Kolkata: Noted economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has said that there is a need to “build trust” to overcome “terrible misunderstandings” among people of different religions.
Mr Sen, who was in Kolkata to attend a private function organised for school children by his trust — Pratichi — also said that “ignorance and illiteracy” have led to some of these differences.
“We live in a world where terrible misunderstandings are very common between religions… We have all kinds of differences. Some of the differences come from illiteracy and ignorance,” Mr Sen said, speaking at the event arranged by ‘Pratichi Trust’ in collaboration with another organisation, ‘Know Your Neighbour’.
“(There is a) need for building trust. If a Muslim gentleman takes a different view, we need to ask the question, why is he taking a different view?” Amartya Sen said.
The economist, to put across his point that views may differ from one person to another, referred to an incident when he had taken his daughter Antara for a school admission interview, and she kept mum on being asked a question.
Antara remained silent when the teacher showed her red and blue pencils and asked her to identify the colours, he recalled.
“I was very depressed… As we walked out, my five-year-old daughter says ‘Baba, what is wrong with this man? Is he colour-blind?’,” Mr Sen narrated.
The economist was interacting with students and teaching faculties of the city’s educational institutes.
“The remarkable thing is that, quite often, our ability to understand each other is extraordinarily limited. We go in different directions, like Antara thinking that the question was coming from a colour-blind man,” he said at the programme, titled ‘Yukta Sadhana’, on Sunday.
During his interaction, Mr Sen repeatedly emphasised the need for ‘yukta sadhana’ (working together) of Hindus and Muslims.
“We should always look for connections. The connections do not have to be forged on a serious issue all the time. Connections can be built over trivial matters as well,” he said.
Amartya Sen, during his speech, said apart from Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore, his maternal grandfather, Kshitimohan Sen, who taught in Santiniketan, had influenced him a lot.
Kshitimohan Sen is the author of ‘Bharate Hindu Musalman er Yukta Sadhana’, which was published in 1949, when India was steeped in communal polarisation.
Pratichi’s Sunday programme revisited his idea of an integrated Hindu-Muslim culture.