Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Saturday expressed concern over the violence in Delhi, saying India is a secular country and people cannot be divided on religious lines, PTI reported.

At least 42 people were killed and over 200 injured in the large-scale communal violence between supporters and opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act in North East Delhi. In some cases, the police have been accused of either inaction or complicity in the violence against large-scale attacks mostly on Muslim neighbourhoods.

“I am very much worried that where it happened is the capital of the country and is centrally governed,” Sen said at an event in West Bengal’s Bolpur. “If minorities are tortured there and police failed or can’t discharge their duties, it is a matter of serious concern. It is reported that those who died or were tortured are mostly Muslims. India is a secular country we can’t divide Hindus and Muslims. As an Indian citizen, I can’t help but worry.”

However, the economist added that he does not want to arrive at a conclusion without analysing the whole matter.

Sen, who is a vocal critic of the Narendra Modi government, said it is natural to raise questions on the timing of Justice S Muralidhar’s transfer. “I personally know him,” the Nobel laureate said. “It is natural to raise questions but I can’t pass any judgment.”

On February 12, the Supreme Court collegium had recommended the transfer of Muralidhar to the Punjab and Haryana High Court from the Delhi High Court, where he had served since 2006. However, the government’s confirmation of the transfer came on the night of February 26 – the day Muralidhar made scathing remarks against the Centre and police during a hearing related to the violent clashes in Delhi.

Sen also told The Indian Express that the Bharatiya Janata Party should not stifle dissent, but have public discussion. “If I am going to be of any use in helping bring about a change, it will be through public discussion,” he said. “As we know from John Stuart Mill, democracy is ‘government by discussion’. In a public discussion, I would make the obvious point that the government should not –
most importantly – be stifling the voices of protest or of opposition. I was happy to see Justice DY Chandrachud say something like that in a recent speech.”

The judge had said “blanket labelling” of dissent as anti-national hurts the country’s commitment to protect Constitutional values.

“Why did the peaceful protesters in Northeast Delhi have so little help from police, in fact sometimes just the contrary,” Sen asked. “How did armed thugs have the opportunity to beat up students at JNU or AMU? How was it possible for a young protester to be roughed up while in custody? Why was a doctored video put in circulation trying to tell a false story about what happened in one campus or other?”

The police had barged into the Aligarh Muslim University on December 15 and allegedly caned those they apprehended during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. On January 5, several students were attacked by a mob allegedly comprising Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad members.