was not concentrated in one person, it was more fractured. That was also a coalition where there was Inder Gujral and a number of power centres outside the Prime Minister’s Office.

I think multiple power centres are a boon to a fragmented, divided and diverse society like India.

The prime minister has the prerogative to form his Cabinet. In this case Sonia Gandhi decides who should be in or out of the Cabinet. Is it okay?

Sonia Gandhi doesn’t decide it either. Can Sonia Gandhi dare to throw out Ambumani Ramadoss who has made a mess of so many things?

The coalition of structure is such that nobody has the power. Those days are gone when the prime minister could select his Cabinet. Sonia Gandhi could not shut up the Left Front. She cannot shut up the Left Front.

His perception of the UPA’s successes (!) and failures are expectedly on obvious, biased lines.

They have done well on some issues. It was a humane regime. There has been no large scale bloodshed or riots. There was no major mishap as far as human rights issue goes, perhaps.

Humane regime is an acceptable response but in Nandy’s case, he needs to define “humane” first. If shielding postponing Afzal Guru’s hanging interminably qualifies for humane, we sound the first alarm. If the nth incident of terrorism on this soil is explained away and pretended India’s security is fine, we sound a bigger, second alarm. If the army, for doing its duty, is blindly chastised on the unchallengeable grounds of human rights at every turn, we sound the next alarm. If issues like the state-sponsored massacre at Nandigram suddenly evades Nandy’s memory, we sound the biggest alarm. And it looks to Nandy that the UPA has met all these conditions.

Needless to say, he doesn’t bother to display a semblance of objectivity (okay, strong word but let it be) towards the BJP. I had to single out BJP instead of saying non-Congress because Nandy won’t dare say anything even perceptibly negative about the likes of Mayawati or her party.

Ashis Nandy represents the doddery nadir, which the nature of our public discourse has reached. In their blind hatred for the dreaded “Hindu Right,” they have stooped to justify, rationalize, support, and encourage the worst sort of scum at the helm of power. In its turn, their knowledge of the aims and ideology of the “Hindu Right” is mostly based on flawed (if not absolute lack of) understanding, and increasingly, outright falsehood. Beats me why these professional analysts, keen observers and veteran op-ed writers lack the basic commonsense a “non-professional” like this person has. In a line, he sums it all up.

Most critics of Hindu nationalism tend to focus on the “Hindu” aspect, neglecting the fact that the movement, at its core, is an attempt at nationalism, rather than an attempt to establish a Hindu theocracy.

12 comments for “Ashis Nandy’s New Role

  1. k
    January 19, 2009 at 8:25 AM

    Dear Sandeep,

    Looking closely at the tone of your sentences and choice of words it seems you are criticizing the author (and never his ideas) at a very superficial level. It is because of such literal readings I realized academics/scholars of the stature of Nandy and Shiv Vishwanathan do not participate in popular media, though the later does keep on giving soundbytes.

    How are you able to counter his arguments when you do not even know half of the words he has used.

    Folk Hinduism includes the tribals, tantrik forms, different art and cultural traditions in form of recitals, art, folklore which are not the part of scholarly Brahminical scriptures like Veda, Upanishads etc. (Do you know there are a thousand versions of Ramayana and Mahabharata many of which are tribal).

    Hindu self hatred in parts is the thing you see when Hindus claim that Hindus are an impotent lot who have not been able to retaliate centuries of oppression by other religions . (Read Nandy’s The Intimate Enemy for chauvinism in colonial era).

    RSS has its similarities with similar organizations in Nazi and Fascists regime. I do not know about the Leninist Left remark. (On that note you really reminded of reading Savarkar’s essays, he was a brilliant scholar).

    Chetan did answer many things.

  2. Nakhate
    July 4, 2008 at 9:27 PM

    Great point Kishkindhaa,

    I always was skeptic with all what Nandy had to say and write.

    Could you kindly point me to some specific sources that could reveal Nandys anti-secular and pro-Hindutva ideologies. It shall help me in writing about it critically in my upcoming paper.

    Thanks and regards,

    SN

  3. Jiggs
    May 23, 2008 at 1:58 PM

    :neutral:Well Nandy…Is getting the Padmashri next year ?????

