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Amartya Sen slams Modi sarkar for 'extraordinarily large' interference in academic institutions

By Rediff News Bureau
July 07, 2015 13:09 IST
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Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing his government of "extraordinarily large" interference in academic institutions.

Sen -- who even in the past minced no words about his displeasure over the BJP government -- has in a 4000 word essay to be published in the August issue of the New York Review of books given candid opinion about his 'ouster' from the Nalanda University.

In an interview to English daily Times of India, the Nobel laureate said: 'I was certainly ousted from Nalanda. Some members of the Board (Nalanda University), especially the foreign members were keen on carrying on the battle for me but I stepped aside as I did not want to be an ineffective leader. The government may have held up finances or statues had I continued.'

'Nalanda is not a one-off incident. Nothing in this scale of interference has happened before. Every institution where the government has a formal role is being converted into where the government has a substantive role.'

In the works since 2006, Nalanda University is an ambitious government project to revive the ancient Buddhist site of learning that was burnt down by Muslim invaders about 900 years ago.

A consortium of Asian nations, including India, China, Japan and Singapore, teamed to rebuild the site as a new global centre of learning that reflects the "resurgence of Asia after centuries of stagnation, division and decline," according to the university's Web site.

Back in February this year, sen had alleged that he was getting squeezed out of the university post the central government.

In a letter to the board written with a 'heavy heart', Sen said that it was "hard for him not to conclude that the government" wanted him to "cease" being Chancellor.

In the letter, which was accessed by the Indian Express, Sen said that academics in the country remains "deeply vulnerable to the opinions of the ruling Government."

He added that it was because of the absence of government’s approval that the Visitor, President Pranab Mukherjee, had not been able to give his nod to the board’s decision of granting Sen a second term.

Sen is slated to step down as Chancellor of Nalanda on July 17, when he will be replaced by George Yeo, former foreign minister of Singapore.

In the Times of India interview, the noted economist further noted that the government refused to ratify the director's appointment at the TIFR. Also, A Sethumadhavan was asked to resign as the chairman of National Book Trust and an RSS ideologue was appointed instead, Sen said.

Dr Lokesh Chandra, who was appointed as the new president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations last year, believes that Prime Minister Modi was a greater personality than Mahatma Gandhi, Sen said.

Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, the current chairperson of the Indian Council of Historical Research, has not done any historical research and instead is someone who has written an article saying the caste system was wrongly blamed for being exploitative when it did a lot of good for India, he claimed.

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