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‘Democracy helps prevent social unrest’

Monday, 7 March 2011 - 2:15pm IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: DNA
Says renowned sociologist Andre Beteille; the Padma awardee says that despite poverty, corruption, unemployment and inflation, an uprising like that in Egypt will not take place in India because of the country’s institutions like the parliament and judiciary.

According to renowned sociologist Andre Beteille, civil unrest is good only if it does not harm the democratic values of a country.

He was referring to the recent widespread public outcry and violent protests in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Iran and Libya.

He has however, rejected outright the notion that such unrest will happen in India, with its poverty, corruption, unemployment and inflation. "India has created institutions like parliament and judiciary, which are not there in these countries," said Prof. Beteille, who was conferred with the Padma Bhushan in 2005 for his work in sociology. He is also not very hopeful about the future of countries such as Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

"There is a strong possibility that one army general will step down and another will take his place," said Prof. Beteille.  He was in Ahmedabad to deliver a lecture on 'Institutions of Democracy', organized by Gujarat Institute of Development Research.  

Before the lecture, he shared his views on Indian democracy exclusively with DNA. He openly supported the stand that was taken by Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar against the civil disobedience movement led by Gandhiji. According to Prof. Beteille, Dr Ambedkar was against the movement because he feared that it would adversely affect the democratic and constitutional values of independent India.

"I agree more with Ambedkar than with Gandhiji, because civil unrest is good as long as it doesn't hurt the foundation of democracy, which is our constitution." opined Prof Beteille, who is professor emeritus at University of Delhi. He is also a visiting professor at University of Cambridge, London School of Economics and University of California.

Prof Beteille praised Ambedkar for penning a descriptive constitution. He also said that Gandhiji, Nehru and Sardar Patel were firm believers of constitutional values, and it is a wrong belief that they were only interested in protests.

"They had devoted their lives to creating democratic institutions like the Congress before launching the civil disobedience movement," said Prof Beteille.

Commenting on the fourth pillar of democracy, i.e. the Press, Prof Beteille also expressed his concern over the 'Breaking News' phenomenon of private news channels of India. "TV news channels break the news and then forget it. They are just sensationalizing the issue, which is damaging public interest," said Prof Beteille, who has written some 20 books on social structure, caste, inequality and education.

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