Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who was conferred the Bharat Ratna in 1999 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, has said: “The Modi government is one of the most appalling in the world.”
Professor Sen explained that he has come to this view because “it [the government] treats its own people in such a nasty way,” adding that “the Indian government’s record has been really rather terrible.”
He also said the Modi government’s treatment of Muslims, and the fact that it has no Muslim MP in either House of the parliament, is “unacceptably barbaric”.
“The word barbaric comes to my tongue because it’s not just unjust and wrong but it makes people’s lives totally precarious and makes India’s culture limited,” he said.
In a 34-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Professor Sen discussed and considerably expanded upon a comment he made to the French newspaper Le Monde on December 19: “It (the Indian government) is communitarian in the narrowest sense of the term, attacking Muslims and propagating the idea that Hindus form a nation.”
While elaborating on his Le Monde interview, he said: “India has always been a multi-ethnic country,” adding pointedly that the Modi government’s communitarian and majoritarian policies are “a reduction of India”. He added that it was “a demolition of part of the country”. He called it “a national disaster”, adding that it was “a matter of horrendous potential of nastiness”.
When I asked if he believes that anti-Muslim prejudice is growing in India and Muslims are becoming second class citizens, and whether he is worried about this, he said: “I am not only worried, I am terrified that a nation with different components is suddenly in a state of catastrophic isolation.”
“The ill-treatment of minorities is one of the major follies of the nation,” he added. He said this treatment of Muslims is “a fantastic denigration and demolition of the country’s history and its present”.
He told The Wire “to only count Hindus as Indians and not anyone else is terrible… a dreadful confusion of the nature of our country… a terrible folly to ignore the multiple pluralistic nature of the country.”
Asked how he viewed the fact that cabinet ministers and even chief ministers refer to Muslims as “termites” and “Babar ki aulad“, taunt them with references to ‘abba jaan’ and repeatedly tell them to go to Pakistan, Professor Sen said: “This language is a reflection of a distorted understanding of the Indian nation.”
He further said: “They [the Modi government] don’t understand what a nation means.”
In response to a question on the poor representation of Muslims in central and state government services, such as the paramilitary services, the IAS, IFS, IPS, and the army, as well as their poor representation in parliament, and the fact there are no Muslim chief ministers in any of the 28 states, and 15 states have no Muslim ministers at all, he said: “The 15% (Muslims) are seen as if they don’t matter… as if they are there not in their own right as human beings who are part of the nation but only because of the tolerance of the majority.”
When asked how the current Indian government compares with the governments in nations like Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia, he said the fact that the other governments may be worse is no great comfort to the people of India.