Friday, November 18, 2011

Katju Displays More Ignorance

Markandey Katju’s “clarification” of his outrageous comments about the Indian people and mass media has confirmed that his ignorance is multifaceted and extends to history.

 Consider just one paragraph in the long excerpt from an interview published by The Hindu on its OP-Ed page on 16 November.

 In it Katju says India is making “a very painful and agonizing” transition from a “feudal agricultural society to modern industrial society.” Europe during a similar transition from the 16th to the 19th Centuries experienced “turbulence, turmoil, wars, revolutions, chaos, social churning and intellectual ferment. It was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe. India is presently going through that fire.”

The unexamined, undigested quality of that assessment is breathtaking. How did this man ever ascend to the Supreme Court!

 First, Europe and India are in no way comparable. Our societies, histories and experience of modernity are all completely different.

Second, Europe’s “turbulence, turmoil” etc., had nothing to do with the advent of “modern society.” The agonies of Europe reflected the impact of a set of racist, violent, materialist philosophies. Insofar as Europe dragged India into its affairs we have been affected, but as a society, we have not endured anything comparable.

 Third, the “modern" values Katju esteems as the product of painful European transformation actually emerged from the American Revolution. The subsequent French Revolution also proclaimed the “rights of man,” but bloody tyranny submerged them quickly. The European “scramble for Africa” in the 19th Century brought back slavery, colonialism and genocide.

Fourth, it was not until Gandhi took up the cause of Indians in South Africa that the European darkness began to lift. Gandhi’s attack on racism in Africa and colonialism in India let loose the modern human rights revolution. The values Katju ascribes to industrial modernity are Indian and homegrown.

 Fifth, European societies did not embrace “modern" values voluntarily or enthusiastically. The onset of the Cold War in 1946 allowed Britain and France to shape-shift into "free-world" good guys, but their international policies continued to be dank with blood and corruption. Both societies have continued to glorify their colonial past, brushing under the rug a record of violence, oppression, exploitation and genocide.

There is much else in Katju’s “clarification” that reflects a fundamental ignorance of Indian and global realities. He should be dumped from the Press Council.

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