Voicing concern over Sunday’s attack on students in JNU, Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee said that the “real worry” for him was youth resorting to violence to resolve conflicts.
“The recourse to violence is extremely frightening for the future sense of policy because it does create this worry for the youth of today. Their way of resolving a conflict is by beating other people. That’s the real worry for me,” said Banerjee, a JNU alumnus, while speaking at the Express Adda Monday along with fellow Nobel Laureate and wife Esther Duflo.
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Echoing Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s remarks on the violence, Banerjee said that “what was remarkable about JNU was that it was a safe space for dissent”.
“It is important for all of us to lay claim to that safe space. To say that it is important for our nation’s future that we have a culture where we can talk to each other without resorting to violence, where we disagree severely and nevertheless stay within the boundaries of conversation. I feel the issue is much deeper than who is to blame (for the violence),” he said.
“It is important to have a space where we can both disagree but still communicate. It is important for us to have that space to dissent. For an institution like the JNU, what is valuable is the sense that you can be both, somebody who has strong views and somebody who can deal with it intellectually without becoming violent,” Banerjee said.
Looking back on his days at JNU, he said that he was sent to Tihar jail in 1983 “because JNU was seen as being too uppity by Mrs Gandhi…so there is a long tradition of JNU being the arch-enemy”.
“Having said that, actually Nirmala Sitharaman said that yesterday, what was remarkable about JNU was that it was a safe space for dissent. It was extremely vibrant but with a lot of diversity,” he said.
“JNU is always characterised as being a sort of Leftist hangout, but there was Nirmala Sitharaman, S Jaishankar, Sitaram Yechury, Prakash Karat, and Yogendra Yadav. Coming from middle-class Bengal, I didn’t really know the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in any form, and then we met them (at the JNU campus). They were engaged in conversation, almost formally polite. It was the first time I’d encountered an enormous range of views. But I think we got along,” he said.