Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Tuesday said the sense of oneness in every individual should be “dynamic” and not confined within the narrowness of a single identity.
“We have to judge contextually as to what oneness means in several aspects of our life. A person cannot have just one identity of oneness based on one's nationality or religion. It should be a dynamic entity that traverses different fields such that no one is able to exploit our single-minded sense of oneness for political gains.”
Professor Sen was speaking at a function here where the Bengali translation of his book, ‘Identity and Violence – The Illusion of Destiny,' was released.
Recounting a childhood experience in 1944, during a stay in Dhaka in the erstwhile undivided India, when he witnessed a poor Muslim hawker being killed by Hindu fundamentalists in front of his house, he pointed out that even though the neighbourhood was otherwise peaceful and secular, a repulsive sense of religious oneness among Hindus stoked by political propaganda led them to murder the Muslim, whom they viewed as an outsider.
Referring to the First World War, Professor Sen said the countries had fought against one another due to a strong sense of national oneness rather than religious oneness. “Had the countries at war fought on the basis of religious oneness, the casualty could have been much less,” he said on a lighter note.
The Nobel laureate also highlighted the positive aspect of nationalism that is in stark contrast with the malevolent sense of national oneness that compels countries to go on the warpath.
The former Lok Sabha Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, spoke out against Hindu fundamentalism, and lauded Professor Sen's efforts at elucidating the issue in the book. “This book makes it clear as to how violence and barbarism has gripped people worldwide, and how communalism is playing a vital role in dividing people especially in Indian politics…the book could be a tool to ratify human beings and their behaviour.”