AMARTYA SEN NOBEL LAUREATE IN ECONOMICS A CONGRESS MAN WITHOUT GANDHICAP
Dr. Seshachalam Dutta
Amartya Sen is a Nobel Laureate in economics, recognized particularly for his study of famines. He has published a book titled “Argumentative Indian”. This article is addresses the shortcomings, errors and political prejudices expressed in this book, all, unrelated to the field of his expertise and competence. In this venture he is comparable to another discredited Nobel Scholar William Shockley of greater repute. Nobel Prize winners are so rare in Indian sub-continent and treated as intellectual heroes unlike in the U.S where every year someone gets a Nobel Prize. When the anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare conceptualized the agency which arbitrates on corruption charges, he included Nobel Prize winners, forgetting that such recognition does not entail neither integrity nor character or lack of prejudice, and an honor in one specialized field should not be allowed to be transferred to other areas of human endeavor, especially when it involves politics. Amartya Sen is a glaring case in point, whose writings have not been critically examined because of his recognition in a particular area of economics, no matter how outrageous his utterances regarding Indian politics, culture, history and religion. He even got into partisan political gutter attacking Pravin Togadia of VHP, whom I have no need to defend here.
Sen’s adventure into areas not of his expertise is comparable to that of Shockley of Stanford University. William Shockley was the inventor of transistor and the entire field of computer technology was revolutionized after his discovery of transistors. The modern world owes much for his contributions which revolutionized the information technology. He gained such influence in the U.S. government that he was asked to give analysis of the use of atom bomb on Japan instead of using traditional non-nuclear war. For all such recognition he went out of his field and advanced the theory that Negroes are genetically inferior to white people. He had no training in genetics and had no authority to formulate such a startling theory. Scientists throughout the U.S condemned him for his hypothesis which had no scientific basis. He became so emotional to defend his theory that he advocated genetic improvement by setting up Nobel sperm bank to improve the genetic stalk of U.S. He was so despised by the end of his life that his own sons learned of his death from news papers.
I would not say this would ever happen to any Indian Nobel prize winners however outrageous his views, nevertheless they should not be exempt from scrutiny when they steps out of their field and try to advance political agenda and secular fanaticism.
Exaggeration of Indian Democracy
Throughout his book Sen talks about Indian democracy and secularism both of which are questionable in Indian context; and he advances his own version of Hindutwa (Hindu Nationalism) which he equates with narrow version of Hindu religion, narrow in his imagination. First about Indian Democracy: This subject is treated in detail in another article (Demonarchy; Seshachalam Dutta Sookta –Sumana 2010). The starting point for the discussion of Indian democracy in this book is the speech by Jawarharlal Nehru in 1947, ‘Tryst with Destiny.’ Nehru was an Ideologue not an Idealist. He talked about democracy and Socialism, but he practiced crony capitalism and authoritarian rule. Coming out of the independence movement, India had an opportunity to establish democratic traditions, virtually with no opposition to Nehru’s congress rule. What did he do with that power? The State controlled all modes of communication with large illiterate population dependent on the news and opinions on radio and to a small extent on television and both of which were controlled by the State. The television which broadcasted only for a couple hours showed how Nehru was the world leader. Radio sang his praise. The press was not censored, but the government as the sole business enterprise with very little private entrepreneurship during his 17 year tenure was entirely dependent on Government patronage for advertisement revenue. Thus the press was controlled. Later his daughter (Indira Gandhi) used police to physically destroy the press during emergency. Indira Gandhi posted her pictures in every bank and threatened a press reporter who reported police atrocity against a Sikh leader with the act of sedition, a legal action promulgated by British and never invoked until then. Private enterprise had been entirely dependent on permits and State planning which did not allow any one to own even a gas station without Government permit. At higher lever, the Cabinet Ministers had to approve the projects and at lower level there was unabated corruption of bureaucracy. To illustrate the extent of dishonesty of the claim of so called liberal democracy, in1962, if one applied for a passport, he might have to wait for months to get one and that was at the discretion of the Government. Supreme Court Justice of India Koka Subba Rao handed down a landmark decision in1963 that it was the right of every Indian to get a passport. Did not Nehru know how the democratic countries operate? Did he need a Supreme Court dictate? That was the rule of Nehru’s liberal democracy? Any one praising Indian democracy is patently dishonest. That is the reason Sen needs testimonials from foreigners in praise of Indian democracy.
