Intolerance existed before, but it worsened during present govenment: Amartya Sen

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Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen has said that Indians had been much too tolerant of the intolerance.

He asked people “work hard” to preserve the tradition of tolerance and values of pluralism which, according to him, is not being done adequately.

Sen, also the recipient of Bharat Ratna (India’s highest civilian honour) emphasised that intolerance of dissent did not start with the “present government.”

Sen said that the period under current government had only added ‘substantially to the restrictions that already were.’

PTI quoted him as saying that India ought to have reexamined the need to continue with “remnants” of the colonial rule such as Section 377 and Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Both laws, according to him imposed “unfreedom” on people.

While delivering the annual ‘Rajendra Mathur Memorial Lecture’ on the topic “The Centrality of the Right to Dissent” organised by the Editors Guild of India in Delhi, Sen said, “The Constitution does not have anything against having beef or storing it in the refrigerator. The problem is not that Indians have turned intolerant.”

He added, “It’s on the contrary. We have been much too tolerant even of intolerance. When some people are attacked by organised detractors they need our support. It’s not adequate for us to be offended by their attack.

“We need to do something about it. This is not happening adequately right now. And it did not happen adequately earlier as well.”

On the controversial sections of Indian laws such as Section 377, which declares homosexuality a criminal offence and Section 295A dealing with crimes related to hurting religious setiments, Sen said, “Unfreedom is no longer imposed by us by our colonial masters. Have these unfreedoms really ended? Laws legislated by imperial rulers still govern may parts of our life. Section 377 is the most talked about>”

Sen also pointed out Section 295 A to be another remnant of Britsh law under which a person can be can be sentenced for hurting the religious sentiment of others “however personal and however bizarrely delicate that outraged sentiment might be.”

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