Amartya Sen
What Ails Amartya Sen?

The former head of the Nalanda University, Amartya Sen writing in the New York Review…

The former head of the Nalanda University, Amartya Sen writing in the New York Review makes wild and sweeping allegations against the Narendra Modi Government even as he conceals his own record of not showing accounts for the massive ₹2727 crores financial package allocated to it over a period of 12 years. Equally, Amartya Sen also has no response to widespread allegations against him of appointing favourites to various positions, even people who are unqualified to occupy the position of a Vice Chancellor.

At the outset, Amartya Sen’s New York Review article only betrays the deep prejudice that he holds in his very vision of Nalanda University. In the piece, he emphasizes more about the international nature of the new Nalanda Unviersity but not the real content of the knowledge systems—vidyaas—that were imparted at the ancient Nalanda.

It was that content of the traditional Indian knowledge systems, which was sought after by students from all countries in the world and thus Nalanda became an international site for excellence in higher education.

I may be called a revivalist, but I am not interested in another ‘international university’ nor should the Indian taxpayer be, Modi Government or no.

I am interested in reviving the classical learning of India, of its Sanskrit and Prakrit texts which provide the disciplines on which Indian civilization was built and which Nalanda served to propound.

Amartya Sen has his vision of international exchange much before he sought to make Nalanda a repository of Indian learning. There is no place for ancient learning in his conception of the present day Nalanda. As he claims in his article,

“The aim of the founders of the new Nalanda was not only to have a first-rate university but to encourage cooperation and interchange of ideas across national borders (again, reflecting the traditions of the ancient Nalanda). They endorsed a “vision” of a new university that would be “open to currents of thought and practice from around the globe…”

In which case, why is Sen using the name of Nalanda for this aim? There are dozens of universities in India which can do that including JNU which was founded for this purpose and which failed in this very aim because it disparaged classical learning.

If the taxpayer from India and other Asian lands has to recreate Nalanda, then that place needs to include classical learning. Were the fine European Universities not based on a revival of Greek and Roman classical thought? However, this very notion of Indian classical is either anathema to nearly all Indian policy makers or they are completely ignorant of the necessity of such a notion.

Indeed, the thought of including Indian learning at Nalanda University never was and will never be on the agenda of Amartya Sen. His long record shows that he belongs to the coterie that wilfully and strategically eliminated and denigrated every aspect of traditional knowledge in schools and universities.

We have witnessed this phenomenon in India since 1973 as a policy that began with the appointment of Nurul Hasan as the education minister by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

This unleashed a deliberate and systematic process as a result of which we do not find many scholars now who can read ancient Prakrits (not even classical Tamil) or even Sanskrit texts in relation to the areas of knowledge with any deep understanding (what was known as lakshya-lakshana sambandha).

Amartya Sen has made the same mistake which has been the bane of Indian education policymakers: of creating a modernity which is cut off from its past. When Amartya Sen was made the chief mentor by the Sonia Gandhi-controlled Government and when former Indian President Abdul Kalam, walked away from the project, the fate of Nalanda was sealed.

Given this background, Modi Government or no, the outcome of all that will emerge from Nalanda University will remain the same.


And now Amartya Sen is playing the victim now—the less said the better about his present theatrics. Also, this is not the place to give qualification details of sycophants appointed as heads of academic bodies and Vice Chancellors by Congress/Marxist governments in the last sixty years, forty years of which I have seen with my own eyes.

But now that Amartya Sen has set the ball rolling in the New York Review, similar material echoing the “injustice” done to him and supporting his fake victimhood is sure to appear in the media soon.

Of course, Amartya Sen is free to ridicule Lokesh Chandra by quoting Lokesh Chandra’s statement given in a political context and applying that statement to tar his credentials for being appointed as Chairman of ICCR. However, everybody in the academic and intellectual circles is aware of the phenomenal academic contribution of Lokesh Chandra (and his father Dr. Raghuvir) to classical learning and Buddhist studies, beginning from the days of penury when India emerged from colonial rule.

On the contrary, Amartya Sen converted Nalanda into a club that promotes a certain variant of a modern political agenda in the service of a political party. And so, now if a new, democratically-elected Government has shown him the door, why is he raising the bogey of academic victimization?

My concern in writing this, especially to scholars who are devoted to the real practice and discipline of studying of texts and vidyaas of India is to think about a simple, basic fact: can the modern Nalanda University have any connection with the ancient one unless it first dedicated itself to what they studied in ancient times?

