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Jai Sri Ram, Hanuman were never part of the Bengali psyche, history and civilisation-Amartya Sen

Kolkata: Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate Professor and one of the tallest personality of Bengal claimed that religious slogans like Jai Sri Ram and Jai Hanuman has never been part of Bengal’s culture.

The development economist said so while speaking at an event Kolkata after Independence – a personal memoire, organised by Jadavpur University at the University’s Gandhi Bhavan on Friday.

“It came from outside. If one wants to beat someone then force him to chant Jai Sri Ram. There is no connection of this slogan with the civilisation and history of Bengal. Nowadays I hear Ram Navami being celebrated in Kolkata. Never heard of it being celebrated earlier,” he said amidst loud round of applause from the audience comprising mainly students. He then went on to share an anecdote where he asked his four-year-old granddaughter about which characters she prefers in television.

“She thought for long and answered Maa Durga. So the kind of importance and power that Maa Durga enjoys In Bengal is no way close to Ram Navami,” said the 85-year-old professor of Economics and Philosophy of Harvard University who had played an instrumental role in setting up the Economics Department of Jadavpur University.

Talking about the Great Calcutta Killing or Noakhali Riots that broke out just prior to independence, he said that those instrumental in organising riots are elements that came from outside. “That time though there was no BJP but there was Hindu Mahasabha. The slogans were different but the motivation was just the same. But I must admit that the conscious and planned way of polarising or dividing people by chanting a slogan has never happened before,” said Sen. He further said that showing allegiance to Hanuman, was also never a part of the Bengali psyche.

“In Bengali we say tumi ekti hanuman (you are a hanuman) which is in a way a kind of derogatory statement. We have seen hanuman entering the kitchen and displacing utensils with his tail. So this is what we know about hanuman. So offering respect is never a part of Bengali tradition,” said Prof Sen in whose honour London School of Economics (LSE) has announced the creation of ‘Amartya Sen Chair in Inequality Studies’. Economist and philosopher Sen was a professor at LSE from 1971-1982.

In his speech he talked at length about his journey from Shantiniketan to Presidency to Coffee House to Cambridge and then to Trinity College. He talked in detail about his association with fellow classmate Sukumar Chakraborty, who later on became a famous economist and how both of them used to go to Dasgupta Book store at College Street during their Presidency days. “One day Sukumar asked the proprietor of Dasgupta Book Store whether he felt bad about Amartya only reading and not purchasing a single book. To this, Mr Dasgupta said had I thought about money then I would have set up a jewellery shop instead of a book store.”

He reminisces about his days at Jadavpur University where he started teaching at an age of 23 years. “I used to have 28 classes per week and now I take only one class a week. Initially Jadavpur was designed for studying engineering but later upgraded to a University where various disciplines could be taught,” said Sen, a welfare economist who is happy to be a part of that eventful journey.

Sen was seen praising the economic advancement of Bangladesh during the last few years and how  India has failed miserably. Talking about the creation of market for jobs he talked about the importance of education, healthcare and social welfare schemes. “Education and health are two fundamentals of social welfare policy and must be given major importance and that is what Bangladesh government did. Make the citizens of a country capable enough, skilled enough by educating them. The only way for a country to progress is by ensuring health for all,” said the advocator of mixed economy.

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