Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes
[Ravi Chandran, of the video news journal ‘Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes‘, interviewed Dr K. Satyanarayana, Associate Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, English and Foreign Languages University (EFL-U) on Prof. Ashis Nandy‘s recent comments On Dalit Bahujans at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Here’s the second and final part of the transcript of the interview.]
Continued from here.
K. Satyanarayana: No, one thing is the responses of the Dalits, publicly, I think, in the TV shows, you have 2-3 Dalit scholars (who) commented on this controversy. But also there are public statements by Dalit politicians and also (by the) National SC Commission Chairperson.
If you go into the details, Chandra Bhan Prasad, on NDTV, clearly said there is no evidence to make this observation that the SC, ST, OBCs are most corrupt. He clearly said it is vulgar and undignified and it is not based on any facts. That is enough for any sensible pro-Dalit intellectual to withdraw their statement. On that very moment, Nandy could have responded by saying that. (I am) sorry Chandra Bhan, I want to apologize. On the very show. But he didn’t do this. But that did not happen, he did not apologize.
Then in terms of the other people, Mayawati and Paswan responded quickly. And some Dalit activists from Rajasthan — they also responded, and they said they are going to file a case, and these (comments) are offensive and objectionable comments and we will go to the police station. And they filed an F.I.R.
Now this whole discussion is around this issue: basically saying that it is undemocratic, it is wrong to go to the police, to file the F.I.R. I am really surprised and I could not understand what is wrong with this. In fact, people that I respect, people like Lawrence Liang, people who have been writing on law and other issues — they take objection to street protest? They take objection to going to the police station?
I mean these are the (only) means that are available to the Dalits, on several occasions. And it doesn’t really mean that they are going to arrest Nandy. I am very sure that Nandy will not be arrested.
I am saying, just because some SC, ST, OBC politicians and organizations filed an F.I.R., I don’t think police are going to easily arrest him. I am saying this because Nandy has already demonstrated his clout. The corporate media and the elite institutions and the academicians who signed his petition — so if the government looks at all this, he is not going to be arrested.
Many times, SC/ST people file these complaints, but no enquiry, no arrests – nothing happens. There isn’t anything that is going to happen to Nandy. My main point is that: what is wrong if they approach the police? If they file a complaint? If they staged a street demonstration? Are these forms (of protest) democratic or not?
I can understand your objection if they come to disrupt your meeting, if they come to attack Nandy, if they ransack your house – have they done any of these things? And what is wrong with this protest? What is wrong in taking to legal recourse?
If you look at the Dalit opinion, there are different kinds of opinion: (there are) people who said he should not be arrested, people who said we will take him intellectually, and there are people who said we will file this complaint. So you have these different kinds of opinions.
(Then) why is it that these Dalit activists and Dalit politicians are singled out as people who are for censorship? Are you assuming that the moment F.I.R is given and Nandy is arrested, Nandy is not allowed to speak anywhere? Don’t you know the history of the implementation of this Act? Definitely, people like Lawrence would know how this has been implemented. These laws are there but they are not implemented. Even in the worst cases, they are not implemented.
So just to assume, that (since) somebody has approached the court and this itself is wrong – I think this is really surprising. And what is this Act? This Act has to be seen in a very different light. Verbal kind of abuse is also seen as offence, seen as violence. Using (offensive) language, calling names (or by) caste names and different ways of treating them – so the Act gives you a long list of various kinds of situations that all these come under the SC/ST Act, are declared offences under this Act.
So why don’t you let the law take its own course? Examine whether what Nandy has said will amount to a casteist remark? Instead of that you say is that the law is misused. (Then) you are in fact voicing the view that Mulayam Singh and other people are doing (voicing) in U.P: that this Act itself is draconian and this law should be repealed. And in some sense you are contributing to this whole debate that this law should be repealed, that it is misused.
One example and one concluding statement. The example is that in Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Jyothi, a Telugu newspaper, published an article in the front page saying that SC, ST, OBCs are corrupt people and their organizations are working with the Congress party and so on. Without naming anybody, the paper made this charge.
Immediately, one of the representatives of the Dalit community from the Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi, Mr. Krishna Madiga, attacked the Andhra Jyothi office and broke the window panes (of the front office) and created some tension. (There was) some kind of violence, in the office. And that led to a major kind of discussion. Again, the (issue of) freedom of press (was invoked): the press can write anything, why are you objecting? And people had taken different kind of views: that Krishna Madiga could have written a rejoinder to this (article), why did he do this (protest), and so on.
Then later, the Andhra Jyothi employees, including its editor, were trying to protest against this attack on their office. They prepared an effigy of Krishna Madiga – who is a Dalit, who is a Madiga – and that effigy was burnt by the employees. But when they were attempting to burn it, they asked the editor to light the fire first and the editor did that.
Then Krishna Madiga filed a complaint in the police station saying that his effigy was burnt, and he was offended by this, (so) the editor should be booked under the SC/ST Act. And the editor, K. Srinivas of Andhra Jyothy, was booked under the SC/ST Act, and he was arrested and he was imprisoned.
He was a progressive person, democratic person; there was a lot of support for him. But still, when a particular Dalit leader invokes that law he was arrested. I am not (asking to) resort to using the law, but if somebody resorts (to it), if somebody feels extremely offended, and if some state government, like the YSR government, wants to use it: how can we blame the entire Dalit community? How can you stereotype the entire Dalit community?
Now, personally, I am not for Nandy’s arrest. I want to expose Nandy. And in fact, I am really happy that if there are some SC, ST, OBCs who are generally following Nandy, this is one important kind of situation where you can see his mindset, and the mindset of all his friends. So this is a revealing moment for all of us. This way of exposing Nandy is enough for me, and the fact that he did not apologize, it really tells a lot about Nandy.
So much he talks about (how) he is a Gandhian and so on, but he is not willing to apologize. He is not willing to unconditionally apologize. That’s my demand. And the second point that I want to make is that Nandy’s comments are objectionable, offensive – I don’t know whether they are legally right or wrong, that I leave it to the police, but I think he should publicly apologize. And stop this signature campaign and all these campaigns – and arrest is not going to happen – and all his supporters should stop this campaign of maligning Dalits, stereotyping Dalits as people who are ‘intolerant’, as people who are ‘brokers of victimhood’, as what not..
Please read the first part of the interview here.
Dr K.Satyanarayana, with Susie Tharu, edited the anthology of Dalit writing ‘No Alphabet in Sight: New Dalit Writing from South’, published by Penguin India in 2011.
Please also read recent articles on the same issue:
Ashis Nandy’s comment: A Need to Think and Re-think!: by Jyotsna Siddharth
The Emperor Has No Clothes: by Dr. N. Sukumar