BJP MP Chandran Mitra’s demand that Nobel laureate Amartya Sen be stripped of his Bharat Ratna (a statement Mr. Mitra has since regretted) for saying he did not want to see Narendra Modi as Prime Minister is unfortunate. It is symptomatic of the growing sense of intolerance that is prevalent in our country towards intellectuals, writers and artists.
Mr. Mitra perhaps forgot for a while that he is also a senior journalist. By saying that Dr. Sen should be stripped of his Bharat Ratna, he seems to have suggested that anybody who receives the highest civilian award should forfeit his right to have an opinion.
The political class wants to treat civilian awards and honours as its personal property that can be gifted and recalled depending on whether the awardees toe a particular party line or not. That many extraordinary contributors in the fields of art, science, culture, etc., have been overlooked for being politically neutral or subscribing to a different ideology is well known.
No one deserves the Bharat Ratna more than the renowned economist. It is conferred by an elected government on behalf of the people of India.
The Bharat Ratna is given to a person by the government and not by any party. Dr. Sen has every right to speak out his mind, and people like Mr. Mitra cannot tell a government to confer or take away an honour bestowed on an intellectual.
Anand Babu Moka,
In a democracy, everyone has the right to express his or her views. More important, in a democracy a leader and party should be mature enough to take criticism.
With due respect to the eminent economist, I would like to point out that he should not have commented adversely about Mr. Modi. He may claim that he has the freedom of speech but in the political climate that prevails today, he could have avoided being seen as playing to the Congress gallery.
Not supporting Mr. Modi does not mean support for the Congress. Any Indian, irrespective of whether or not he casts his vote, is entitled to be part of the political discourse.
The BJP should give up the touch-Modi-not attitude and learn to welcome criticism. And its spokespersons need to exercise restraint.
Before making a statement against Dr. Sen, Mr. Mitra should have reminded himself of the Nobel laureate’s immense contribution to welfare economics. The BJP MP cannot deny anyone his or her right to free speech. Dr. Sen and others are entitled to give their opinion on all issues.