It was the rule where Civil rights were completely abrogated during his regime. Arrest without trial was the rule, not an exception. Sen, who focuses on RSS, would like to know that RSS was banned for one year in 1948 without any evidence of any culpability. It was this voluntary organization that rescued countless Hindu refugees in Punjab and in his native Bengal at the time of partition of India. That the culture of democracy was lacking in Indian people is apparent from the fact that the Communists who were their ideological rivals were jubilant after the ban of RSS. Then their turn came : Nehru allowed various states to ban the communist party (CPI) and imprison the workers without trial. For the worse, they were taken out of prisons and shot down in false encounters both in Andhra and Madras states. The behavior of congress Government was so egregious that in 1959 that communists won the election locked up in jails! This was India’s tryst with destiny in Nehru’s Government. What destiny Nehru was talking about? He was talking about his own destiny. He hankered to the power even after he became invalid after a stroke, dragging his foot on the steps of the parliament. Time magazine reported in 1964 Ram Manohar Lohia’s comment “why do we need a cripple as prime Minister?” Even in his death he was so ungenerous as an atheist that, to quote Lohia again, “he gave nine crores to his daughter and ashes to the country, not a dime to charity.” Fanatical atheism has no room for a culture of charity.
Sen forgets to mention that the congress Government he supports has ruled India for over sixty years and its record is the history of total corruption, very comparable to the sixty year rule of PR I in Mexico. His comparison of Congress to BJP is meaningless as the latter was hardly 25 years in existence. Congress as a party dominated Indian political scene over one hundred years, all along a corrupt institution throughout its history as early as prior to India’s Independence!
As a single party in power with no significant opposition, it ruled with a false slogan of socialism, but it is the refuge of rural feudal land lords, Jamindars and a conglomerate of aristocrats and a small coterie of industrialists, their monopoly protected and unchallenged with no one with aspiration of acquiring power, until last two decades by a few regional parties and BJP. The rise of the latter was due the increase in urban middle class as Indira Gandhi later noted. While communists were ideologically dedicated, Nehru hoodwinked and co-opted them under the guise of socialism. Resulting corruption in CPI led to the dedicated idealists among them to desert them in dissolution and thus these events led to forming of a violent group called Naxalites. Sen is ignorant of these dynamics or ignores them.
What do Indians have now after Nehru? The same corrupt Congress, corrupt to the core and worse with no hope of change. Monarchy in the guise of democracy took over the country as a form of Demonarchy, with Nehru’s daughter India Gandhi and later supposed to be succeeded by her eldest son who presided over sterilization of young girls to reduce the population of India. By act of God, he died flying a plane without adequate training. Indira’s rule was momentous in that she demonstrated to the world the weakness of Indian democracy that Indians can be easily ruled by a dictator. Journalist Kuladeep Nayar chronicled this disgraceful period of Modern Indian History including the assent of Nehru dynasty into power. After her assassination her second son, Rajiv, an airplane pilot, took over, who organized the massacre of Sikhs. He was shot and his Italian wife now takes over supported by the oligarchy of sycophants. Now we have not only a succession to power by sharing blood but by sharing bed! How is it possible? Even though urban population has access to cable news, the villagers still depend on State controlled media which show every day Sonia Gandhi (the widowed daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi) and her son’ serving’ the people. Sen quotes Graville Austin and Judith Brown, western writers’ testimonials to Indian democracy. Why do we need a westerner tell us how great our democracy is, when we experienced it for 50 years? Politically, Sen has, as admitted in one of his interviews leftist leanings with some reservation on the views of communists dismissive of democracy; thus he falls between communists and congress, not fully appreciative of Gandhi, hence is a congressman without Gandhi cap as are many in ruling class of India today. For them the slogan of socialism is handy to promise the poor distribution of wealth and promise the rich to protection from the poor.
In the excellent analysis of BJP by Yogendra Malik in his book he has clearly shown that by education BJP matches Congress but its influence is confined to urban areas and Congress scores in rural communities where the people are still ignorant believing that Congress of Gandhi-Nehru is still ruling India. While Gandhi traveled in third class in railways to show his camaraderie with an ordinary Indian, the present Congress leader refused to travel in economy class calling it a cattle class!
In the analysis of elections in India Sen states that BJP lost the popular vote receiving only 26% to Congress' 27%. Economics is not an exact science like physics, so, how would he say 26% is much different from 27%? What is the margin of error to make these numbers significant, besides aren't both in minority in vote count? His dislike and prejudice against BJP warps his judgment. He further states that Parties aligned with BJP lost their popularity because of their association. Not so. Since he made this statement, BJP won in Karnataka and its allies wiped out CPI Government in Bengal which ruled for decades. Sen was not vindicated by Indian voters. He is ignorant of the factors that govern the elections and motivations of the political machinery. Congress Government is thriving purely by the support of the caste ridden parties in UP and anti-Brahmin party in Tamil Nadu calling itself “secular”. BJP lost the Government in 1994 because of the defeat of its ally TDP in Andhra. It had nothing to do with ideology as Sen portrays. Congress as a political force survives, not on ideology but by patronage politics. Once out of power, and unable to pander to the local politicians, the party loses power never to return. This is what happened in Tamil Nadu and even in Bengal and UP.
