Sen and Nalanda

The decision to quit the Chancellorship of the Nalanda University on the part of Professor Amartya Sen, whose intellectual achievements can by no means be measured by the Nobel Prize alone, has raised some controversy. The way Professor Sen has been made to wait for bureaucratic clearance for the extension of his tenure has surprised many, and Professor Sen is almost convinced that the central government does not want him to continue as the Chancellor. The attitude of the central government has been severely criticized by quite a few people, but those who understand the essence of the relatively recent corporate-Hindutva alliance, of which Narendra Modi is the embodiment, should not be surprised at this.

Professor Sen is certainly not a radical Marxist economist who considers overthrow of capitalism the only way available to the people, but it is equally certain that he does not belong to that genre of economists who want everything to be left to the market in a situation of frighteningly dehumanizing inequality of income and wealth, which prevails in India today. That is precisely why Professor Sen's emphasis on the expansion of public expenditure on health and education is not liked by the Indian corporate lobby and their foreign partners whose favourite is Jagdish Bhagwati, the indefatigable advocate of globalization even after the recent global meltdown.

Professor Sen's second disqualification is his strong opposition to the obscurantism of the Hindutva forces. Those who have followed his writings on Indian history, culture and identity—some of these essays are to be found in the volume The Argumentative Indian—can easily understand this point. The old Nalanda University was a great international centre of learning and the new Nalanda had the potentiality to become so. But a realization of this potentiality is repugnant to the outlook of the forces of saffron establishment. The ideologues of Modi's party—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) want the Nalanda University to become a centre for the propagation of their obscurantist ideas. So Amartya Sen must be made to quit by devious means.

The trend is ominous. Even liberal ways of thinking will not be tolerated, and all sorts of perverted thinking on social sciences and historiography, possibly natural sciences too, will come to replace them. The treatment meted out to Professor Amartya Sen is by no means an isolated affair. It is one manifestation of the nature of the modus operandi of the BJP-big Business alliance that is trying to wipe out even the semblance of bourgeois democracy and to usher in a new era, the era of  of fascism. Admirers of Professor Sen must grasp this point.


Vol. 47, No. 35, Mar 8 - 14, 2015