Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen on Saturday said that India needs a powerful voice at a time when the nation is being divided for “political opportunism”, The Telegraph reported.

“We need at this time, when the nation is being divided, between Hindus and Muslims by forces of political opportunism, and our unity is being destroyed, a powerful voice,” Sen said.

Sen made the statement in a virtual address at the centenary celebration of Anandabazar Patrika, a Bengali newspaper started in March 1922.

Sen recalled the time before India became free of the British regime, PTI reported.

“At that time, several people in the country were jailed for political reasons,” Sen said. “I was very young then and often used to question whether this practice of sending people to jail without committing any crime will ever stop.”

He said the practice of putting individuals behind bars without proving their guilt of a crime still exists even after Independence.

The 88-year-old economist’s comment was in context of activist Umar Khalid, who has been named as one of the accused in the 2020 Delhi violence.

The case against Khalid pertains to the clashes that broke out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing it between February 23 and February 26, 2020, in North East Delhi. The violence claimed 53 lives and injured hundreds.

Khalid is accused of making two speeches that instigated protestors to block roads in the city. He was arrested in September 2020 and has been in jail since.

“Many of those who are thinking boldly and being brave politically are suffering at the hands of the government, without any trial for their so-called offence,” he added, The Telegraph reported. “They are often praised from outside the country. Like we have heard forcefully from Professor Noam Chomsky. He has wanted honour for Umar Khalid, who is in jail without trial. But such honour is often rare in this country.”

On Saturday, Sen appealed for making efforts to pursue the “path of justice”, PTI reported.

Sen has expressed concerns about divisive politics and authoritarianism on several occasions in the past as well. On June 30, Sen had said that the current situation in the country has become a cause for fear, and urged citizens to maintain unity.

In July 2021, Sen had deplored the widespread suppression of public discussion in India, and said that several persons were being incarcerated without being tried.