Fight against intolerance should not be seen as ‘hopeless’: Amartya Sen

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London | Updated: January 18, 2017 10:45:20 PM

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said that the fight against religious intolerance should not be seen as "hopeless" and even in the direst of situations people can do something at their level.

amartya sen on intoleranceThe leading Indian economist introduced the Amartya Sen Lecture Series at London School of Economics yesterday on the topic of ‘Religious intolerance and its impact on democracy’ presented by Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir. (PTI)

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said that the fight against religious intolerance should not be seen as “hopeless” and even in the direst of situations people can do something at their level. The leading Indian economist introduced the Amartya Sen Lecture Series at London School of Economics yesterday on the topic of ‘Religious intolerance and its impact on democracy’ presented by Pakistani human rights activist Asma Jahangir.

“As an Indian, I can say that we have a much easier situation as human rights have a legal position but it is not so in Pakistan, which makes Jahangir’s fight against all kinds of intolerance even more extraordinary,” said Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998.

“The important lesson is that it is wrong to take any situation to be hopeless. In the direst of situations of intolerance, we all can do something,” he said, referring to works done by Jahangir in the field of human rights.

Jahangir, co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, quoted heavily from Sen’s works on welfare economics to highlight that religious intolerance breeds economic disparity.

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“I have often said Prof Amartya Sen is not just an Indian but a global intellectual. He has written about how suppression of freedom can lead to poverty. We have always had intolerance, be it in India, Pakistan or any other country. It is a question of tolerating intolerance. Intolerance is infectious,” she said delivering the lecture.

“Intolerance is a phenomenon that goes beyond borders… Religion is being manipulated as a tool of persecution and fear and spaces for free expression have shrunk. There is a need for greater partnership across the globe to protect the universality of democratic values. Public opinion has to be built to not tolerate intolerance,” she added.

In reference to India-Pakistan relations, the activist expressed confidence that the two nations will eventually find a way to “tolerate” each other.

“I truly believe that India and Pakistan will eventually have to tolerate each other. Pakistan will have to see that it cannot economically grow unless we have a proper relation with our neighbours,” she said.

Asked for her views on the perceived rise of Hindutva in India, Jahangir said, “welcome to the club of South Asia”.

“In India, civil society will have to challenge forces of religious intolerance harder. We need a counter narrative in the world; a face of liberal politics is missing which has given way to opportunists,” she said.

Jahangir, the first woman who has served as the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, asked students at LSE to “not ever despair” and rethink the way our democracies work to make them a springboard for people with ideas and aspirations.

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