Economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who is at his ancestral home Pratichi in Santiniketan now, answered questions from the media on some contentious contemporary issues after meeting students of Visva-Bharati on Wednesday afternoon.
Translated excerpts of Sen’s comments, made in Bengali, during the interaction, follow:
(Sen was asked to comment on the proposal of doing away with personal laws and focusing on equal pathways for all.)
Sen: Uniform civil code is an unproven attempt at making a difficult thing look very easy. Our society has a lot of diversities like different religions and obedience to distinct rules and laws.... And there is a need to unify everyone keeping all these differences aside.
I read in a newspaper today that there can’t be any further delay over the UCC. What is the basis of such foolish comments (laughs)?
There is a kind of fraud inherent in the UCC.... The notion that there is only one way of solving the problems (that we have) is bafflement.
We have lived with differences for thousands of years and can live another thousand years. Now the questions are — how are they going to introduce it (UCC)? Why will they introduce it? And who will benefit from its implementation?... We have to admit that there is a big mistake in the path of progress that they want to chart for the country.
(The question was whether the BJP was harping on the UCC as part of its Hindu Rashtra agenda.)
Sen: There is certainly a connection between it (the UCC) and Hindu Rashtra. But adopting Hindu Rashtra may not be a good way to guarantee India’s advancement. Adopting the path of Hindu Rashtra may even close down some of the avenues of progress.
So, we need to look at it from a larger perspective. But it is right that there is an attempt to use the Hindu religion, which can be called abuse of the religion.... I think there is significant abuse of religion in this.
(The question sought Sen’s views on Barack Obama’s comment on minority rights in India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US.)
Sen: This is a simple analysis and anyone can do it (laughs). There are several ways of dividing India. One among them is creating divisions between people.... Like Hindu-Muslim, men-women, rich-poor, in which we can easily find a way to divide the country. This is what Obama had warned against, and he did the right thing by articulating this. I am a fan of Obama and I am happy that he said it.
(The question focused on violence in the run-up to the panchayat polls in Bengal and also the atmosphere of violence during elections in India.)
Sen: I can’t comment on the reasons behind why this is happening. Such things have happened not just in different parts of India, but also in different parts of the globe, in a bigger context like in Ireland or in Germany around the 1920s.
We are also facing these problems (violence during elections) now.... But there is no reason to think that we should leave the path of democracy because of this.
One nation, one poll
(Sen was asked to comment on the BJP’s proposal for simultaneous elections across the country.)
Sen: I am not clear about what exactly is being conveyed with this.... What is the meaning of one nation?
I don’t think that just being one nation can solve all the problems. We have to think about how the goal of one nation can be achieved so that the differences and divisions among us can be reduced.