POLL: Are 90% of Indians “mentally backward”?

Notwithstanding the brouhaha over his comments on the idiots and ignoramuses of the media, about which plenty has been said, the former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju has been singing the same song in interaction after public interaction.

Namely, that besides the media, there is something wrong with “We, the People of India”. In other words, there is something wanting in not just those who deliver the message but also those who receive it.

He mentioned it first in his TV interview with Karan Thapar on October 30:

“You know, 90% of the people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on.”

He repeated it in his published comments on the role of media on November 5:

“It is true that the intellectual level of the vast majority of Indians is very low, they are steeped in casteism, communalism, and superstitions.”

He said it in his talk ‘What is India?’ at Jawaharlal Nehru University on November 14:

“Unfortunately, the intellectual level of a majority of our countrymen is very low.”

And he has again put his first comment on record in his clarification on November 15:

“I stated that in my opinion the majority of media people are of a poor intellectual level.”

Mentally very backward. Intellectual level is very low. Poor intellectual level.

Is Justice Markandey Katju correct in his surmise? Despite all our civilisational claims of our wisdom, is the “intellectual level” of a majority of Indians low? What is the barometer? Does our “mental backwardness” get reflected only in our casteism, communalism and superstition? Is it as high as 90 per cent?

Or is the learned judge, a Brahmin from Kashmir, talking down to the rest of his countrymen and women in a derisive sort of way, which “We, the People” would not be wrong to take offence at?

Also read: CHURUMURI test for journalists (and their critics)

‘Justice Markandey Katju‘s remarks are not wide of the mark’

‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

TV news channel editors too blast PCI chief

Has Justice Katju been appointed by Josef Stalin?

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26 Responses to “POLL: Are 90% of Indians “mentally backward”?”

  1. Pulikeshi the Last Says:

    The Justice is right. Did we not just blindly follow Gandhi, Nehru, et al?

  2. Law of Omerta Says:

    Yatha Raja Thatha Praja…

    If 90% of the rulers are intellectually and morally backward, then how can the populace be intelligent.

    Our corrupt politics has robbed not just our materal wealth, but also of our basic intelligence.

  3. the colonel Says:

    Any Doubts Now.

  4. Venkatarama Muthuswami Says:

    I would neither accept nor refute Katju’s observations, probably based on his personal experience. That is what democracy (the famous First Amdt of the US Constitution) is all about.
    Having said, I would spend time to deeply reflect and see and analyse our social environment – in my own house, in the neighborhood, and the towns and villages I usually visit for some form voluntary social help. The reality is what Katju says is quite true; maybe one can dispute the percentage level etc.
    60+ years of independence from colonial masters, we have not developed an educational system, teaching and learning methodologies whereby children learn and imbibe and internalize the basic values and also how to value the values and practice them in our daily life.

    You can blame the politician, vested interests. local and national netas et al for the divide and rule framework, and needless sustained support (legal and otherwise) of everything based on caste, creed, religion, language, and all the useless things. This is the reality and we have to move from here if we want to change.

    How is it that most Indians become so patriotic about India when abroad, but become Maharastrian, Kannadiga, Tamili, Bangali, Punjabi, etc. the moment they land on the Indian soil.

    My experience with the globalization, and the spread and acceptance of fast paced IT technologies especially among younger generation and perforce by most other sectors of economy has been that it has been a good thing happened. Acting as a great level playing field among all aspiring people – young and old alike – to get things done in the globalized world, they seem to focus on acquiring knowledge and skills – not on religion, caste, and all the usual dividers and spoilers. All these people wanting to use and take advantage of the technology to improve their lives, they are all prepared and willing to speak/write/communicate on the acceptable IT language overnight.

    I believe there are good lessons to learn from these globalized life style and bridge the divide. Of course, India should not remain as the dirtist country on earth; more mobiles per capita but fewer toilets for use. There are basic lessons of life to be learnt too!

  5. Ashwin Says:

    The tone in your last paragraph just shows how mentally backward you, the author of this blog post, are. You have used the words Brahmin and Kashmir in the last paragraph. You could have written this post without mentioning the native region, the name of the caste, and indirectly the religion of the judge. But you did not. The very use of caste, in a blog post which could have been written without mentioning the caste, region, and religion, just confirms what the judge has to say. At times Indians, especially the narrow minded ones like you, tend to sift the people using religion, caste, class, region, language, and other such useless things. If you still want to confirm what the judge has to say please open any classifieds entry or any marriage website for Indians. You can find your answer there.

