Intolerance Won’t Last Long in India, People Must Unite to Fight Against It: Amartya Sen

'This situation [intolerance] won't last long. People are being beaten up if they don’t agree or simply do not listen to others. People will have to work together. We need to reduce the distances between us,' Sen said.

New Delhi: Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen on Sunday, January 8, said an “atmosphere of intolerance” currently prevailing in India will not last long and that people will have to unite to fight against it.

“This situation will not last long. People are being beaten up if they don’t agree or simply do not listen to others. People will have to work together. Differences must be sorted out. We need to reduce the distances between us,” he said, the Indian Express reported.

However, according to the daily, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Dilip Ghosh questioned why the Nobel laureate didn’t say anything about the economy and added that he does not have to think about India which “has now emerged strong globally”.

“He is an economist. But did he say anything about the economy? Sen does not have to think about India which has now emerged strong globally. But yes, the situation in Bengal will not continue like this for long. Mr Sen should know that there will be a change here,” he said.

Sen made these comments while interacting with students, teachers and research scholars during a programme organised by Pratichi Trust in Kolkata’s Amartya Sen Research Centre on his maternal grandfather Kshitimohan Sen’s concept of ‘Yukta Sadhana’.

Responding to a question by a class 7 student on the “benefits of a combined pursuit”, he said, “Is diversity always good? Of late, India has had diversity which was not there before. There is a need to look at both advantages and disadvantages of diversity.”

When asked by a teacher as “how can we retain the country’s diversity”, the Nobel laureate reminded the audience of what Mahatma Gandhi had said. “Gandhi said during the initial phase of the struggle for Independence that we should reduce the distances between ourselves. Our ability to respect others is decreasing. And this is one of the reasons we are lagging behind,” he said.

Trinamool Congress’s Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy told the newspaper, “We welcome his [Sen’s] statement. He is actually criticising the situation wherein the BJP is dividing the entire country on the basis of religion, caste, gender and language.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary Mohammad Salim told the daily, “He expressed his understanding as a true thinker. The is a torchbearer of the tradition of pluralism and unity that India has carried from the likes of Rabindranath Tagore.”

Also read: Interview | Current Regime Has No Regard for the Poor: Amartya Sen

The economist had been stressing on the need for Indians to work hard to preserve the tradition of tolerance and plurality.

In February 2016, he had said that India has become too tolerant towards intolerance.

“The problem is not that Indians have turned intolerant. In fact to the contrary we have been much too tolerant of intolerance. When people in minority are attacked by organised detractors they need our support. This is I am afraid not happening adequately right now and this did not happen adequately earlier,” he had said, while delivering a lecture on “The centrality of the right to dissent”.

“The Indian Constitution does of course have clearly articulated demands that are needed for public order, decency and morality. And that is of course is needed… the Constitution does not have anything against anyone eating beef, storing it in the refrigerator even if there are some people who are offended by other people’s food habits. Murders have occurred on account of hurt sentiments arising from private eating,” he had said, in a possible reference to the Dadri lynching incident.

Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, he had said that India’s “democracy is in danger” and that all non-communal, non-BJP forces should join hands to fight communalism, which is the biggest threat in the country.