Amartya Sen’s “Idea of Injustice” to the three As


Ever since he became the 52nd human to receive the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” at the hands of His Majesty, Amartya Sen has attained a thick coating of polytetrafluroethylene, impenetrable at the hands of lesser mortals.

Nobody dares to find a hole in his turgid output because no one gets to that point of the story anyway, and nobody should because, like “Dr” A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prof Sen is hovering somewhere in the vicinity of the other Nobel laureate from Calcutta in the divinity orbit.

jaggiR. Jagannathan, the executive editor of the Bombay newspaper DNA, makes a brave and laudable attempt, skewering Prof Sen’s latest jargon-filled work The Idea of Justice, especially in the manner in which it lionises Ashoka (“No thinking person should presume that the historical Ashoka was the same as the Ashoka of the rock edicts”) and deifies Akbar (“the tacit presumption that secularism or tolerance was not a part of the Indian ethos before him”).

Jagannathan pulls his best punches for Prof Sen’s other pet, Arjuna.

“Amartya Sen, the peacenik, obviously prefers Arjuna‘s reasons for avoiding war at Kurukshetra to Krishna‘s call to duty. Sen casts Arjuna in the role of unwilling warrior when he had no qualms fighting other wars before Kurukshetra. By implication, Krishna is the agent provocateur.

“Dead wrong.

“First of all, Krishna’s message in the Gita was not to go to war, but to do one’s duty when needed. The Kurukshetra war was not a whimsical call to arms. It became inevitable when Duryodhana and his advisors thwarted all efforts to achieve an honourable peace.

“Now picture the World War II allies suing for peace with Hitler on the basis of Arjuna’s specious reasoning, complete with worries about how many people will get killed. It would have been “peace in Arjuna’s time”, but of the kind Neville Chamberlain achieved in Munich with Hitler. It made the Second World War more horrific.

“In our history, we have seen how Nehru pulled defeat from the jaws of foolish diplomacy in the 1962 war. He played Arjuna, the pacifist, till he could no longer maintain the charade in the face of Chinese perfidy. Peace with honour is achievable only if you are prepared to go to war.

“Amartya’s Ashoka, Arjuna and Akbar are great historical characters who contributed to India’s cultural nationhood, but Amartya Sen has reduced them to cardboard characters of dubious authenticity. He hasn’t done them or Indians much justice.”

Illustration: courtesy The Little Mag

Photograph: DNA

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