Need tolerance in India very badly, says Amartya Sen

Kolkata, Jan 20 (IANS) Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Wednesday asserted India needs tolerance “very badly” but also underscored the importance of skeptical tolerance.

Sen, an aluumni of erstwhile Presidency College which has now developed into the Presidency University, discussed the influence and contributions of early 19th century poet Henry Louis Vivian Derozio in education and society.

“The general idea was to accept any kind of belief that comes from any side. Tolerance is a very great virtue and right now in India we need it very badly,” Sen said.

“In addition to that, there is a need for skeptical tolerance which was one of the things Derozio had. He didn’t have enmity for any group but questions for every group,” he added.

Sen was conferred the D.Litt. (honoris causa) by the Presidency University here.

Presidency University has its roots in the Hindu College, established in 1817. It was christened Presidency College in 1855. Derozio was assistant headmaster of Hindu College.

Branding Derozio’s legacy as an inheritance, Sen urged current batch of Presidency students to address the major issues in India. However, he cautioned against too much interference of the state government.

“When we live in a society where there are major issues to be addressed, we have to address that not as a government college but remember our origin is a civil society. Presidency would certainly want government’s help but (it should) not (be) dominant.”

“We have to cultivate the highest quality of education, elitism in that sense. Detachment would not work,” he said.

Calling for scepticism and reasoning in the activities, be it history or science, Sen – the author of The Argumentative Indian – stressed on being relevant to society.

“Presidency has to ask constantly are we relevant in India’ or in the world. What we can we do? We live in very difficult times with violence, with battle against hunger undernourishment, illiteracy and lack of education and bad education at the school level being the dominating feature of the country,” he added.

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