regular-article-logo Tuesday, 06 June 2023

Modi government one of the most appalling: Amartya Sen

'This govt treats its own people in a nasty way, neglecting the justice and fairness that should come to people of different ancestry'

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 15.01.23, 03:41 AM
Amartya Sen in Calcutta.

Amartya Sen in Calcutta. PTI

Economist Amartya Sen has said that he stands by his recent remark that “the Indian government is one of the most appalling in the world”.

Journalist Karan Thapar, during an interview for The Wire news website, had asked the Nobel laureate if he stood by his quote, published in the French newspaper Le Monde, that “the Indian government is one of the most appalling in the world”.


Sen replied: “I do think the (Narendra) Modi government is one of the most appalling, which treats its own people in such a nasty way, which neglects the justice and fairness that should come to people of different ancestry.”

He added: “The neglect of Indians in India is a major error, a major catastrophe that riddles the country. This is a tragedy because India was not like that before the present administration began. People like (Mahatma) Gandhi, (Jawaharlal) Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose worked very hard to make the country a combined, united nation.”

Thapar asked Sen how he viewed ministers referring to Muslims as “termites” and “Babar ki aulad (Babar’s offspring)”, taunting them with references to “Abba jaan” and repeatedly telling them to go to Pakistan. Sen replied: “That language is a reflection of an understanding of the Indian nation that is very distorted indeed.… To only count Hindus as Indians and not the others is a terrible aberration.… I think it is a terrible folly to ignore the multiple pluralistic nature of the country and I think we have every reason to be upset by the reduction of India.”

Asked about the Modi government’s treatment of Muslims, and the absence of any Muslim MPs in the BJP, Sen said: “The word ‘barbaric’ comes to my tongue because it’s not just unjust, not just wrong but it makes people’s lives totally precarious and makes the culture of India so limited.”

Asked whether he believed that anti-Muslim prejudice was growing in India and Muslims were becoming second-class citizens, Sen said: “I am not only worried, I am terrified that a nation with different components is suddenly in a state of catastrophic isolation as groups, in particular Muslims, have ended up being. We live in a country where suddenly a whole group of people suddenly feel that they are not part of this country at all…. I think this is a national disaster.”


In an interview to PTI in Calcutta, Sen commented on whether Mamata Banerjee had the ability to become the next Prime Minister.

“It’s not that she does not have the ability to do it. She clearly has the ability,” Sen told PTI. “On the other hand, it’s yet not established that Mamata can pull the forces of public dismay against the BJP in an integrated way to make it possible for her to have the leadership to put an end to the fractionalisation in India.”

Sen added: “I think a number of regional parties are clearly important. I think the DMK is an important party, the TMC is certainly important and the Samajwadi Party has some standing but whether that could be extended I do not know.

“I think it would be a mistake to take the dismissive view that there is no other party that can take the place of the BJP since it has established itself as a party with a vision that is inclined in the direction of Hindus over the rest of the country,” he told PTI.

“The BJP has substantially reduced the vision of India. It has narrowed the understanding of India as just Hindu India and as a Hindi-speaking India in such a strong way that it would be sad if there is no alternative to the BJP in India today.

“If the BJP looks strong and powerful, it has a good deal of weakness too. So, I think other political parties will be able to come to a debate if they really try. I do not know enough to be able to dismiss the anti-BJP parties together.”


Sen said the Congress “seems to have weakened a lot and I do not know how much somebody can rely on the Congress.

On the other hand, the Congress certainly provides an all-India vision which no other party can take over. Then again, there are divisions within the Congress.”


On the Citizenship Amendment Act, Sen said: “As far as I can see, one of the BJP’s purposes (by implementing the new citizenship regime) is to reduce the role of minorities and make them less important and, in a direct and indirect way, increase the role of the Hindu majoritarian forces in India and to that extent undermine the minorities.

“It’s very unfortunate for a country like India which is meant to be a secular, egalitarian nation and it has also been used for particularly unfortunate discriminatory action like declaring minorities, whether from Bangladesh or West Bengal, as foreign rather than indigenous. This is pretty demeaning and I would regard that to be a bad move basically.”

Asked whether the BJP-led central government had improved its performance in these years, Sen said it had not. “I do not think it has improved. I think what India needs is a recognition that every Indian has certain rights and they come from their membership of the nation. That was after all what Mahatma Gandhi tried to do,” he said.

Mahatma Gandhi did not try to cultivate one group against another, Sen said, adding that despite being a “strongly committed Hindu in a religious way”, Gandhi was willing to give Muslims much more standing than they had at that time before Independence.

“I think the move was for a fair culture, a just polity, and a good sense of national identity. Someday India will regret the neglect of the minorities like Muslims,” the economist said.

Follow us on: