The government does not share the idea of Nalanda: Amartya Sen

My efforts are better spent in trying to do things for Harvard University and Trinity College Cambridge, where I can make a difference, Amartya Sen said.

Written by Seema Chishti | Updated: November 26, 2016 6:04 am
Amartya Sen, Nalanda, Nalanda University, Nalanda University chancellor, George Yeo, Nalanda University, Nalanda University chancellor, Nalanda University chancellor ousted, Nalanda University new chancellor, India education India news Nobel laureate Dr Amrtya Sen. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal/File)

Professor Amartya Sen speaks on developments at Nalanda University, where the Board of Governors was suddenly reconstituted without any discussion with the Chancellor (who has since resigned). Excerpts:

The reconstitution of the Board of Governors in Nalanda, done suddenly and without any sense of due process, what do you make of it?

The government’s action in effectively taking over the governance of Nalanda was certainly sudden. It came as a surprise even to the Chancellor, George Yeo (the former Foreign Minister of Singapore), who has been an outstanding head, but has been suddenly deprived of his authority… The Chancellor was not only not consulted, he was even kept completely uninformed. The Board members knew nothing either, except the Secretary East herself and, I presume, N K Singh, who is a member of the BJP…This goes contrary to any kind of academic autonomy that a university should have.

The idea of Nalanda, it seems, is something there is a problem with, do you agree? Is it because there is a desire to control what it stands for and its significance, which goes against the idea of what the Sangh would want it to mean?

There is no problem with “the idea of Nalanda” in itself. It is the idea of a powerful academic institution with autonomy and a global reach, dedicated to the cultivation of knowledge, supported by a long tradition of an argumentative culture. What is clear is that the government does not share this “idea of Nalanda”. The government is evidently unable to understand the distinction between an autonomous academic institution funded by the government, and a subservient governmental body.

The way this was done, at least to me, appears like how a lot of decisions are made by the government — suddenly taken and unmindful of serious consequences, any thoughts?

You are right to surmise this. To recollect what exactly happened in Nalanda, the government was evidently unhappy with a few academic decisions that the governing board led by Chancellor Yeo took — the GOI’s opposition was expressed by the Secretary East in a meeting. However, the Board rejected the objection — everyone present voted against it, with the solitary exception of Mr N K Singh. The government reacted by sacking the whole board, keeping only Mr N K Singh, among the nominated members of the old board, to continue in the new Board. So the operating rule seems to be: “You either do what the government wants, or you will be sacked!”

Also Read | After Amartya Sen ouster, Nalanda Chancellor George Yeo quits: Politics, rather not be in it

Are you sad to leave the Nalanda Board?

The answer is yes and no…I have been personally involved with Nalanda from the age of eleven, dreaming from my childhood of re-establishing the ancient academic glory of Nalanda. With solid cooperation between Chancellor Yeo and Vice Chancellor Sabharwal…and with supportive assistance from the board, the hard task of re-establishing a great academic institution was progressing slowly but very firmly. So, yes, I am sad, not so much because of my personal exclusion, but because of the way the governing of Nalanda is being taken over by the government.

Despite that, personally I cannot but be relieved in being banished from the board, since there is nothing useful I can any longer do given the bureaucratic grip of GOI over Nalanda. My efforts are better spent in trying to do things for Harvard University and Trinity College Cambridge, where I can make a difference.

