“Thinking has always been changing, and it has to change with the times, as does education,” believes Andre Beteille, professor of sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University, and recipient of the IILM Distinguished Global Thinker award, 2011, which was instituted by the IILM Institute for Higher Education, Delhi in 2006.
Explaining the evolution of thought, Beteille said that from the time of the colonial rule in India when the British set up universities, it introduced new forms of education — law, medicine, etc; people gradually started to become exposed and thinking started undergoing a radical change. Education however, did not spread evenly across the country. The pressure on universities for spread and specialisation increased tremendously, till the time that they were unable to cope within their existing frameworks. It was realised that teaching and research in all subjects, from physics to law, policy to film studies, could not be conducted under one roof. This has given rise to institutions that are smaller, more clearly focused with a manageable framework of disciplines. Specialisation and niche areas are gaining and will keep gaining importance. Education gives rise to, and enables thought to evolve, said Beteille.
In his keynote address, ‘Democracy and Opposition,’ Beteille explained in a simple fashion, the importance of
an active opposition in a democracy, drawing upon references of many a democracy in the world vis-a-vis India. His basic emphasis was that in a healthy democracy, the government and opposition remain in a position of mutual interchangeability. The party in power knows that if it is thrown out of power, it must sit in the opposition and strengthen its base to be able to return to power. Both have a collective goal of working for the country. In India, however, Beteille noted, that any party that comes in power probably finds it difficult to visualise itself losing the power, and having to sit in opposition, lest the nation becomes unsafe without it at the helm. Drawing the analogy of England, Beteille says that the collective goal of the party in power and the opposition is to be loyal to and serve the interests of ‘Her Majesty,’
probably one factor that unified the vision of the opposing forces and results in a healthy opposition. In India however, much of that is missing.
It is also probable, he opined, that the prolonged opposition of the British during the independence movement has seeded a character of opposition, and of non-cooperation with those in power, and that the state is safe if only it is in ‘our hands.’