  6. brahmanyan Says:

    When most of the population suffer under abject povery and disease, where is the option of intellectual ability ?

  7. Tusar Nath Mohapatra Says:

    The fact that the thought of Sri Aurobindo is yet to appear in the dominant consciousness of the nation proves Justice Katju right beyond any doubt. And sadly, both the elite and the laity are one under this criterion. [TNM55]

  8. richardw Says:

    @Law Of Omerta – True. But in this case is it not the praja that “elects” the raja ? :), albeit the limited choices, though :D

  9. vaidya Says:

    He’s not saying anything new. Just applying Sturgeon’s law to Indians. By that barometer, 90% of everyone in the world is intellectually backward.
    Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_Law

  10. Vinay Says:

    Law of Omerta:

    Time we stopped blaming “bloody paaaliticians” for everything bad in the nation. Politicians are a reflection of society. In a democracy, Yatha Praja thatha raja is more appropriate.

    Silly to say that 90% of Indians are “mentally backward”, whatever that means. Maybe we start by defining what “mentally backward” means.

  11. Venkatarama Muthuswami Says:

    Unfortunately or whatever, I happen to live in a city called Chennai – it is a great old city of great traditions presently becoming a city of shit, filth, garbage, dirt and dust all over. We have potholes every where,in between some semblance of roads.

    How can I claim my city is populated by 90% intellectuals, especially among the ruling class?

  12. Ramesh Raghuvanshi Says:

    Indians are as intelligent as people of other countries. Fools are every where,so don’t blamed Indians..If opportunely available Indians also they also telnet with people of developed countries.

  13. mindryin Says:

    Epic chamak. Charity for the filthy rich. Might as well. What have the poor done for me lately?

  14. Balasubrahmanyan Krishnaswami Says:

    I agree. we do elect unworthy people and are governed by them and do not protest or even react to the mess in which we are in.Ashwin is right bala

  15. Brahmanyan Says:

    Learned Judge is not wrong in his surmise. Most of the population is backward and how many of us think as Indians. Not many, we separate ourselves by religion, language, caste. Look at your own blog. You want to impress by Castiest remark by declaring Justice Katju as a Brahmin from Kashmir. What these have to do with his observation “I stated that in my opinion the majority of media people are of a poor intellectual level.”

  16. Murthy Says:

    it reminds me of V Raghunathan’s book where he says “Indians are privately smart but publicly dumb!”

    I guess, Indians are not dumb per se, but as Justice Katju says, they become dumb and backward in public because of (lack of) civic sense, castiesm, superstitions and so on. Sometime back ZTV Kannada stopped the Brahmanda or whatever it is called, but now it is back! And many know what to expect in that show.


    @Law of Omerta:

    I dont’ subscribe to your view of “Yatha Raja Tatha Praja” May be it used to make sense in old times of Kings. But now it is exactly opposite. Our rulers are but the worst people among us! Well, there are exceptions.

    Only way out of this situation is to change ourselves and our immediate surroundings…when everyone does this, the rest will be taken care of by automatically…

    It should start with how we raise our children and how we behave in the public. We don’t even know how to make the best use of public parking, for example. Just have a look at the way we park the vehicles; if the space can accomodate 100 bikes, say, we will park our vehicles in such a way that only some 40-50 bikes can be parked. And whoever questions this will be the fool in the public. And I have been a fool so many times to question such acts! We always need a police to stand at the signal junctions; else we feel free to jump the signal…

  17. sanjeeva Says:

    Law of Omerta! Regarding Yatha Raja…, the reverse is also true – “People get what they deserve”.

  18. bharat deshi Says:

    your efforts to malighn the judge by being castist yourself only prove his points.

    in fact he is from a family of freedom fighters and his family left kashmir 3 genertions before he was born.

  19. FirstReality Says:

    If it was just 90%, things would be lot better.

  20. Venkatarama Muthuswami Says:

    Having read carefully Hon.Katju’s (Chairman of Press Council) interview/clarifications published in The Hindu edition of 16 Nov 2011, I feel happy that we had such an educated, intelligent and balanced judge sitting in the SC until recently, contributing to the image, independence, professionalism and integrity of the highest court of this democratic country.

