Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee who won the coveted prize in Economics on Monday spent 10 days in Delhi's Tihar jail back in 1983 for taking part in a students' protest. He was a student of MA (Economics) from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) at that time.
Banerjee was thrown in jail by the police for "gheraoing the vice-chancellor in his house for the umpteenth time" during protests over expulsion of the student union president along with hundred others.
"It was the summer of '83 and we, the students of JNU, had gheraoed the vice-chancellor in his house for the umpteenth time. The pretext was the expulsion of the president of the student union, the Kanhaiya Kumar of the day, for reasons that escape me now," Banerjee wrote in a piece published in Hindustan Times in February 2016, when JNU sedition issue was at its peak.
He further said in the article that he and his friends were thrown in Tihar jail for 10 days and were beaten up as well. "We were beaten (I was) and thrown into Tihar jail, charged not quite with sedition, but attempt to murder and the rest. The charges were eventually dropped thank God but not before we spent 10 days or so in Tihar," he said in the 2016 article.
The Indian-American economist added in the article that the Congress government at the centre, as well as the Left-leaning faculty, endorsed and supported the police action at that time.
"What it undoubtedly was is an attempt by the State to establish the lines of authority. We are the boss they were telling us, shut up and behave," Banerjee said in the piece.
The eminent economist drew parallels to his arrest in 1983 and the JNU sedition row in 2016 in his article. He contended that the government action in both the cases "endangered the safe space that universities have traditionally provided."
Dr Banerjee who is a noted professor of Economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US has been awarded the Nobel Prize (2019) for his efforts to alleviate global poverty. He has won the award along with his wife Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for their "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty."