Caste and Corruption

Ashis Nandy at the Jaipur Literature Featival. Photo By Shailendra Pandey

On the occasion of Republic Day and the Jaipur Literature Festival, Ashis Nandy, a social thinker, made a statement that Dalits, Adivasis and backwards are involved in most of the corruption cases. This statement has different interpretations and implications. Undoubtedly, the statement shows these groups in a bad light and is condemnable, but it has other aspects also; and if a country-wide debate is held on this issue, the campaign to fight against corruption will get further intensified. In our county, nothing is more powerful and perennial than the caste factor. Till death, one cannot get rid of the caste tag. Even if someone leaves India and goes to a foreign country, the caste paraphernalia travels with the individual. All sort of comments are pouring on the statement by Ashis Nandy. Some people are saying that corruption does not belong to any particular caste while some others are giving the plea that the statement should be read in its full context. There is a demand for the arrest of Ashis Nandy. Whatever he has said on this issue cannot be retracted, but if an intensive country-wide debate on the corruption issue takes place as to which caste is more corrupt, as it has happened in the Nirbhaya rape and murder case, some positive results are bound to come.

It is wrong to say that Dalits and Adivasis are more corrupt. Last year, the Government of India disclosed the names of 17 people with foreign accounts, out of whom not a single foreign account-holder belonged to the Dalit or Adivasi category. In the Jain Hawala Scam also, there were no Dalits or Adivasis. Lakhs and crores of Indian money are lying in foreign banks. It is very likely that here also, no Dalit or Adivasi is involved. None of the scamsters like Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parikh or Telgi are Dalits or Adivasis. There was a Rs 70,000 crore fraud in the Commonwealth Games. The Government was duped of Rs. 44,000 crore in the Kaveri Gas Case. Coal Block Distribution Scam is known to one and all. None of the 2G spectrum licensees belonged to the Dalit category. Of course, the Minister concerned was a Dalit. It may not be wrong to say that if any Dalit or Adivasi is at all corrupt, it may be an exception rather than a rule. The number of corrupt people belonging to the OBC category could be a little more, but in comparison to their population, it will also be very negligible. If an opposite interpretation of Ashis Nandy’s statement is taken, it will become an established fact that the upper castes are more corrupt than Dalits and Adivasis.

The caste which exercises control over the political, religious, social and economic power gives birth to other institutions also. Corruption has become an established institution in our country. After independence, the strings of the executive, legislature and the judiciary were in the hands of the upper caste people and it can be safely said that the foundations of corruption were also laid at that time. The ruling class is always the originator of institutions, traditions and customs of the society. Maximum corruption in our country takes place in the name of religion. Cash, prasadams, chadars, gold and silver ornaments, cocks, goats et cetera offered to deities is nothing short of corruption. It can be said without any doubt that the upper caste people have laid the foundations for corruption in the country and in the last decades, Dalits, Adivasis and the backwards have been influenced by this social evil. The real culprit is the ‘originator caste’ which has given birth to corruption. Thus, Ashis Nandy should do an introspection of his statement and he will find that the opposite of his statement is correct. Most of the intellectuals in our society are not mentally honest and at the same time they have no connect with reality. A man does not become an intellectual just by becoming a bookworm. Unlike Europe and America, here the so called intellectuals take note of change once it has already occurred. Our society is least influenced by their writings and thoughts. After all, Ashis Nandy is a product of this social background and nothing big can be expected from him. 

Ashis Nandy has said that corruption is relatively less in West Bengal and for which he has given credit to the Left Front and upper caste people. He has also said that no prominent leader has emerged from amongst Dalits, Adivasis and backwards in the last hundred years in West Bengal, and thus the economic corruption has been less, but social corruption has been high. It would also have been good for Dalits, Adivasis and backwards if economic corruption would have been there in West Bengal as much as it has been elsewhere, provided they had also been part and parcel of the governance process. The issue of participation in the governance process is more important than economic corruption. The Left Front may not accept this fact, but it is a stark reality. Left front was wiped out because they refused to acknowledge this fact; otherwise there were no reasons why it should not have been successful in India like Russia where Marxism flourished. So far, the charges leveled against the Left that it is extremely pro-Brahmin, is true. Ashis Nandy’s statement confirms this view-point. How is it possible that a state where the population of Dalits, Adivasis and backwards is 80 percent, is not able to produce a leader of its own? Shall we take it that they are fools and incompetent?

Just as Anna Hazare’s campaign “India Against Corruption” gained momentum across the country, there should be a debate as to which caste is corrupt and which is not. This debate will add a large perspective to the issue and the castes which are corrupt will be exposed, and it will exert psychological and mental pressure on them which might result in reduction in corruption. In our country, things move faster due to competition and ego. When the ego of the people belonging to a particular caste is hurt, they hesitate from indulging in corruption. A few days ago, a conference was held in ND Tiwari Hall, New Delhi, where I happened to meet Anna Hazare. I told him that as compared to the previous year, there has been an increase in corruption and thus there has been no gain or benefit from the indefinite fast that he undertook. In response, he said that the campaign against corruption will have to be launched at the village level. I further told him that there are more than 6 lakh villages in India and it would take thousands of years to wipe out corruption in this way as he has spent his life-time in improving the condition of just one village. Many are advocating that corruption cannot be attributed to people of any specific caste; but it is not a fact. The foundations of our caste system and social structure are based on falsehood and lie. Economic corruption is the child of lie telling and this has been since ages. High and low positions in life are God’s will and the society is based on this dogma. Is it true? A falsehood is an act of corruption by itself. Struggle against economic corruption will not be successful till intellectual corruption is weeded out. It is an established fact that if a debate takes place on the national level on the issues of caste and corruption, it will yield good results.


Ashis Nandy’s remarks at the Jaipur Literature Festival were misconstrued by a large number of people. Most of them criticised him, alleging that the sociologist had linked corruption to castes. Those present at the event and subsequently the video of the event established that Nandy was misunderstood. In the spirit of free thinking, we are putting across one such view by Dalit thinker Udit Raj


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