Recently, six prominent novelists said that they were boycotting the May 5 PEN American Center gala in New York literary to protest against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo being honoured with a freedom of expression award.
Australia's Peter Carey, Canada's Michael Ondaatje, British-born Taiye Selasi, and Americans Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Francine Prose have withdrawn from the event.
Carey, a two-times Booker Prize winner, told the New York Times that the award stepped beyond PEN's traditional role of protecting freedom of expression against government oppression:
"A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about? All this is complicated by PEN's seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognise its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population."
Salman Rushdie, a perpetual crusader for freedom of expression, however slammed these six authours saying the decision of six writers to skip the PEN gala in protest will encourage intimidation.
Rushdie who often takes to Twitter to talk about his stands and beliefs got into a disagreement with British writer and activist George Monbiot.
Monbiot was defending Peter Carey's stand.
While Salman Rushdie and George Monbiot behaved like perfect gentlemen and agreed to disagree, Twitterati were left rather disappointed because there was no mud-slinging, invective-flinging fight.
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Film-maker Rakesh Sharma has posted this video on YouTube with the following note:
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Jagdish Bhagwati in the Business Standard: The Bhagwati-Sen Debate: An Epitaph
While I was among the intellectual pioneers of the Track I reforms that transformed our economy and reduced poverty, and witness to that is provided by the Prime Minister’s many pronouncements and by noted economists like Deena Khatkhate, I believe no one has accused Mr. Sen of being the intellectual father of these reforms. So, the fact is that this huge event in the economic life of India passed him by.
Mr. Sen would like us to believe that Track II expenditures at the outset would have reduced poverty and even produced growth. But beyond assertions, he has no convincing argument on his side. As I (and Professor Panagariya) argue, India had too few rich and too many poor. Redistribution (i.e. taking moneys from the rich and distributing it to the poor) would have increased their well-being only marginally. Growth had to come first, then “redistribution” from the enhanced revenues unless God was to drop manna from heaven! Mr. Sen lives in a world of illusion.
Read the full piece at the Business Standard: The Bhagwati-Sen Debate: An Epitaph
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In the Business Standard, Mihir Sharma goes to the heart of the matter as to why minor disagreements between Jagdish Bhagwati and Amartya Sen "have amplified into a shouting match — well, a one-way shouting match, with Bhagwati repeatedly attacking Sen in public and in print, and Sen expounding on his point through interviews and op-eds, largely without mentioning Bhagwati or his views." Sharma argues that the real difference between them is merely a difference in emphasis, and then comes to the real reason behind the recent fuss:
As I said: duelling books; people who don’t bother to read the duelling books but instead read headlines written by journalists who haven’t bothered to read the duelling books, or only partially understood these, and the eternal quest in the Indian media to make absolutely everything relate to Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi.
Read the full piece which offers a dummy's guide to the latest brouhaha, with seven things you should know in the Bhagwati vs Sen slugfest: Bhagwati versus Sen: What's going on?
In the same newspaper, Rupa Subramanya invokes the Hayek-Keynes duel in the US in 1932 and concludes, perhaps a bit too optimistically:
One thing is for sure as a young Indian, this is the first time that economic policy debates between two great economic thinkers have been at the forefront of public discourse in India. Whether we like it or not, it’s shaping up as a battle of ideas between those who see themselves more on the right versus those who see themselves on the left. Ideologically driven debates seem to have finally arrived in India. It's just that not all of our politicians have yet figured that out.
Read the full piece: Bhagwati versus Sen: Slugfest or policy change agent?
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For background articles referenced in Sharma's articles:
It's all happening out there.
First, this year's Nobel prize winnder for literature, Mo Yan, declined to sign a petition -- endorsed by more than 130 other Nobel laureates -- asking for the release of Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace laureate. Mr Xiabao was sentenced to 11 years in prison back in 2009 for criticizing the Chinese government and calling for greater openness.
In a press conference in Stockholm a few days back, Mr Yan said while censorship should not stand in the way of the truth, defamation and rumours "should be censored."
"But," he added, "I also hope that censorship, per se, should have the highest principle".
"When I was taking my flight, going through the customs ... they also wanted to check me even taking off my belt and shoes. But I think these checks are necessary."
Refusing to elaborate further on the case of Liu, Mr Yan directed reporters to the comments he made shortly after winning the prize, when he said he hoped Liu would be freed, but said he had no plans to sign a petition calling for the activist's release. "I have always been independent. I like it that way. When someone forces me to do something, I don't do it," he said.
Mr Yan went on the expand on this theme in his Nobel lecture as well:
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