Between now and the five years that have passed when I psychoanalyzed Ashis Nandy, little did I realize how many points I had overlooked about him. Back then I had clubbed him with that vile cosmos of the creatures that are known as Indian Secularists. I had glossed him over for an even more fundamental reason: he wrote stuff that’s indecipherable. He wrote in English yes, but it was still undecipherable. Some folks call it psychobabble. But that changed when I read his latest diatribe on Narendra Modi in—where else—Outlook. This one is worse and appallingly disgusting than the one I had dissected five years ago. Here’s a small snippet:
So what can he [Narendra Modi] do to redeem himself? Can he outlive his past? Narendra Modi should do what Pakistan’s deputy attorney general, Muhammad Khurshid Khan, did as penance. On his visit to India, Khan spent hours cleaning and shining devotees’ shoes at a Delhi gurudwara as penance, so upset was he by the killing of a Sikh man by a Taliban group in Pakistan two years ago [.] If I was Narendra Modi’s psychotherapist, I would have told him: my dear friend, if you wish to play a larger role in national politics, you need to reflect. You cannot go directly from the chief minister’s office in Gujarat to the prime minister’s office in New Delhi. Buy peace in the interregnum. He should go to a dargah. Go to Ajmer Sharif and apologise. The Khwaja is supposed to be benevolent and very forgiving.
Ashis Nandy among others has written pretty frequently about Narendra Modi, all of his pieces in the same tone and tenor, which qualifies as hate speech. That’s putting it charitably because Ashis Nandy is a racist of the vilest order whose heart has reserved a special place of hatred for Gujarati Hindus. His garb as a psychoanalyst/psychotherapist is simply a front to pour abuse on the RSS/Sangh, Hindus and especially, Gujarati Hindus.
I yawned when I read his latest outpouring of unabashed Modi-hatred in Outlook but then curiosity prompted me to find out more.
The Wikipedia page on Ashis Nandy that lists his publications shows that his pet subjects relate to pouring scholarly scorn on nationalism, Hindutva and what he calls the “Indian Right.” His “academic” publications are academic in nature to be sure, but they’re still scorn. He’s not a secularist in the same sense as the usual suspects that belong to the Pseudosecularism Hall of Shame, but he shares and exudes their hatred for the so-called Hindu Right. Small wonder that most English publications actively seek his pompous and incomprehensible outpourings and adorn him variously as the “bull,” and “polymath.” What he also shares with these self-proclaimed upholders of spurious secularism is his penchant for spit and run. Here’s how a first-rate mind and one of the finest scholars of our time describes him:
Nandy simply disagrees with my general position, which is OK. Only, when he cannot prove me wrong with arguments, he resorts to name-calling. In the present power equation, he doesn’t risk a reprimand for stooping to that level. By the way, don’t you admire Nandy’s rhetorical cleverness? He pushes the allegation of “dishonesty and moral vacuity” all while “bypassing” the burden of proof. (Koenraad Elst in an interview to Ramesh Rao)
The purveyors of secular “discourse” in India come in several flavours:
- The shrill drumbeaters whose “discourse” constitutes loud barking
- The “all religions are equally evil but Hinduism is the evillest” variety
- The majority-is-always-wrong variety
- The minority-must-be-mollycoddled-even-if-they-are-wrong variety
- The patronizers—this one usually sits abroad and wears cultivated smiles and accents, which are intact when running down the “natives.”
- The high-brow scholars with mile-long, fancy alphabets suffixed to their names who write stuff that nobody understands or cares for but yet go on to win awards and respectability.
Ashis Nandy belongs to the last variety and a curious specimen of sorts at that. He doesn’t fit the usual secularist mould. He’s not a religious fundamentalist although he has a soft spot in his old heart for the adherents for a certain Religion of Peace. Yet the chosen targets for his psychobabble attacks seem to be only nationalists and those who identify themselves with Hindu causes. Now the soft spot that I just spoke of includes an array of people who fit the description of what are known as Mullahs and Imams (recall his call for Modi to seek forgiveness from an Imam type of guy at Ajmer) and other “misguided followers” of the Religion of Peace. In all my readings of and about Nandy, I’ve never once come across a piece or talk criticising the misdeeds of the followers of the Religion of Peace. Perhaps in his psycho-world, you cannot utter “misdeeds” and “followers” and “religion of peace” in the same breath. Indeed, Nandy talks like a Mullah with a PHD when he characterizes Rushdie’s fatwa as a “communication.”
