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India Vibrant History Represents Both Hindu And Mulsim Culture: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen

KOLKATA: The biggest crisis facing India at this juncture is “collapse of the nation”, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said at the inauguration of the Amartya Sen Research Centre in Kolkata’s Salt Lake area.

What scared him most, Sen said, were the divisions he saw in the country right now. It was also “extraordinary” that colonial laws were being used to put people behind bars, he added without specifically mentioning the recent arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad by Gujarat police.

Mere tolerance would not be enough to counter all this, he said. “India has an inherent culture of being tolerant but the need of the hour is that Hindus and Muslims should work together,” the celebrated economist said, adding that the “majority was not the end of all”.

Sen’s comments follow a raging debate and violence in several states following two BJP leaders’ comments about Prophet Muhammad. It also comes a couple of days after a tailor was beheaded in Udaipur, allegedly for a social media post supporting the controversial comments.

Sen referred to the controversy, saying India was passing through “an extraordinary situation when derogatory remarks were being made about the Prophet”. BJP has expelled one of the politicians in connection with the remarks and suspended the other.

India was not a country representing only Hindu culture, Sen said, adding that Muslim culture was also part of the country’s vibrant history. “I don’t think Hindus as a group may be able to take credit for the Taj Mahal. Dara Shikoh,

Shah Jahan’s eldest son, translated 50 Upanishads from the original Sanskrit to Persian and this enabled the world to know about Hindu scriptures, Hindu culture and Hindu traditions.

The ragas and music by Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan are also evidence of people of different religions collaborating to create magic. Such collaborative work is necessary in today’s India where (only) speaking of tolerance will not address the dangers of fragmentation,” Sen explained.

India had an inherent culture of tolerance because “Jews, Christians and Parsis had lived with us for ages”, he added.

Sen also highlighted the important role of the judiciary in a democracy. “The Indian judiciary often overlooks the dangers of fragmentation, which is scary. For a secure future, there needs to be a balance between the judiciary, the legislature and the bureaucracy, which is missing in India.

It is extraordinary that colonial laws are being used to put people behind bars,” the economist said. Sen’s speech also alluded to the recent debate on rewriting and erasure of history. History was about truths and facts, he said. “We, as citizens, have to take the risk and fight to safeguard our nation’s shared history and truths,” he added.