UoH Honours Amartya Sen, Students Force Him to Talk on Caste Not Coffee - The New Indian Express

UoH Honours Amartya Sen, Students Force Him to Talk on Caste Not Coffee

Published: 20th December 2013 09:26 AM

Last Updated: 20th December 2013 10:33 AM

University of Hyderabad administration on Thursday found itself in an embarrassing situation when nobel laureate Prof Amartya Sen’s first in a series of Hyderabad lectures was disrupted by a group of agitating students.

The 80-year-old economist was scheduled to talk on “Are Coffee Houses Important for Education?”. However, the students wanted him to talk about caste-based discrimination in educational institutions in the country.

Minutes after he started talking, a student stood up to make his demand. Despite Prof Sen’s repeated explanation to the students, they did not settle down following which the vice-chancellor, Prof Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, requested Prof Sen to change his topic of lecture, which he did.  Earlier, Prof Sen received the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from chancellor CH Hanumantha Rao.  Prof Sen had been conferred with Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) by University of Hyderabad in 1993.

Prof Sen, who was seen visibly disturbed at the students’ behaviour, quickly decided to talk about the plight of dalits in the country based on vast research and experiences of his own. Admitting that the situation of dalits was deplorable, he called for a need to understand the diverse sources of all problems.

The economist who is globally acclaimed for his understanding of the causes of hunger and famine in the world from his childhood experiences explained how inability to pay attention had to do with hunger and reiterated that hunger not only ruined people’s health but also people’s education. Revisiting the earlier scheduled topic on coffee houses, he stressed on the importance of the culture of public discussion on really important social matters.

Touching upon issues like healthcare, education, privatisation, he stated that universities today have a role to play in retaining the culture of public discussion and lead the dialogue through social thinking. Throughout his extempore, he revisited his earlier scheduled topic and mentioned the words ‘coffee house’, ‘agitation’ etc several times but at the same time passing on his final word to the students. Responding to a query on discrimination against marginalised section at educational institutions, he quoted Dr BR Ambedkar and said “Educate, Organise and Agitate”.

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