Centre for Development Practice and Research, Patna

TISS-Takshila Lecture-2 on Contemporary Challenges to India's Democracy


Date and time: Feb. 9, 2020 11:00AM - 12:30PM

Venue: Adhiveshan Bhawan, Harding Road, Old Secretariat Campus, Patna

TISS-Takshila Lecture Series


Contemporary Challenges to India's Democracy

Lecture-2 by

Dr. Harsh Mander, Eminent writer, public intellectual and social activist

Title of the Lecture: Bharat Mein Bandhuta Ki Khoj (भारत में बन्धुता की खोज)

Concept Note of the Lecture Series

One of the most striking descriptions of our current existence is that we live in a post-truth society where we are force-fed misinformation, rumours and unverified news and are subjected to a flurry of prejudiced opinions. At the same time, we experience curbing of freedom and shrinking of spaces for patient and reasonable dialogue. It is no wonder that political commentators all over the world are deeply perturbed by the trend of baseless demagoguery eclipsing the culture of tolerance and respect for different opinions. As the ‘statesmen’ and a section of the media spread poison of bigotry and hatred, effecting tension and mistrust among different communities, the common people face novel techniques of state surveillance and sometimes excruciating brutality of force. The concentration of wealth among the creamiest one percent of the population is combined with the emergence of ‘popular’ leaders whose principal tactic is to exercise the arbitrariness of power through emotional appeals to the vulnerabilities and precariousness that their decisions have engendered.

Amidst the sad irony and the challenging scenario of an impending crisis, there are also instances which reinforce the strength of democracy. In the last one decade or so, we have encountered various moments of resistance to the attacks on free thinking, the spirit of equality and communal harmony, and dreams of a better future. We have also witnessed new awakenings which have kindled our imagination with original agendas, demands and concerns articulated in the most ingenious idioms of protest and self-expression. Articulations of justice and democratic values are forcefully emerging with a fresh outlook to the existing problems and issues, whereas new platforms like the social media have emerged in the last few years as potent sites of putting up a struggle against the abuse of power. The youth today are much more vocal about the need for uprooting the vintage, conservative ideals which plague the society in these trying times.

The proposed lecture series will ponder over these moments of crises and emancipation in today’s world with a focus on the challenges of democratic environment in India. With the projection of India as global superpower in the coming future, one is tempted to raise questions about the falling rate of national income, the rise in economic and social inequalities, the reluctance of the government to tend to the responsibilities of public welfare and the growth of intolerance and prejudice in the name of religion, ethnicity, caste, and political opinions. In a time when there is a massive drive for globalisation of capital, the increasing disenfranchisement of the poor looms large in the background as a constant reminder of the long road ahead. This lecture series strives to travel this road with a modest wish to strengthen the democratic values in this country.

The lecture series is jointly organised by TISS Patna Centre and Takshila Educational Society.

About the Speaker

Dr. Harsh Mander is an eminent writer, public intellectual, teacher and social activist who works with street children, homeless and survivors of mass violence and hunger. He has founded the campaigns Aman Biradari, for secularism, peace and justice; Nyayagrah, for legal justice and reconciliation for the survivors of communal violence; Dil Se, for street children; and Hausla for urban homeless people.

Currently, he is the Director of the Centre for Equity Studies, a research organisation based in New Delhi which publishes the annual India Exclusion Report.

After serving in the Indian Administrative Service in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for almost two decades, Dr. Mander took voluntary retirement in protest of the Gujarat riots in 2002. He has worked as Country Director, ActionAid India, a development support organization. He is a founding member of the National Campaign for the People's Right to Information and the Founder-Chairperson of the State Health Resource Centre, Chhattisgarh. He was a member of the Core Groups on Bonded Labour and Mental Hospitals of the National Human Rights Commission as well as of various official National Committees.

Dr. Harsh Mander is a PhD from Vrije University in Amsterdam. His thesis was titled Vulnerable People and Policy Development in India: Designing State Interventions for Hunger, Homelessness, Destitution and Targeted Violence. He has taught courses on poverty and governance at IIM Ahmedabad, the LBS National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, St. Stephen's College, Delhi, the NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad and the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conict Resolution at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.

A prolic writer, Dr. Mander has authored books like Looking Away: Inequality, Prejudice and Indifference in New India, Unheard Voices: Stories of Forgotten Lives, Ash in the Belly: India’s Unnished Battle against Hunger and Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India and contributed articles to newspapers and scholarly journals. His stories have been adapted into Shyam Benegal’s lm Samar and Mallika Sarabhai’s dance drama Unsuni.

Dr. Mander has received a number of awards including the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award in 2006, the M.A. omas National Human Rights Award 2002, the South Asian Minority Lawyers Harmony Award 2012, and the Chisthi Harmony Award 2012.