It is time for us to speak up for classical learning at the new Nalanda University, and any Government that overlooks this or replaces it with another aim shall be abdicating its duty. Invoking the hoary Nalanda of the past to promote political ideologies is tantamount to invoking it in vain and doing it great disservice.

Dr. Bharat Gupt is a retired Associate Professor who taught at Delhi University. He can be contacted at [email protected]
  • पूर्णमदः

    Academia has become more about class than about learning. I spent some time at a ‘science’ museum, and the exhibits probably cost less than 1/500 the amount of the fancy buildings they were housed in.

  • There is a Vedic saying, “If you give charity to an undeserving fellow, it will backfire on you”. How true in this case paradigm of Amartya Sen. His name itself is misnomer. He should write Martya Sen…..

  • Pramod Kumar

    Prof. Bharat Gupt is a soothing island of wisdom and sanity in the midst of the raging cacophony of pseudo liberal left leaning intellectuals like Amartya Sen and his sympathizers in the mainstream media who have hijacked the academic discourse for the past 50 years with the sole purpose of subverting the cultural renaissance which is waiting to blossom in India.

  • Kashinath Vaishampayan

    Thanks for this nicely written article sans shrillness. Fact is, over the past 65 years true education has been royally ignored and we have had ‘copy’ of so-called education to create foggy philosophers, thinkers and historians to fit the definition of Macaulay. Need of the hour is to expose frauds and lies of such people and to be brought them to book besides ushering in much needed revival of our truly ancient knowledge. Thanks once again for a nice article. K R Vaishampayan

    • Soumya Srajan

      “over the past 65 years true education has been royally ignored and we have had ‘copy’ of so-called education to create foggy philosophers, thinkers and historians to fit the definition of Macaulay”

      I like kashinath the expression in your description -it exactly describes the current situation. I have my self worked in academic institutions in India for all my professional life and some of the best ones in science field. I must say this description is equally valid for science and technology fields too.

  • Soumya Srajan

    A very good article..

    It is indeed strange that no national media or press articles talked these serious issues, the article talks about

    “Government even as he conceals his own record of not showing accounts for the massive ₹2727 crores financial package allocated to it, over a period of 12 years. Equally, Amartya Sen also has no response to widespread allegations against him of appointing favourites to various positions, even people who are unqualified to occupy the position of a Vice Chancellor.”

    It should be explored seriously by media academics as well as govt. officials and all details should be published. He lives in UK, surely he knows that has to be used carefully with all accounting done properly.

    But much more serious is this aspect mentioned by author

    “We have witnessed this phenomenon in India since 1973 as a policy that began with the appointment of Nurul Hasanas the education minister by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

    This unleashed a deliberate and systematic process as a result of which we do not find many scholars now who can read ancient Prakrits (not even classical Tamil) or even Sanskrit texts in relation to the areas of knowledge with any deep understanding (what was known as lakshya-lakshana sambandha).”

    The author says this phenomena started in 1973 but this darkness actually started with macaulayism – during british time

    (Macaulayism is the conscious policy of liquidating indigenous culture through the planned substitution of the alien culture of a colonizing power via the education system. The term is derived from the name of British politician Thomas Babington Macaulay(1800-1859),) a destruction of our existing education system – a gap was deliberately created by destroying the chain of education schools and universities and also books during that time and manipulation of information.

    In fact our whole history way it is taught today in our own country does not depend on any Indian records. Its timeline is based on Jone’s hypothesis (based on some very few pages of greek records of highly doubtful authenticity which Jones quite wrongly interpreted as saying that it was chandra gupta maurya who met alexander the great) and aryan invasion hypothesis popularized by max muller -both of which now seem to be just imagination partly and partly also influenced by a diktat of a british priest, that any human activity before 4500 BC is against bible and hence a person expressing such sentiments may be liable for prosecution.

    Both these hypotheses are wrong -there is no evidence of any kind supporting them. All evidences point in opposite direction. Even in their times, many europeans had also written to them about their wrong ideas.But they with power of ruler dismissed all evidences without any proper studies. That situation continues till today. Even after independence we have practically not made any effort in official academic circles to restudy our ancient records, events, physical evidences and books properly. How can history of our large country with such long past be based on just two hypothesis of doubtful authenticity.

