Modi govt is suppressing India's tolerant tradition, says Amartya Sen

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New Delhi, July 4: Noble laureate Amartya Sen in a column--Towards Unfreedom--published in The Indian Express on Tuesday highlighted the growing intolerance in the country under the Narendra Modi government.

Sen, in the same column, also criticised the opposition for failing to "make the first move" while nominating its presidential candidate for the forthcoming elections.

Amartya Sen

The Noble laureate in economics accused the Modi government for suppressing India's tolerant tradition as several persons from the minority communities in the recent past have been killed and attacked by mob in the name of cow protection.

"Does India's tolerance of heterodoxy still hold? As we look around today's India, the signs of tolerance seem to have faded fast. The country that welcomed people fleeing persecution abroad, and allowed the immigrating minorities to have their own beliefs and practices (and food habits), now harbours gangs of wild men hunting down beef-eaters, and killing people - very poor people - whose employment in the leather industry arouses the suspicion of faithful believers in the holiness of the cow," he wrote.

"In the suppression of India's tolerant tradition, the ruling party, the BJP, has clearly played a gigantic role. What is astonishing is how much tolerance of intolerance the political climate in India has been made to bear. It is as if stunned people are waiting in a daze for something to happen.

Further, many people with evidently liberal instincts have been able to continue supporting the government for one reason or another, such as expected benefits from Narendra Modi's economic reforms (what The Economist, the global magazine, calls "the illusion of reform"), while the country is made to descend down the ladder of intolerance and unfreedom," Sen added.

In his column, Sen added that the current opposition parties in the country acted in an "inert" manner as they could have chosen a "visionary" candidate like Gopalkrishna Gandhi as their presidential candidate.

"In the run-up to the election of the President of India, rather than presenting a visionary candidate for the presidentship, the opposition remained inert, waiting for the BJP to make the first move. The Congress, as the inheritor of Mahatma Gandhi's tradition, could have gone for an intelligent strategy with national appeal. The much-aired name of Gopalkrishna Gandhi, who has great intellectual and evocative strength to animate political discussion about the right vision for India, did not evidently suit the present thinking of the Congress.

Instead, the Congress converted the contest into one of tactics rather than of strategies, and gave the BJP the first move. But at the tactical level, the BJP has proved itself, again and again, to be much smarter than the Congress (reflected even in the state assembly elections in Goa and Manipur earlier this year, where the Congress won more seats than the BJP in both states, but the BJP formed both governments with smart and quick alliances)." Sen wrote.

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