Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen on Friday said that the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan was not associated with the Bengali culture and that it was used as “a pretext to beat up people”. Sen said that among deities, it was “Maa Durga” who has been omnipresent in the lives of Bengalis, The Telegraph reported.

“I asked my four-year-old grandchild who is your favourite deity? She took a while and said: Maa Durga,” he said. “So, the stature that Maa Durga enjoys here cannot be compared to Ram Navami…. These are recent imports to wage a war.” He delivered the public lecture, titled “Kolkata after independence: A personal memoir”, at a programme in Kolkata’s Jadavpur University.

The economist also said that the celebration of Ram Navami had become popular now, which he had not “heard of being observed earlier”. “What I feel is slogans like ‘Jai Sri Ram’ are used as pretexts to beat up people,” Sen said.

He further said that merely increasing the income level of the poor would not curb their plight, and added that poverty can be reduced by providing basic healthcare, education, and social security, according to PTI.

Sen’s remarks come at a time when there have been instances of people being allegedly forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” in West Bengal. On June 24, a 26-year-old madrasa teacher in West Bengal alleged that he had been assaulted and pushed off a train the week before in Kolkata for not chanting “Jai Shri Ram”.