Sen’s ideological fervor overwhelms his judgment when he compares economic achievements of Kerala (a communist State) to China. It is a statistical absurdity. Any average statistician would dismiss such comparison as absurd given the unequal sizes and sampling error. He completely ignores Indian demonarchy and glosses over tyrannical emergency which has been well documented by David Selbourne in "Eye to India" (1977) and by Kuldip Nayyar soon after the emergency.
Secularism Vs Hindutva
Secularism in India is an empty slogan of the people who have no firm grasp of their identity and seek to escape from the moral ethical responsibility demanded by the traditional Indian (Bharatiya) culture. To illustrate how Hindus have spiritually degenerated by the advent of British in India one can look at the quote of Macaulay:
"Bengalee, who would see his country overrun, his home laid in ashes, his children murdered or dishonored, without having a spirit to strike a blow, has yet been known to endure torture." Babington Macaulay.
This is who is called a Hindu, more precisely Indian, whose tolerance is attributed so called secularism; tolerance to insults, oppression and degradation. “True toleration,” to quote Md Iqbal is not the toleration of “weak man, who, on account of weakness, must pocket all kinds of insults heaped on things or persons that he holds dear. It is obvious, this kind of tolerance has no ethical value. On the other hand, they unmistakably reveal the spiritual impoverishment of the man who practices it. True toleration is begotten of the intellectual breadth and spiritual expansion. It is the toleration of the spiritually powerful man who, while jealous of frontiers of his own faith can tolerate and appreciate all form of faith other than his own.” Amartya Sen’s exhortations are of a deracinated Hindu destitute of pride in his own native culture. As stated earlier he seeks the testimonials for Indian democracy from Judith Brown and Graville Austin! We know enough of Indian democracy and experience it and why do we need a testimonial from a white man and a woman? It reveals the inherent inferior mind-set of an Indian however well accomplished. He opposes Hindutva by narrowly defining Hinduism excluding Budhists, Jains and other sections which share common heritage forming the very essence of Hindutva. His repeated assertion that even "Nationalism itself is narrow minded" sounds hollow from the fact as he himself has accepted Presidential awards in India, which were only for recognition of his achievement as an Indian National; after all there are for more recognized economists in the world who did not receive such awards in India. Sen has no appreciation of spiritual and social depravity of Hindus over several millennia which the Hindutvavadins are struggling to correct. The case in point is his narrative about Godhra riots in Gujarat.
When Hindu workers were returning from Ayodhya, at a train station called Godhra Muslims burnt the compartments carrying the Hindu activists. The attack was engineered and supervised by a Muslim Congress leader holding the position of Mayor in that town. There was widespread retaliation from outraged Hindus which drew international attention as the so called secularists propagated that the Chief Minister "failed to control the riots for three days." This assertion ignored the fact that there are no three days between February 28th and March 1st and flew riding on such illusion. Amartya Sen invokes the judgment of Human Rights activists on Modi. Did anyone attack the Governor of California when riots broke out in response to the beating of Rodney King? Sen was here in the U.S when it happened and he ought to have known. Gujarat Chief Minister was and still continues to be, Narendra Modi of BJP. Sen takes partisan attitude like a back alley congress man, tries to synthesize a fictional mosaic Hindu(-Muslim) culture with an admixture of Islam, denying the long history Hindu heritage. For this he valorizes a Muslim hero, Emperor Akbar comparing him to Emperor Ashoka. He cannot find greatness in any of the Hindu emperors of 16th century like Krishnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar. Sen’s political analysis is evident from his bias in favor of leftist parties. As noted in his press interviews, he has inclinations towards Communist parties of India, except unlike him communists do not consider India as a valid democracy. After all, when CPI leader Dange went to soviet Union during emergency he called the opposition as fascists, because it was aligned with BJP. That leaves Sen to side with extreme left of Congress and often critical of Gandhian methods citing Tagore's criticism of Gandhi. But Tagore was no politician and not a participant in Indian struggle for independence. Thus politically he can be placed as Congressman without Gandhi cap.
With this mind set, rumors become facts, and such spurious facts are created to fit arguments. He has gone to the extremes depicting Aurangazeb as a benevolent emperor for sparing life of one Hindu prince! In the next section we will show how he has the tendency to hold belief without reason and hatred without provocation to the point of libel and to exercise his opinions not grounded in facts and use only his prejudice as an "argument."
Look forward to Part II starting with the following topic.
Sen’s Comparison equating Akbar with Ashoka is obscene and disgusting: