Nandan Nilekani – where does he stand?

Where does Nandan Nilekani  stands in social – political – cultural issues? A report based on the contents of his book – Imagining India.

Imagining India, written by Nandan Nilekani  is influenced by Ramachandra Guha, Andre Beteille, Atul Kohli, Kanchan Chandra, Ashutosh Varshney,  Yogendra Yadav, Pratap Bhanu Mehta,  and Chandra Bhan Prasad. Excerpts of the book about RSS, Bajrang Dal, and the caste system  reveals the biased opinions and level of maturity of handling some of the complicated issues of our society.

About RSS

While discussing demographic changes and tensions due to demographic factors, the book ridicules K. S. Sudarshan, former head of RSS. “For instance, K. S. Sudarshan appeals to Hindu families to ‘have a dozen sons’ – a windfall of infants meant to ensure that Hindus remain dominant in India’s demographics and elections’.  Footnote elaborates ‘Sudarshan often celebrates mata in his speeches, the prolific woman who produces large number of children; his blessing for women followers who meet him is the alarming ‘May you have hundred sons’.

About Manusmrithi and Hindu scriptures

For Dalits, English was a language exempt from the restrictive conventions of Indian literature, which was imbued with the traditions of caste and untouchability.  Hindu texts were ambiguous at best on the question of education and literacy for the lower castes.  At worst,  they were outright discriminatory – the Manusmrithi, the authoritative Hindu text on India’s caste system, said that ‘molten lead is to be poured into the ears of the ‘low born’ who dare to hear the recital of the written word.  As a result, like many of the early Indian reformers, Dalit leaders viewed English as emancipatory…

About caste system – mirroring others opinion

The political scientist Ashutosh Varshney has noted that India’s class divides were a ‘ranked ethnic system’ that combined both caste and class., similar to the apartheid systems in South Africa in that bloodlines would be a fair predictor of where you stood in the society in terms of income, respect and authority.  As Ashutosh tells me ‘The poor in India were not just poor, they were overwhelmingly low caste’.  Nandan approves the dominance of certain castes with writer Harish Damodaran, grandson of EMS Namboodaripad.

India never had a revolution. India is in fact a significant exception in that it was a huge and poor country which transitioned into democracy without any dramatic internal upheaval, and with our feudal structures intact.   India’s own reform movements against caste took a backseat in the struggle for independence as Indian leaders preferred to emphasize a unified resistance against the British.

Upward mobility for the backward castes had a significant impact in caste relations.  It also becomes difficult to enforce the silly notions of caste purity and pollution in the forced proximity of city buses and trains.  Some of the inane and repressive caste rules prevalent in parts of rural India  become especially impossible in a city environment. And it is difficult to enforce caste preferences while hiring in thee relatively flexible, high-demand urban labor market.

About first non congress government

The government that followed Indira was a defiant medley of peasant-based parties – the socialists, the Swatantra party and thhe Jan Sangh.  And this government brought the issue of caste based policies and rights to the center of the debate for the first time with the appointment of the 1978 Mandal Commission.

About Bajrang Dal

Broken down urban environments give rise to violence that prowls the narrow streets and by-lanes in overcrowded slums.  India’s urban slums have, for instance, been a breeding ground for parties such as the Bajrang Dal.

About Christian Communalism

Nandan is laments communal policies of St. Stephens like institutions but the ridicule towards K. S. Sudarshan was missing.



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