    Why should we not study in our own country evidences. What we study today and research on (not only history but even abstract subjects like science -) is just euro-centeric opinions which have very little to do with India and Indians. Top positions in most of our academics specially in subjects like social-sciences are filled by people with their own ideologies which have nothing to do with India -they generally use this positions just to get respect and money in Europe USA. Amartya Sen’s outbursts, being made so often, are similar kind of phenomena. He seems to have very little interest in india and seems to suffer from a complex of similar eurocentric type. So have been most holding similar positions.

    Current opinion of many experts all over world based on Indian records and software developed in India (even the data from french satellite ) suggest very different time line.The person who met alexander was samudragupta of gupta vansha and not chandragupta maurya. The two ashoka- ashoka maruya and ashokaditya of gupta vansha (both had adopted to buddhism ) occurring in buddhist records and stambhas have been mixed up as one, in this mess up created due to these wrong hypothesis.

    saraswati river which was declared mythological by maxmuller etc. and about which our current history “experts” holding high up positions, never allowed proper research, now even data from french space missions suggest that it was a mighty river around 6000-10000 BCE. and then it started drying up due to changes in land near punjab. It may have dried up much later as also mentioned in mahabharata.That should help in identifying exact period of vedic kal..

    Chandra Gupta Maruya lived according to these records around 1500 BCE and Buddha and Mahavir Swami lived around 1800 BCE. That makes a difference of almost 1200 years in not just these but almost all events of that time. it is time that these aspects are restudied properly.

    • Subramaniam Narasimhan

      Respected Sir,

      Very rarely has any scholar quoted the Maurya period as 1200 years prior to the popular reckoning. (that corresponding to the conquest of Alexander)

      Late Swamy Kota Venkatachalayya of Vijayawada (he became a sanyAsi prior to his death in 1959) extensively dealt with the chronological aspects of the Mahabharatha, Lord Buddha, Lord Mahaveera, Sri Adhi Shankara, the monarchs of Pataliputra, Hastinapura from the dawn of the Yudhishtira era. In his books, he accounts for those missing centuries logically and cogently with corroborating evidences from the scriptures, astronomy and epigraphy.

      His repudiation of the Anglo-Nehruvism was indeed a very daring act, at a time when it was at its zenith and still rising with a tendency to blast to pieces all alternate ideas — even if they be true. Not a single book written by him in Telugu and English languages finds a place in any libraries of repute to this day; only some private collections exist.

      The British historians dishonestly and arbitrarily fixed the chronologies, obliterating whole dynasties and centuries (the Andhra Dynasty, for instance, that ruled almost the whole of India for centuries, barring the deep South), placing the ages of the Buddha and Mahaveera in the 6th century BCE, and the Mauriya Dynasty at the time of Alexander’s forays into the NW India, and simply omitting some 1200 years of very significant history.

      It is very unfortunate that like every product of Anglo – Nehruvism, Amartya Sen parroted the same ideas. It was indeed more than just that he was let-go, prior to his causing greater damages to NU. However, we must realize that the damages caused by the Anglo-Nehruvists can not be undone in a day or two.
      Subramaniam Narasimhan,
      July 13, 2015

      • Soumya Srajan

        hi! subramnayam

        very nice and interesting comment.

        There are indeed no records in India which suggest any big war on boarders as is suggested by greek records during alaxander’s visit here. Account of small wars with yavanas are mentioned during samudragupta’s time that also suggests that we have to restudy and change our timelines.

        The person whom alexander met -just that one incident was used to identify the whole Indian time line? Is it not tragic enough? it shows decline level to which we have fallen. we donot want restudy our onw hisotry properly and just depend on such doubtful studies. All Indian records were neglected but this jone’s hypothesis was excepted.Indian records suggest that that it was samudragupta of gupta vansha -who later took the name of ashokaditya,who may have met alexander. It is also mentioned in a stambh obtained from jhusi near alllahabad/prayaag -sangam which was his capital that samudra gupta adopted to budhism later and took the name ashokaditya.. This city which had different name then got burnt down once as in those days houses in cities near rivers used to be made up of wood. The stambh which is preserved in a museum in allahbad perhaps clearly mentions that samudragupta had taken the name of ashokaditya and he adopted to buddhism. It also shows that stambha of buddhist time were erected by him. While budhist books and records talk about ashoka maurya who lived much earlier.