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First Published on: November 26, 2016 4:20 am
  1. J
    Jayakumar
    Dec 1, 2016 at 6:01 pm
    Good riddance of old rubbish.
    Reply
    1. S
      Satya
      Nov 26, 2016 at 8:10 am
      No loss.Sri Amartya Sen need not be a permanent member on the Board.Same is true for others.One should not come to a conclusion without seeing the working of new set up.T his Govt will not destroy the noble idea of Great Nalanda University.
      Reply
      1. A
        Achutha
        Nov 27, 2016 at 12:19 am
        Leading questions without critical thinking had led journalism to be what it is today.. very unprofessional and unfortunate.
        Reply
        1. A
          Abhishek
          Nov 27, 2016 at 1:18 am
          Also shows how bhakts just close eyes and just set blind eyes to gods who sit in Parliament
          Reply
          1. H
            Harry
            Nov 26, 2016 at 1:39 pm
            Nalanda University was Buddhist. So there should be Buddhist or people leaning toward Buddhism should be part of governing body, A Bengali secu , a Taquiyya, 0r a Christian are not the right people to run that insute. It is like running Aligarh Muslim University governing board composed of Hindus.
            Reply
            1. K
              Krishna
              Nov 29, 2016 at 6:21 pm
              Good riddance to that socialist rubbish. I hope he has fun in Harvard in the age of Trump or Cambridge in the age of Brexit. Time to flush him down the toilet of history!
              Reply
              1. S
                Shazy lin
                Nov 30, 2016 at 12:56 pm
                Modi hater spotted.!
                Reply
                1. S
                  Shazy lin
                  Nov 30, 2016 at 12:55 pm
                  Please worry about your own country , we will look after ourselves.
                  Reply
                  1. N
                    Naveen
                    Nov 27, 2016 at 8:18 pm
                    agent posing as American?. What is your Social security number buddy?.lt;br/gt;Wait Donald is gonna fix illegals like you.
                    Reply
                    1. N
                      Naveen
                      Nov 27, 2016 at 8:20 pm
                      This guy is leftist socialist, which is a dying or dead economic model.lt;br/gt;For example USSR is defunct, All Chinese are super Capitalist, but all the leftist in India is singing old songs, making people lazy and go backwards.
                      Reply
                      1. M
                        Marianne pereira
                        Nov 26, 2016 at 2:25 am
                        Beautifully written interview with Nobel Laurete, Amarya Sen. Thank you, Sir you have been articulate and I have understood why you decided to step down. So too George Yeo. A pity India has lost itself in its bureaucratic ways and thus lost you, Mr Sen and Mr Yeo.
                        Reply
                        1. P
                          Pilar Miro
                          Nov 27, 2016 at 2:18 am
                          Mr Sen's notion that the ancient Nalanda had autonomy in either the early-modern- sense of the word (as at the University of Bologna) or the modern sense of the word is a little far-fetched. There is very little extant literature on Nalanda, and what there is, is impressionistic. No accounts exist of great issues of the day discussed there (as do for Plato's Academy). Many modern day claims about Nalanda, for example that scientific subjects were taught there, are dubious, for no credible accounts of the lives of the scholars exists. To say this, of course, is not to absolve the Hindu nationalists in India from their deplorable interference.
                          Reply
                          1. P
                            Pilar Miro
                            Nov 28, 2016 at 11:22 pm
                            The day an airhead such as you will know enough to understand even the first page of Collective Choice and Social Welfare, let alone connect it to Socialism, whether "leftist" or "rightist," is the day I will eat my shoe.
                            Reply
                            1. P
                              Pilar Miro
                              Nov 26, 2016 at 3:18 pm
                              With the possible exception of Lokesh Chandra, who is pushing 90, the new board is just as incongruous. There is a 80-year-old academic from Toronto, who has shown more waxing than waning Hindu nationalist proclivities, and an economist of Columbia who is attempting to deny that child malnutrition exists in India, and will now be chalking it perhaps to Buddhist self-abnegation?.
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                Ram
                                Nov 26, 2016 at 7:07 pm
                                Amritya sen can go to improve JNU, as no one can bring it lower than its current level! I am talking only about departments lke social sciences, international studies, arabic/urdu/persian studies, history etc. filled with left parasites.
                                Reply
                                1. R
                                  Ram
                                  Nov 26, 2016 at 7:09 pm
                                  Mr. A. Sen, don't you believe in giving chance to any fresh blood, fresh ideas? You have been there for a decade. Let others also get chance to implement their ideas. This is problem with left parasites, they want to loive off tax payers money until death. Look at Sonia, not letting anyone else as congress president, if she quits, it will be dimwit raul, prinka and their children!
                                  Reply
                                  1. M
                                    mustafa
                                    Nov 26, 2016 at 3:09 am
                                    Congratulations Mr.Sen. Atleast you have stood for what you feel is right and what is dear to your heart. You have set a great example for generations to follow.
                                    Reply
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