  4. Kishkindhaa
    May 23, 2008 at 12:48 PM

    Actually, we are probably visiting Nandy’s U-turn. Nandy was previously known among the literati as an “anti-secularist”. My guess is that these fellows intentionally try to co-opt Hindu “positions” on diversity and wear these are trophies. It should be clear that the Abrahmics do not add to the cultural diversity of India nor do the seculars make diversity possible; in fact these relentlessly try to destroy diversity (in addition to promoting terrorism, etc). Nandy:

    In a secularizing world, infantilization quickly became a moral posture and a theological necessity. It allowed the main actors in slavery and colonialism to make peace with their own consciences, and the intelligentsia and the Church to produce a powerful mix of justifications for the new world order. It allowed glib talk of the historical necessity to care for the retrogressive, irrational, ignorant savages and the Christian responsibility to guide them towards a better future.

  5. Ot
    May 23, 2008 at 12:32 PM

    Nandy blather:

    >>There was no major mishap as far as human rights issue goes, perhaps.

    What a shameless apologist. The rape and killings at Nandigram, the various massacres by terrorists, and the Kashmiri Hindu refugee camps etc don’t count as “human rights issues” for this gutless wonder. Nor the hounding out of Taslima Nasrin by his pals.

    With ‘liberals’ like this guy, India doesn’t need bigots.

  6. Kishkindhaa
    May 23, 2008 at 11:45 AM

    Oye Shuvro,

    Unfortunately, this variant of cultural nationalism serves not to unite, but to divide the country. Instead of inclusive tolerance, it seeks to exclude large groups of people and seeks to implement highly sectarian policies. Worse still, the movement is not an assertion of a rising India, but more of a continuation of the same whine. Instead of the sight of a confident people taking charge of the country, what we see is a movement feeding further on the same politics of victimhood.

    Ashish Nandy is projecting the divisiveharkatein of Christianty, Islam, and secular colonialism upon the Hindus. These religious and secular ideologies destroy cultural diversity through iconoclasm, hate speech, and other forms of terrorism; they seek to impose a destructive homogenity upon the varied and diverse traditions of India and ultimately serve them up to imperialistic interests. Ashish Nanady has made his name by being the court jester for his liberal western masters; but when Hindus start voicing their own interests, he goes ballistic.

  7. May 23, 2008 at 10:28 AM

    Excuse, the off topic comment. Just wrote in to say that Dr Ali Sina’s book Understanding Muhammad is finally available. The following is the relevant Amazon page.
    http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Muhammad-Ali-Sina/dp/0980994802/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

    For those who are unfamiliar with Dr Sina and his work, please check his website faithfreedom.org. He is an iranian ex-Muslim settled in Canada, whose mission is to spread the truth about Islam, and expose its violent and supremacist teachings in front of the whole world.

    He is one of the most important warriors against this ghastly cult, alongside Ibn Warraq, Robert Spencer and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Please read this book to understand what drives Islamic terrorists, why those who say terrorists have nothing to do with Islam and are misguided individuals, are plain and simple WRONG, and how the modern terrorist emulates the documented behavior of their thuggish prophet. Below is the product description of his book :

    Why are some Muslims intolerant, violent and supremacist? Why do they bully? What spurs them to riot and murder over the silliest things? To understand Muslims, one must understand their prophet. This psychobiography of Muhammad seeks to unveil the mystery of this man. Historians tell us Muhammad used to withdraw to a cave, spending days wrapped in his thoughts. He heard bells ringing and had ghostly visions. He thought he was demon possessed, until his wife reassured him he had become a prophet. Convinced of his status, he was intolerant of those who rejected him, assassinated those who criticized him, and raided, looted, and massacred entire populations. He reduced thousands to slavery, raped, and allowed his men to rape female captives. All of this, he did with a clear conscience and a sense of entitlement. He was magnanimous toward those who admired him, but vengeful toward those who did not. He believed he was the most perfect human creation and the universe’s raison d’être. Muhammad was no ordinary man. This book ventures beyond the stories. Focusing on the “why” rather than the “what,” it unravels the mystique of one of the most enigmatic and influential men in history. Islam is Muhammadanism. Muslims worship and emulate Muhammad. Only by understanding him can one know what makes them tick. Understanding Muhammad begins with a brief history of his life. It gives a description of his loveless childhood, followed by relatives who took pity on this orphaned boy and spoiled him, which contributed to the developed of his narcissistic personality disorder, a trait that made him a megalomaniac bereft of conscience. Muhammad believed in his own cause. Even when he lied, he felt entitled and justified to do so. Thanks to another mental illness, namely temporal lobe epilepsy, the prophet of Islam had vivid hallucinations he interpreted as mystical and divine intimations. He also suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder, causing his fixations on numbers, rituals and stringent rules. In the addition, he suffered from acromegaly, a disease caused by excessive production of a growth hormone resulting in large bones and odd facial features. The combination of his psychological disorders and his unusual physiognomy made him a phenomenon that set him apart from ordinary people. His uneducated followers interpreted his differences as signs of his prophethood. Like devotees of all cults, they rose to champion his cause with dedication. By defying death and butchering others they made Islam the world’s second largest religion, now the biggest threat to world peace. The author argues that Islam is incompatible with democracy and human rights, and the only way to avert the clash between barbarity and civilization, and a world disaster, is to expose its fallacy and demystify it. “Muslims must be weaned from Islam for humanity to live in peace,” says Ali Sina.