    Now, as chairman of the Press Council, and our state of the state of Indian media of all kinds being what it is, Katju seems to be courting some controversy. Much of the problem seems on the side of the media guys who seem reluctant to accept reasonable and justifiable restrictions while enjoying the freedom of expression. Looks the media and some of us who commented based on media reports appear to be just biased reactions or resulting from some myopic perceptions without understanding Katju’s comments holistically.

    Even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly defined the responsibilities for various actors incl state parties, so as to promote freedom and human rights. Our own ancient wisdom speak about rights and duties, entitlement and responsibilities not independently but thru inherent inter-connectedness to ensure growth and evolution.

    How can we disagree with Katju’s remarks that the socalled self-regulation is an oxymoron (most of the time), and everybody, interacting in public affairs, is accountable to the people in a democracy.

    Can the media, especially the electronic media, deny his and our observation that it devotes almost 90 per cent on entertainment of all kinds, incl some sleazy part, and just a very minimum time spent on social and economic issues that impact our daily lives, be in the urban or sub-urban or rural sectors.

    Finally, India’s credibility and its claim to emerge as a socio-economic power house or super-power (your choice) depends not just on our material wealth creation or what the graphs show, but how real life at each and every village manifests, greater social justice, lesser and lesser inequities, and opportunities for all without any kind of discrimination.

  21. Gokulam 3rd Stage Says:

    Since 90% of humanity as a whole is “mentally backward”, and because I believe Indians to be better than average, I think the actual number is about 80%. Justice Katju has grievously injured my pride, which of course is important to no one but me.

  22. Faldo Says:

    There was a controversial study done by Richard Flynn and a group of other eminent professors where they ranked the national intelligence quotient (IQ) of 189 countries. According to them average IQ differences between nations are due to both genetic and environmental factors. Interestingly East Asian countries topped this list. India’s place was 122. Again, this study was quite controversial and much of the data was estimated as it was not directly available.
    My own belief is that while most people are blessed with similar intelligence levels, they use it to adapt to the environment around them rather than trying to question or change it. It is the presence of competition, adverse conditions or driven leadership that bring change to the environment and consequently raise people’s intellectual capacities. For all the advances India has made, it is still a very poor county with vast disparities. This affects the way collective intelligence is used or can make an impact even for the smallest issues. With further progress a change can be expected but gradually.

  23. Shree Kar Says:

    What might be the value of his observation, if the ex-honorable Justice also falls in his favorite 90% category?

    Consider the following points:

    As the old Kannada saying says, senility starts at 60 and the Justice is past 60.

    So many judgments of the lower Courts are usually overturned or reversed by the higher Courts making us wonder who was right and who wrong and who was wronged.

    The Honorable Justices are expected to be just and precise in everything they utter. So, how did the ex-honorable arrive at the figure of 90%? Was any study or survey conducted to ascertain this figure?

    In the absence of any such study by experts, wasn’t the Justice wrong in making such a sweeping statement? Doesn’t this act of uttering an irresponsible statement and repeating it ad nauseam in public forums make him fit enough to join his favorite 90% category?

  24. Nastika Says:

    If you ask the same question, you will get the same answer. Atleast Justice Markandey Katju is consistent in his answers.

    Coming to ‘mental backwardness’, it needs to be defined.

    If ‘mental backwardness’ is causing inconvenience to fellow citizens, then the percentage is more than 90. Just look at the driving sense, honking on road, the number of roads that are dug up & not filled again.

    Justice Markandey Katju says ‘mental backwardness’ is casteism, communalism, superstition. I agree with him. The solution is education in right model. You need to be brave not to succumb to casteism, communalism or superstition.

  25. Deepak Rao Says:

    I am 100% with the judge on “You know, 90% of the people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on.” If that is mental backwardness, then the judge is spot on

  26. harkol Says:

    The juvenile nature of Indian audience is so obvious in the nature of majority of our TV, Paper and movies.

    In the name of slapstick, we have juvenile movies as any other country would have. But, how do you explain even a non-comedy, non-slapstick movie being so juvenile? Take majority of Kannada movies, including the ones from our leading director Y.Bhat. THe story line, situation, lyrics (in most of songs) are all juvenile, with only a Jayant Kaikini bringing in some sanity to lyrics.

    Even other language films fare no better. Tamil, Telugu are the worst. Malayalam slightly better. In most films even today a hero can beat up 20-30 goons at once with bare hands. Our TVs display dead bodies and act without thought.

    With only about 10% of content being made sensibly, one has to think that our media has understood their audiences for what they are – Juvenile.

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