Tag Archives: intellectuals

The Pro-Establishment Intelligentsia and the Modi Phenomenon

For several months, I have been hearing Narendra Modi’s campaign speeches quite regularly, paying attention to his themes, rhetoric and imagery. As expected, he has vigorously attacked key political opponents — the Nehru-Gandhi family, Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh Yadav. But a systematic silence has also marked his campaign. Quite remarkably, Hindu nationalism has been absent from his speeches.

This is the opening paragraph from an article by an important US-based Indian political scientist, Ashutosh Varshney. This article, published in the Indian Express on 27 March 2014, under the caption “Modi the Moderate” has been now followed up by another piece in the same newspaper that somewhat modifies the earlier position, this time by “Hearing the Silence”. Strange that he did not hear the silence in the first instance, even after having listened to Modi’s speeches closely (‘paying attention to his rhetoric and imagery’). Not that he did not ‘hear the silence’ then. He did, but just two weeks ago, identified the silence as being about Hindu nationalism. In the second piece, the silence is apparently about  minority rights. How did he read the silence as one thing two weeks ago and as just the opposite two weeks down the line? What exactly was he reading?

Intellectuals generally take words very seriously. Words in their insularity, words in their most manifest meanings. But really, do words mean anything in and of themselves? One line of argument that derives from within the ancient Mimamsa tradition, for example, would argue that meaning lies in the way words are chosen, arranged and formed into sentences. There is something that happens in this process which Mimamsa scholars call ‘akanksha’ – or the expectation that this arrangement within a text generates in the reader of the text. The meaning that a text produces then, is a matter of a complex negotiations between the text and the reader – the bearer of akanksha. And since the reader is never one but many, the expectations that the text generates in different readers could arguably be many. Continue reading The Pro-Establishment Intelligentsia and the Modi Phenomenon

Corruption and Political Correctness: A Severe Case of Intellectual Laziness: Meera Ashar

Guest post by MEERA ASHAR

Ashis Nandy has been called, rather, accused of being, many things—sociologist, historian, political theorist, public intellectual, philosopher, psychoanalyst, leftist, centrist, right wing, Dalit, Christian, Brahmanical, casteist (he describes himself, more poetically, as an intellectual street fighter and reason buster)—but ‘politically correct’ has never been one of them.

This time, Nandy’s political incorrectness has cost him more than before. As in the past, he has been attacked by politicians and the popular media for presenting his analysis of social phenomena—for doing his job well. The response of the Indian intelligentsia to Nandy’s threatened arrest by the right wing government of Gujarat in 2008 was markedly different from the response now. The difference this time, of course, is that Nandy has not offended the right people. He is seen to have betrayed the marginalized. This time, he has been unfashionably politically incorrect. The similarity between the two episodes is the ‘freedom of speech’ brigade, which has dutifully stood by Nandy. But I shall turn to them later.

Continue reading Corruption and Political Correctness: A Severe Case of Intellectual Laziness: Meera Ashar

Welcome to a Leninist State

I have been thinking about the recent warning issued by the Home Secretary G.K.Pillai to Indian intellectuals, especially to those who are seen to be sympathetic to the Maoists. He says that they could be booked for their intellectual support to the dreaded enemy of the nation called Maoists.  I felt like thanking him. For once the government, rather the state seems to have taken notice of the importance of the breed called ‘intellectual’. They do matter! Their opinion is valued! The masses are influenced by them!!! They are heard!!! Continue reading Welcome to a Leninist State