Sunday, August 1, 2010

I for identity, I for inclusion

In 1944, a boy of 11 was playing in the garden of his house in Bangladesh when he witnessed a scene of pure horror. Suddenly, a poor Muslim man, grievously stabbed by a fanatic Hindu mob, entered through the gate, pleading for a drink of water.

Kader Mian had made the fatal mistake of coming into the wrong neighbourhood, at a time of intense communal unrest, in the hope of earning some money to feed his starving family. As he collapsed, the little boy laid the dying man’s head on his lap. Later, Kader Mian died in a hospital, where the boy’s father had taken him.

The experience was to haunt, and grow on, the young boy’s imagination for years, until such a time when, as a Nobel-winning economist, he would recount the episode in one of his highly acclaimed books, Identity and Violence — The Illusion of Destiny, first published by W.W. Norton in 2006.

Speaking at the launch of the Bengali translation of the book, brought out by Ananda Publishers, on Tuesday at the ICCR, Amartya Sen recalled Kader Mian’s harrowing end to meditate on some of the most urgent issues of our times. How could one difference, religious in this case, become so important as to take an innocent life? Does this not imply that a sense of identification with a certain group of people not just bridges distances but can also open up dangerous new abysses?

Sen’s book, which has been rendered into Bengali by Bhaswati Chakravorty, takes on the problems and paradoxes of identity, its relationship with economic freedom, as well as with the forces of globalisation. And the answers and arguments that Sen offers in this work are bound to stir debates and discussions.

Full report here Telegraph

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