Amartya Sen: “I should be very aware of what we are protesting”

Written by Yajnaseni Chakraborty
The | Kolkata |

Updated: January 14, 2020 5:36:15 am


Amartya Sen, Amartya Sen Nabaneeta Dev Sen Memorial Lecture, Amartya Sen on CAA, Citizens Amendment Act, CAA Protests, CAB Protests, Modi Government, Indian Express Amartya Sen at the conference in Kolkata on Monday. (Express photo of Shashi Ghosh)

“Before protesting, I think it is essential that we understand exactly what we are protesting.” The logic of the protest should not be based on disputes or arguments, but on the creative power of the dialectic. ” This is what Nobel Prize-winning economist Prof. Amartya Sen said in response to a question at the end of the inaugural Memorial of Nabaneeta Dev Sen Conference, an annual event in memory of the Bengali writer, scholar and educator and the first wife of Sen, who passed away on November 7 of last year. The conference, instituted by the editors of Dev Sen, also saw the release of a volume of his writings. The couple’s daughters, Antara Dev Sen and Nandana Sen were present at the occasion.

On the subject of the protest, Sen said later: “There may also be a sudden and spontaneous protest, as apparently was the French Revolution, but even that was preceded by years of writing and speech.”

The conference theme was ‘Birodhi Jukti’ (opposite argument), and Sen spoke about Dev Sen’s work on Rabindranath Tagore and the ways in which he was seen in India and Europe, as well as his permanent interest in the Valmiki Ramayan and others examples of oral epic poetry, which led her to the concept of ‘Sitayan’, or an interpretation of Ramayan from Sita’s perspective.

“Only when there is a gap in the existing narrative does the question of an opposite argument arise. In that sense, I think there is room for discussions about patriarchy and class differences inherent in Ramayan, and many of the questions raised on these issues in recent years were raised by Nabaneeta before, “said Sen, who described himself same as a feminist., as she has done on some other occasions.

“It is necessary to examine whether discrimination based on gender, class or caste leads to discrimination on other grounds in other areas as well, at home or abroad. And it is always a matter of degree. If you ask me if development economics has brought about a change, I would say that it is not close to what we need. Similarly, feminism may have improved the plight of women, but not as far as we would like. “

As with Valmiki, with Tagore, Sen advocated the need to go beyond existing canonical perspectives and present arguments to help fill their gaps. “Why Tagore, whose image was that of a rationalist in India, and who so strongly criticized Gandhi’s view that the Bihar earthquake (of 1934) was a divine retribution (against untouchability), was found in the West as a man who was too worried about religion? Nabaneeta addressed this dichotomy in his doctoral thesis. She tried to find out if, in her efforts to integrate East and West, Tagore was perhaps sending contradictory messages, “he said.

the ongoing protests He found an indirect path in the discussion. “If we see a violation of the Constitution or basic human rights, we must protest. But we should be deeply aware of every aspect of what we are protesting against, ”said the senator.

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