        The two ashokas have been mixed up by british and european scholars. Jones not only assumed wrongly the person, he also it seems deliberately made a mistake and mentioned sone river which flows in bihar to put capital of chandragupta maurya (his assumed king who met alaxander) as pataliputra. while capital then was this city near allahbad. Even greek records which jones used did not say pataliputra – there was no such city then. But jones changed the name of river mentioned there.

        That puts date of buddha and mahavira swami to a period 18 BCE. It is tragic that even about dates of so great figures whose ideas influenced the whole s world so much and specially about whom we in India learn from childhood -we do not allow to be researched and fixed properly.

        An interesting book by prithviraj rathod “19000 Years of Lost World History : The Astounding True Story of Religion” talks about this period when they lived and which was a period at the end time of a big drought in India which lasted for 300 years (it is hard to imagine how people may survived then, today even 2-3 years of drought may be difficult to imagine). people lost faith in all usual ritualism. That was the time when ideas to understand survive in that time like ahimsa and austerirty in buddhism and jainism, took precedent. In the same period with similar circumstances in arabia, judaism started- according to this book.

        Most Indian ancient books give exact records of vansha and various kings who ruled different parts. Even buddhist records and chinese records also talk about dates.But all this is neglected by our so called scholars who have had official patronage from birtish times and just few papers of doubtful authenticity are used to decide period of whole history.How can such people who donot depend on Indian or chinese records at all but write on the basis of eurocentric records be called expert on Indian history.

        I am not an expert in history but I have read some of these details written by some of experts. now all over world — many of them are engineers, physicists etc., but have interest in history. Some have developed a software which can find all possible dates of a given astronomical charts etc. Such charts are available for most public figure- Indians as astrological studies required them to be prepared.These charts have also been used to fix exact periods. They also show similar dates for chandra gupta maurya and buddha etc.

        Even about that conquest, the famous war of porus and alexander there are accounts doubting the way it is presented. Even greek records say the following facts. puru (Porus) was given after the war more land to rule than what he already had and he had got wounded during this war. Alexander took path to go back different from the path he had come. Such details give doubt about claim that he had won the war.At least it does not look like a win. One should restudy more details of it.

        But biggest blunder is to call river mentioned in vedas so clearly as the mightiest river mythological. All other rivers are there then why only this becomes myth.The myth idea was invented to give credibility to completely wrong hypothesis of aryan invasion. There was no such invasion and nor did they live after indus valley civilization. Most of ruins of such civilizations have been found now around the path of saraswati river and not around indus. More than 500 such abandoned places – some of them are still living places with stories about river drying up.

        In this connection – it seems rig veda mentions initially about mighty river saraswati and later there are shlokas in vedas saying “oh! saraswati why you deceiving us”. it is interesting that this data from far out in space helps us to understand meaning of these shlokas. The river was might at the time of vedic period started and later it started drying up. That may be the reason people started migrating and not any invasion. Drying up is also mentioned in mahabharata.

        This too we did very less to catch the blunder about calling it a myth. As I mentioned it is changed by data from french space missions.. The physical record of evidence of river today is denied and imaginary hypothesis by max muller etc. which has no evidence is taught to us as reality in our schools. All this in the name of secularism.

        What kind of secularism it is-which does not allow to find truth and research our own history?

        Why should people like amartya sen who occasionally come here just to belittle us and our culture and history, at least study a little bit of this past which even in their areas europe britain usa also are being studied. Even wikipedia also mentions-some of these facts. One of the big proof which used to be given to “prove” aryan invasion from europe that horse was not there in India during indus valley time. Now biology experts have shown that horses in India have different number of ribs than those coming from europe. That itself is enough evidence at least for us to give time and resources to re-study properly our history. Amartya sen did he take any interest in recovering our past via nalanda.

        Why do we need such flying experts to manage our academic places who can not even live here to manage. Amartya sen shouts so much but can he sight even one example in west of an institute managed like this via such flying visits from far off and coming here to manage.

        I have worked in all my professional career life in an internationally reputed institute of research in Mumbai devoted to research in basic sciences. some years back in that institute also management was handed over to a similar flier from usa, with a similar onslaught, Person who had no expertize in management, was asked to manage a largest and very prestigious institute in country . I have seen how it ruined the whole culture of academics there. Do we not have enough managers to manage our academic place. Management requires at least some touch with the country and its administration for a few months and some touch with the style here. People imported like amrtya sen to manage have been a big failure as they have no such touch. We should respect their academics but be careful about handing over them management like this in which they have very little expertize. The fact that we import them just to get belittled by them shows that dark period started during Macaulayism is still not over.

