The essential question.

Justice Markandey Katju is the Chairman of Press Council of India. He is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India and now, a senior citizen of the country.

Given his stature, one would expect comments from him to carry a certain dignity and be diplomatic in their tone. Lately, however, he has made a series of highly controversial comments.

At a seminar in New Delhi last week, Justice Katju claimed that at least 90% of Indians are “idiots”, easily misled by mischievous elements in the name of religion.

“I say 90% of Indians are idiots. You people don’t have brains in your heads… It is so easy to take you for a ride,” he was quoted as saying at the seminar.

He was further quoted as saying that a communal riot could be incited in Delhi for a meagre Rs 2,000 and additionally indicated that people can be easily misled by making mischievous elements in the name of religion.

(SOURCE : Hindustan Times and

Reactions to the judge’s comments were quick.
Two students from Lucknow have sent a legal notice to Justice Katju, referring to his comments.

The notice to Katju was sent by law student Tanaya Thakur and her brother, Class XI student
Aditya Thakur.

Both said they found the comments hurtful: “We are deeply hurt and humiliated by Justice Katju’s words,” the duo said on Monday, adding that Justice Katju’s statements “would depreciate the reputation of India and its citizens”.

“A person of Justice Katju’s stature should have deliberated on the implications of his statement,” they said, seeking a public apology from the former Supreme Court judge.

The students said that if a public apology was not forthcoming, they would move the court in a month’s time.

Firstly, I see this as a positive thing for our democracy. The fact that two young students have sought legal help against a person of Katju’s stature is very liberating.

The question is : “Should they have taken offence?”.

I believe the students took the comment a bit too literally, without really understanding the spirit in which the remarks were made.

Sure the word “idiot” stings!
Sure that one would raise one’s eyebrow at the statistic of 90%.

But can we brush aside the observations made by Katju?

I don’t think so. If we look in history, we would find that Katju is not wrong.

Just two months ago, the country watched in horror while lower Assam burned.

Time and again, the disruptive forces tried to give the clashes a communal colour.

The resulting backlash at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan is well know to many.

Only a few months ago, thousands of north eastern Indians hurriedly returned home from the city of Banglore, scared by threats of communal riots, issued by SMS’s.

Is a communal riot that hard to incite in modern day India?

I don’t think it is.

I do, however, believe Justice Katju’s tone is condescending.

Especially, the use of ‘you’ in “You people don’t have brains in your head. It’s so easy to take you for a ride” makes it clear.

He uses ‘you’ while referring to ‘Indians’ and not ‘us’. So he clearly believes he is a superior being and most common Indians are idiots.

However, having said that, I wouldn’t have taken offence because what he says is true.

I believe we, Indians, are a tad sensitive. We fear introspection. We don’t like to have fingers pointed at us. We don’t like to be criticised.

When Danny Boyle made the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” and showcased slums, there was hue and cry.

“Why should he show slums?” was one question.

The truth is he didn’t ‘show’ anything. He just chose a contemporary tale with details that are true and unaltered for the sake of pleasant viewing.

Why do people have a problem with that? Since slums exist in India ,why not show them in movies?

It highlights an important point. We don’t accept criticism very well. We believe it makes us “look bad”.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Did the two students overreact by sending a legal notice?

Or, did Justice Katju cross the line?

This entry was posted in My take.

4 comments on “The essential question.

  1. Beechmount says:

    Whether the judge was right or wrong is not the question. He was completely out of line in making those comments. In fact, the very manner in which he spoke could by itself lead to a riot. It should have been beyond his dignity to stoop to this level of stupidity. He must certainly have lost the respect of uncounted millions of people. In this country, he would be sued for libel and branded an idiot, but no self-respecting judge would ever do that here.

    Had the judge said there would be a Muslim or Hindu riot in some particular place, it would have caused a riot there, so in this respect, he is probably reasonably correct in his assumptions, but that isn’t the point. He should have kept his big mouth shut.


  2. Thank you for your thoughts 🙂

  3. “I say 90% of Indians are idiots. You people don’t have brains in your heads…”

    I too find his comment hurtful.

    “We Indians are easily misled in the name of religion, community, caste… I find it disturbing”

    Notice the difference between the statements.

Let me know what you are thinking. . .

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