According to the Indian dialect ‘Hindi’, a dialogue could be of three types: a 'vaad', i.e. a discussion seeking to reach the truth between the proponent and the opponent's view; a 'vivaad' i.e. an argument seeking to push one's point of view over that held by the other; and lastly, a 'vitandavaad', which solely seeks to raze the opposing views, while offering them no other alternative system. In that sense, the book, “The Argumentative Indian” written by Dr. Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate has been very appropriately titled and that through this he has unwittingly revealed his own views. The way the book moves ahead, are thoughts of an argumentative individual – propagating his own views but not searching for the truth.
This book discusses the journey of India from its history to the present identity in terms of the cultural traditions related to public debate that has impacted several aspects of the nation be it in terms of culture and other forms of diversity. The book consists of four sections having four essays each, "Voice and Heterodoxy", "Culture and Communication", "Politics and Protest" and “Reason and Identity" through which it tries to argue about the success of Indian democracy, secularism and politics, demographic inequalities in the community.
In the first section the author takes a trip through the general culture of pluralistic debate that existed within India, from that of Buddha to that dating back till the king Asoka. Sen describes on an affirmative note of how argumentative nature of the Indians could and in reality has led towards raising the voices of the minorities. He continues by stating that “the demands of justice in India are also demands for more use of voice in the pursuit of equity. The argumentative heritage is an important asset to the Indian people.” He describes that raising voices against injustice has always been important, adding to it that “silence is the biggest enemy of justice.” In the second section he makes an attempt to restore Rabindranath Tagore as an intellectual, through combining political and spiritual ideas, while also exploring the country’s cultural relationship with that of the West and China. The third section looks at the inequalities present in the Indian society and the conflicts arising as a result of that. Sen again precisely tries to skewer the illogicalities and inequities inherent in the discrimination against women, low castes and the poor endemic in Indian society. He shows how these factors are deeply interrelated not only with each other but also with factors such as religion and ethnicity. The same techniques go on to show how ill-served India has been at its nuclear bomb testing program and in the foolishness of allowing religious extremism.
Ultimately, the book closes down with an exploration of modern cultures of liberalism and secularism that has been in existence with regards to the Indian context. Further ahead, with incisive wit and logic, he expresses his...