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India Among Countries With Increasing Authoritarian Tendencies: Amartya Sen

Sen said that in today’s India a person making critical remarks about the government was described as “anti-national”.
Economist Amartya Sen releases his book A Quantum Leap in the Wrong Direction at Alliance Francaise, Lodhi road on February 27, 2019 in New Delhi.
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Economist Amartya Sen releases his book A Quantum Leap in the Wrong Direction at Alliance Francaise, Lodhi road on February 27, 2019 in New Delhi.

Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen on Monday included India in the “unfortunate basket” of countries around the world where “authoritarian tendencies have been strikingly on the increase”.

In an article for The Guardian, Sen wrote that this demanded determined resistance.

He wrote:

″...in recent years the priority of freedom seems to have lost some of its lustre for many people, and the current government gives striking evidence of the inclination to promote a different kind of society. There have also been strong attempts to stifle anti-government protests, which, strangely enough, have often been described by the government as “sedition”, providing grounds for arrest and for locking up opposition leaders.”

Sen pointed to the Narendra Modi-led government’s use of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA to jail human rights activists, Amnesty being forced to shut operations in India, government response to the Hathras case, and the crackdown on CAA protesters.

These instances were also raised by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet last week, to which the Union government responded saying, “The framing of laws is obviously a sovereign prerogative. Violations of law, however, cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights.”

In his article, Sen that those accused under the UAPA were “typically committed to nonviolent protests in the way that Gandhi had advocated”.

He said that “preventive detention as a form of incarceration” from the colonial-era, initially brought back by the Congress government, was now used by the current BJP to allow “easy arrests and imprisonment of opposition politicians without trial”.

Sen also said that in today’s India a person making critical remarks about the government was described as “anti-national”.

“The confusion between “anti-government” and “anti-national” is typical of autocratic governance,” he wrote.

Sen called India a joint product of people of different religious faiths and said, “Led by the government’s current ideological priorities, many school textbooks in India are being rewritten now to present a thoroughly revisionist history, reducing – or ignoring altogether – the contributions of Muslim people.”

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This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost India, which closed in 2020. Some features are no longer enabled. If you have questions or concerns about this article, please contact indiasupport@huffpost.com.