  8. May 23, 2008 at 10:10 AM

    “What about the status and stature of the post of prime minister?

    I am not bothered about it. It is not my job to ensure that the prime minister has a stature. He doesn’t deserve the stature because he doesn’t have political clout. He has got more than most could have fought for. I think he has got more than he might have bargained for in his life. He should be happy. He is happy, it seems.”

    Sounds suitably deep and intellectual :grin:. Just what one would have expected out of India’s greatest contemporary thinker. Nagarjuna would have been pleased to see this potent mix of breathtaking logic and sheer common sense :lol:

  9. May 23, 2008 at 10:07 AM

    “Unfortunately, this variant of liberalism serves not to unite, but to divide the country. Instead of inclusive tolerance, it seeks to exclude large groups of people and seeks to implement highly sectarian policies. Worse still, the movement is not an assertion of a rising India, but more of a continuation of the same whine. Instead of the sight of a confident people taking charge of the country, what we see is a movement feeding further on the same politics of victimhood.”

    Substituted “cultural nationalism” with “liberalism”. All looks fine with the paragraph now.

    They divided the country on the lines of
    1. caste (OBC quotas in higher education, proposed quotas in the army, and industry)
    2. religion (sachar commission and attendant nonsense, which has been remarked upon by the Supreme Court too)
    3. linguistics (no action was taken against Raj Thackeray by the state Congress government, which apparently considers dance bars and cheerleaders to be more offensive than orchestrated violence and hate campaigns)
    4. political ideology (the left assault against opponents in Nandigram, the HRD ministry’s witch hunting).

    They are content with maintaining status quo, in perpetuating poverty, in entrenching the deleterious quotas and indeed reinforcing them in all segments of life. They are reluctant to come out of Cold war mentality. They still think in terms of non alignment, when one of the sides to be non aligned against does not exist any more.

    Wonder if Ashish Nandy had Hindu Nationalism in mind or if he was referring to Left Liberalism when he made the above comments! Oh, the dishonesty of the Left Liberals.

  10. Trotski Chomski
    May 23, 2008 at 10:00 AM

    When injustice is done to people, it is inevitable that they try to defend themselves by asserting themselves. Hindu assertion is a natural fallout of the cruelties such as the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir and the genocide of Hindus in east and west Pakistans. Nandy’s analysis is driven by Hindu-phobia, attributable to Christian upbringing and Marxist influence, both of which legitimize hatred towards ‘unbelievers’ and ‘class enemies’. Recently, Nandy vomited a lot of poison against Narendra Modi after he won the election, and declared that the people of Gujarat (read Hindus) are evil for electing him.

    Comrade Aikath needs to listen not to Nandy’s pseudo-academic ‘analyses’ laced with fear and prejudice, but to the sane and rational advice of unbiased observers like VS Naipual.

  11. May 23, 2008 at 9:34 AM

    You are saying, “in a line, he sums it all up.” Why you did not quote the rest of what he said about “Hindu nationalism”?

    “Unfortunately, this variant of cultural nationalism serves not to unite, but to divide the country. Instead of inclusive tolerance, it seeks to exclude large groups of people and seeks to implement highly sectarian policies. Worse still, the movement is not an assertion of a rising India, but more of a continuation of the same whine. Instead of the sight of a confident people taking charge of the country, what we see is a movement feeding further on the same politics of victimhood.”

  12. Gujjubhai
    May 23, 2008 at 5:18 AM

    Well said, brother.

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