Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Mumbai | Tuljapur | Guwahati | Hyderabad

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


Feb. 10, 2019

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

TISS-Takshila Lecture Series


Contemporary Challenges to India's Democracy

Inaugural Lecture by

Shri Gopal Krishna Gandhi

Eminent scholar, thinker and former diplomat


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.

About the Speaker

Gopalkrishna Devdas Gandhi (born 22 April, 1945) is a noted scholar, author, a former civil servant and diplomat. He has served as the Governor in West Bengal and briefly in Bihar.

An alumnus of Delhi University’s St. Stephen’s College, he joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1968. He took voluntary retirement from IAS in 1992 to embark upon an illustrious diplomatic career, wherein he served as the High Commissioner of India to South Africa and Lesotho as well as the Ambassador of India to Iceland and Norway.

Shri Gandhi has always championed the cause of Indian cultural heritage and its values. It was this vision of his that served as an inspiration for Kalashetra Foundation, Chennai. As Chairman of the governing body, he gave a worthy direction to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.

He is also a prolific writer. He has translated Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy into Hindi, has authored Saranam, a novel on Sri Lanka’s Tamil plantation workers, Dara Sukoh, a play in verse and a couple of non-􀅀ction titles, including Gandhi and South Africa, Gandhi and Sri Lanka, Nehru and Sri Lanka, India House, Colombo: Portrait of a Residence, and Abolishing the Death Penalty: Why India
Should Say No To Capital Punishment.

Shri Gandhi is forthright in his views and speaks his mind fearlessly on issues about transparency and ethics in politics. Shri Gandhi is an immense inspiration to the younger generation. His current assignment as Distinguished Professor of History and Political Science at the Ashoka University, Sonepat is a testimony to the same.

Organised by

TISS Patna Centre and Takshila Educational Society

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