        Amartya sen has academic expertize in economics. Why should he not come and work here to create a great economic research center- as for example ravindra nath tagore did after his nobel prize. He lived here and created and managed vishwabharati as place for art studies.

        Amartya sen does not seem to be interested in doing that. he seems to be much more interested in coming here and belittling our own style and culture.We are foolish enough to give him such opportunities with our own finances.

        We should give instead if at all to foreigners it should be to people like david frawley -who have struggled all their life researching on ancient India and have created ashram in USA (study centers)
        to recreate institutes of learning in india destroyed during british times or earlier.

        This person Swamy Kota Venkatachalayya of Vijayawada about whom you talk must have been very devoted person. What he researched on if those details and his books can be put on internet it may help many who want to understand truth about our history.

        it was nice talking to you subrmanyam

        • Jishnu
          • Soumya Srajan

            Thanks a lot Jishnu. I will look at these links.

          • JagatguruDas

            Thanks Jishnu for sharing the PDF links.

          • Prasad

            Hi Jishnu – I am about to complete the reading of “Six glorious epochs” by V.D.Savarkar and was wondering what I should read next and you open up a veritable treasure trove ! Thanks a lot to you and good day…

          • Jishnu

            If not already done: Bhavans book university publications have several good volumes esp “HIstory and Culture of Indian People” for pre-medieval and medieval history.

            If you are looking for ancient history, BB Lal’s books and Kota Venkatachalam’s books together give a good picture.

            If there is any specific area you are looking at (and language), I can try to be of help…

          • Prasad

            Thanks Jishnu. I’ll get back to you.

          • viroti somasekhar

            Thanks for the links Jishnu.

        • Subramaniam Narasimhan

          Dear Sir,

          Thanks for your feedback and your interesting addenda to your original correspondence.
          I apologize for omitting to thank Dr. Bharat Gupt for his neat and precise article on Dr. Amartya Sen.

          I believe that the biggest impediment to the unraveling of our past is systematic neglect of the study of humanities – linguistics – and comparative linguistics in particular. Every school-entrant aspires to become a doctor / management guru / software guru / engineer, etc. One’s interest in languages, history and the arts — needed for obtaining a holistic view of the Nation falls by the wayside.

          Taking up these linguistic studies at a later age become impossible for a majority of the people.
          Unless one has a fair amount of proficiency in classic Sanskrit / Tamil /Telugu / Pali / Prakrutam, etc., one will find it difficult to delve into the matters that Late Swamy Venkatachalayya attempted.
          Relying upon the English translations by the Western scholars or by their followers of the JNU variety shall make one similar to them.
          I am taking up one example only.
          Unless one possesses authoritative knowledge on Pashto and other local languages of the NW where narratives of Alexander’s so called Conquest of India exist in the villages and towns, it is rather difficult for one to convince others about the facts that the main encounter between Alexander and Purushotham (Puru >> Porus) was in the latter’s court at first and was diplomatic. Diplomacy failed and a battle ensued; both sides lost heavily and Alexander was forced to cut his losses and run along the fish-rich Makaran Coast towards Persia as crossing the mountains of the NW again required enormous resources. The battle was rather inconclusive.
          The drama that a defeated Porus defiantly asking his captor Alexander that he be treated like a king was a latter day addition by European historians. While the facts go like this, we have been fed with the speculative idea as truth that Alexander successfully invaded India in our history books. Purushotham’s kingdom did not extend beyond the present day W and E Punjab.
          A large amount of employment opportunities in various sectors may free the students of the future from their burden of having to take up technical studies compulsorily and go into the study of linguistics and fine-arts.
          We hope that it happens.
          (I am writing this because, I am one such linguistically handicapped person.)
          Thanks everyone who took their time to give a feed-back!
          Subramaniam Narasimhan
          July 14, 2015

          • Soumya Srajan

            A very nice comment and very exact description subramanyam.

            I feel just like you –

            most I like you concluding line

            “We hope that it happens.”

            I also feel the same.

            I also feel just like you – linguistically handicapped

        • viroti somasekhar

          Very well written and informative. Thank you.

      • JagatguruDas

        Thanks for letting me know that Kota Venkatchalam had taken apad sanyasa. He was mentioned by Kanci Paramacharya while discussing about Adi Sankara’s history.