…the fatwa is really to be understood as a mode of communication which defies the usual modes of communication, such as diplomatic exchanges, that are expected to govern relations between states.
However, here’s how he describes the so-called Hindu Right and anybody associated with it:
- The psychology of refugees is dominant in much of this. You also see it in journalism. Some of the most violent and blood-curdling nationalists belong to that sector; they are the victims of partition. If you read Arun Shourie, you are left in no doubt what partition has done to us. Arun Shourie, Girilal Jain, M. V. Kamath… (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Culture/Intellectuals/nandy1.html)
- if we can negotiate with groups which have been soft on terrorism in Assam or Kashmir or Nagaland, when we think that we can manage or co-opt or converse with militants of all groups — from the Maoists to the Islamists — I do not see any reason why we cannot negotiate with the Rightists. (http://www.tehelka.com/story_main16.asp?filename=In021106Cuckoo_over_p11.asp)
- the Rightists in India have not learnt to handle their extremist fringes, and in the process they have made them a part of their mainstream political current… (http://www.tehelka.com/story_main16.asp?filename=In021106Cuckoo_over_p11.asp)
- our Right has been less discriminating; they have stupidly allowed all kinds of fanatics and extremist fringes to be at the centre of things. Now they are trying to contain them, for instance, vis-à-vis the controversy revolving around former BJP president LK Advani. But Advani was cornered because this battle was not waged earlier; Advani did not join the battle before. He did not even have the courage to say that Narendra Modi should be kicked out. In fact, he was one of the few persons who strongly supported Modi. (Ibid)
- the Right will never acquire the kind of legitimacy which it hopes to acquire in the Indian polity. It will only have value as a negative formation, that it stands against the Congress, that it stands against corruption, so on and so forth. Surely, people will not look at it as a positive force in our society. (Ibid)
- the Right in India, unfortunately, is seen as primarily a xenophobic and racist formation. (Ibid)
- The only set of political actors who have sensed and responded to these anxieties are the Hindu nationalists, though their close competitors, the Islamic fundamentalists, too, have come close to reacting to these anxieties. (http://www.tehelka.com/story_main.asp?filename=Fe021404fuels.asp)
- If the RSS has its way, it will make every peasant in India wear khaki shorts. For its ideal Indian is the brown- skinned version of the colonial police sergeant, reading the Gita instead of the Bible. (http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/Socissues/hindutva.html)
You can’t fault Ashis Nandy for being inconsistent. He is consistent in the same way as a snake is consistent in being poisonous. Thus, he has no qualms in using language such as “Narendra Modi should be kicked out” but talk about Sajjad Lone, that separatist son of the ultra-separatist Abdul Ghani Lone, and Ashis Nandy gets all misty-eyed and says that it’s an example of a “tolerance for radical diversity.”
…Indians have an old capacity to live with such diversity. A powerful example is Sajjad Lone contesting the election this year. Nobody objected that a secessionist wants to take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. Everyone spoke of it glowingly. I consider that a tolerance for radical diversity.
It’s eminently clear now what brand of garden manure Ashis Nandy represents when it concerns Hindu causes and everybody associated with them. Ashis Nandy doesn’t even bother to be selective: he directly baits Hindus and makes no bones about it. He psychobabbly abuses them and proclaims such abuse as gospel truth. And as Elst mentions, the existing power equations let him get away with it even today. If he can’t logically respond to Arun Shourie, he simply brands him a “blood-curdling nationalist.” The conclusion is unmistakable: Ashis Nandy doesn’t allow Hindus to have genuine grievances and preempts anybody who voices those grievances by branding them as rabid nationalists, extremists, Nazis, and so on. This technique worked well for more than 40 years but when the Labelled began repaying the likes of Nandy in his own coin, his attacks grew more vicious.
Enter Narendra Modi.
Narendra Modi remains the beast that no Hindu-baiter has been able to tame till date. Post the Gujarat riots, every two-bit Hindu-baiter assumed that Modi was the typical RSS ideologue/BJP leader who could be pushed into a corner by shrill, incessant, and relentless secularist drumbeating. Modi turned that long-held assumption on its head. He didn’t resign in the wake of riots. Subsequently, in the face of the most stringent opposition, constant calls for his resignation, media-trial-a-day, political skulduggery, international cry-babying, NGO-baiting, and every other vile trick, Modi chose and travelled the honourable route: faith in the Indian legal system. After a decade, he has been exonerated and his detractors have been left with yolk dripping down their faces. One of those faces has a name: Ashis Nandy.
The next part shows why Ashis Nandy is an incurable racist and why urgently needs treatment.