Teaching Indian Politics: How Independent Are We?

Published date01 June 2022
Date01 June 2022
Subject MatterTeaching—Learning Politics in India
Teaching Indian Politics: How
Independent Are We?
K. C. Suri1
Several questions come to mind when we think of the state of teaching Indian politics at a time when we
celebrate 75 years of independence. How much progress did we make in advancing knowledge of India’s
political reality, an objective of the Indian political scientists during British rule? How independent
intellectually are Indian political scientists, as a collective, from the West in theorizing India’s democratic
politics? Is there domination of overseas concepts and analysis in our understanding of Indian politics?
How do we bring together, integrate and synthesize the theories of Indian politics that are produced
abroad and those that are developed within India? I do not claim to have satisfactory answers to these
questions. But I believe that they claim our attention.
Quest for Change
What kind of political science the political scientists of India before independence aspired for in
independent India? A perusal of the proceedings of the various conferences of the Indian Political Science
Association in the years soon after its formation in 1938 gives us a broad view of the first-generation
political scientists of India. They were inspired by the ideals of nationalism and individual freedom.
Many of them were trained in Britain. But due to the colonial rule, the political science curriculum those
days was heavily loaded in favour of studying history, political thought and constitutions, of Europe
mostly. Writing in 1944, Venkatarangaiya observed that the courses in Indian universities blindly
followed the pattern set by some of the older British universities. The courses, according to him, were
either superficial or divorced from the actualities of life. Even in the field of Indian political institutions,
standard works were the ones written by Western scholars (Venkatarangaiya, 1944, p. 338). Asirvatham
stated that the university teachers were ‘mortally afraid of prescribing or even recommending any book
written by an Indian author, except in fields of study like ancient political thought in India or Hindu
Political Institutions’ (Asirvatham, 1944, p. 337).
Indian politics was not a course of study in any university before independence. The reasons proffered
for not considering Indian politics as a subject fit for study are interesting. One, Indian society had been
static. The movement towards larger freedom was the characteristic of Western societies. It gave rise to
new currents of political thought. Such currents were absent in India. Two, political science was
concerned with the study of sovereign states with a democratic government, and India was not a sovereign
Note: This section is coordinated by Rajeshwari Deshpande (rajeshwari.deshpande@gmail.com).
1 Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, Telangana, India.
Teaching—Learning Politics in India
Corresponding author:
K. C. Suri, Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, Telangana 500046, India.
E-mail: surikc@uohyd.ac.in
Studies in Indian Politics
10(1) 132–137, 2022
© 2022 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23210230221082790

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