Amartya Sen’s strategic and selective silence on many issues that are a challenge to transforming India reeks of intellectual opportunism and charlatanism.
The migratory intellectual bird that goes by the name of Amartya Sen is back in India on his annual peregrination. The only way in which Sen thinks he can keep himself relevant and in circulation in the high circles of dilettantism is by undertaking an annual 'pilgrimage' to India at the behest of his powerful backers and myopic disciples – foremost among them, Martha Nussbaum, an US-based academic whose understanding of India has been influenced and shaped by her hatred for Narendra Modi and the BJP – and by giving interviews and addressing public events in which he abuses Modi, his government while arguing how India is gradually sliding into perdition. This keeps Sen's backers in the West happy, his sponsors active and gives a fresh lease of life and hope to his depleting constituency of followers in India.
For the last few years Sen, the failed prophet of the Nalanda University project – a project which he led and bled white by diverting resources from it to fund his junkets and meetings in exotic locales – has followed this trajectory. Come winter or monsoon, Sen is in India to caution Indians, whom he had dumped long ago for a career in the West, against electing Narendra Modi once again. That Sen can still come to India, address public events and go on television to dish out homilies without batting an eyelid, after being one of the kingpins of the scam that had bogged down the dream project of reviving the Nalanda University, speaks volumes of his insensibility and self-obsessive arrogance.
Being unaccountable while splurging resources at the expense of the Indian taxpayers have been Sen's forte and that is why, each time the ministry which was shepherding the Nalanda project called for accounts and accountability, Sen threw a tantrum and spoke of how institutional autonomy was being hampered. In reality, what he passed off as institutional autonomy was essentially his self-arrogated right to hoodwink the system, cheat Indian public sentiment and try and subvert the system to suit his ideological propensities and personal agenda.
Over the years, ever since his early days when he would simultaneously kowtow to his communist comrades and the then big bosses of the Congress party, Sen has mastered this unique capacity of pleasing many masters, —masters who, for their own interests, would keep him engaged in order to make sure that Sen would keep working overtime to fit his economic theories to their political actions. However, this is something which Sen has failed to do in the case of Narendra Modi. Modi has never ingratiated himself to anyone, let alone to Sen, and what Sen says about Modi does not matter to the vast majority of Indians who have rooted for Modi's transformative narrative.
Opposing Modi, denigrating and disparaging his efforts at trying to transform India, dishing out falsehood and half-truth about him and his worldview, spreading hate and lie about the man, is what pumps adrenaline into Sen's veins, it keeps him going, it keeps the industry of self-seekers and rent-seekers that has grown around him well-oiled and keeps alive a narrative that is actually fast losing traction in young India and amongst the thinking mind. Young India has no time or patience for the harangues of an irrelevant and superannuated academic whose theories have failed under Indian conditions.
Of course, one will never hear Amartya Sen speak of the imbecility of Shariat Courts in a democratic and constitutional set up such as India. Criticising such moves may prove detrimental to his niche back in the West, one will never hear him criticise the trafficking of children indulged in by a section of the Missionaries of Charity, doing so would most certainly compromise his self-styled messianic position in Western academia, Sen will also not take the Congress leadership to task for continuously trying to fan the flames of caste conflagration across the country for that would deprive him of the largesse of the Congress dynasty and would surely dent his false aura and close a number of avenues in India.
Amartya Sen's strategic and selective silence on the many issues that are in reality a challenge to the effort to transform India reeks of intellectual opportunism and charlatanism, it projects him as a dishonest intellectual whose only interest is self-aggrandisement and whose only agenda is to peddle a divisive agenda. Knowing full well the multi-dimensional agenda that Modi is pursuing in empowering and mainstreaming the marginal sections of our society, Sen keeps quiet or peddles falsehood because that will keep the pot of his insidious broth boiling and full. He hates Modi because Modi had come up the hard way despite the likes of Sen trying to stymie his chances of leading India.
However, Sen's intellectual dishonesty pales before Modi's drive and determination to transform India. Sen's insidious propaganda is increasingly falling on deaf ears. The new India, young India, the India that is aspiring to transform itself has no real interest or time for Sen's senseless prattle.
(The author is Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)