In letter to Krishna, Kalam slams Amartya Sen

published on July 23, 2013
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s letter, which he sent to Foreign Minister S M Krishna in July last year, has now come into public domain, slamming Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen for forcing him out of his brainchild project of the Nalanda University in Bihar as its first visitor.

He chose not to create a public controversy even while writing to Krishna, that he was upset the way the project was being handled and hence he couldn’t remain associated with it any longer.

He wrote how sad he was at everything going wrong in his dream of reviving a great seat of learning in the Buddhist philosophy and statecraft, as perhaps the first residential international educational institution from 5th to 12th century off Patna, is besmirched with controversies even before it starts any academic courses.

The paragraph reads, “Having been involved in various academic and administrative proceedings of the Nalanda University since August 2007, I believe that the candidates to be selected/appointed to the post of chancellor and vice chancellor should be of extraordinary intellect with academic and management expertise.”

“Both the chancellor and vice chancellor have to personally involve themselves full-time in Bihar, so that a robust and strong international institution is built,” it read.

The ministry of external affairs had taken over the project as an international university, involving 16 ASEAN countries such as China, Japan, Australia, Korea and Thailand, even while Kalam kept insisting that it should better be handled by the human resources development ministry, which has experience in the education field.

The government tried to suppress Kalam’s damning letter as it was taken on record in the meeting of the governing board of the university, but was not made public until a Patna journalist wrote to him to get the truth out.

Kalam felt frustrated with the people at helm of affairs and his resignation was a rebuff to Sen and his protégé Dr Gopa Sabharwal, ‘smuggled’ in as the vice chancellor-designate without his knowledge.

Being chairman of the governing board, Sen’s position is equivalent to chancellor (the university officially has no one as yet).

Having been at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, Sen viewed Nalanda University through that prism, while Dr Kalam felt sad at finding no efforts to re-enact the glory of ancient Nalanda University in which students from all over East Asia came for studies and had Pandits such as Arya Dev, Silabhadra, Dharmapala, Santarakshita and Chandragomin who spent their lives for the sake of the institution.

The academics say the fault lies in the government for entrusting the task of reviving to Nalanda University to Sen as a testimony of India’s obsequiousness, despite Kalam repeatedly warning them against it.

Kalam’s letter is also an indictment of Sabharwal, who was just a sociology reader from Lady Sri Ram College, Delhi, who was made the rector/vice chancellor-designate despite academics’ protest that she had nothing to do with the Buddhist studies for which the university is to be set up, and was running it from Delhi.

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