Tuesday, December 23, 2008

K. C. Basu Endowment Lecture

The K. C. Basu Endowment Lecture is an annual lecture instituted by Dr. Kaushik Basu, Professor of Economics, Cornell University in his father’s name. The lecture is hosted by NUJS. The event has been graced in the past by stalwarts like Amartya Sen, Pranab Bardhan, N. R. Narayana Murthy and Joe Stiglitz. This year was no exception, with Lord Professor Meghnad Desai delivering a lecture on “Rule of Law and Indian Democracy”.

Addressing a moderately large gathering at the Science City Mini Auditorium on 23rd December 2008, Lord Desai deconstructed the fictional syncretic narrative on which many political theorists have sought to base post-independence Indian political identity. He said that the failure of this fiction is evident from the fact that so many of us today are “hyphenated Indians”, having a regional, caste-based or religious identity which competes with our national identity. The solution, he opined, is to construct a new identity based on the legal and constitutional fact that India is a unified political entity. Respect for the rule of law and the democratic ideal would reduce fragmentation. Individual identity, as opposed to group identity, would be given precedence, and individual rights and liberties would be better safeguarded.

At the end of the one hour-long lecture, there was a brief but thought-provoking question-answer session moderated by the Guest of Honour, State Finance Minister Mr. Ashim Das Gupta. The session closed with a vote of thanks from the Registrar, and the welcome announcement that light refreshments would be served outside to members of the audience.

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