In defence of Indian democracy


    A national civil liberties convention, scheduled for the year 2000 hopes to launch a nationwide organisation in defence of Indian democracy

    The civil liberties movement in India has a long history….Despite this visible intervention from the civil liberties and democratic rights’ movements in different parts of the country around different issues, democratic rights and civil liberties as a whole are increasingly under threat today…

    The growth of an increasingly narrow political worldview of the kind that dominates the Indian political scene at the moment necessitates the emergence of a strong and vociferous forum for the articulation of protest against these violations.

    On the eve of the new millenium, basic democratic rights within India stand violated as never before. Racial, religious, ethnic and regional discrimination have acquired sharp and worrying dimensions. The basic fundamental right to a life of dignity has never become reality; to many this right has, in recent years, been actually taken away. Sixteen-seventeen per cent of India’s Dalit population continues to subsist without fundamental freedoms and rights available to "better" placed citizens.

    While the right to freedom of worship and the freedom of religion is guaranteed under the Indian constitution, this fundamental right as much as the right to equal and fair protection by the law stands systematically violated.

    Women as citizens continue to struggle and protest for a life of equality and dignity within the family, the community structure and within the parametres of the state, as citizens. The past few years have also seen a sharp increase in the violent crimes against women.

    Governments at both the centre and state-levels, over the past decade, have also abdicated all responsibility towards providing health facilities, housing, literacy and education and employment to citizens.

    The resultant number of Indians forced to live under the poverty line has increased and the conditions of work for hundreds of thousands of our workforce, men, women and children working long hours in inhuman conditions in the informal sector are abysmal. Though the fundamental right of association (to form and organise the workforce into a trade union) exists on paper, in practice this right is systematically curtailed. Only seven per cent of the Indian workforce is unionised today.

    Politically, Indian democracy has never faced a greater threat than it does today. Apart from the systematic physical attacks on sections of the Indian population on grounds of their ethnicity, what India faces today is a systematic agenda to change its democratic framework. Pogroms against citizens while the law and order machinery watches silently or even participates have been some of the manifestations. Infiltration into educational institutions and teaching syllabi of a worldview that is sectarian, selective and hate-driven are some others. The proponents of this worldview eschew violence and threats, secure in the belief that they are above the law. That is the extent to which the Indian constitution stands violated today. For the first time since it’s birth, the Indian state faces an authoritarian project that is at its heart an anathema to the democratic process of equal and proportionate representation, of dissent and difference, of equality and social justice.

    We feel that it is important, under the circumstances, to provide a comprehensive picture of the violation of democratic and human rights in India and work towards a strategy to defending and protecting any violations at all levels. The existence of several human rights and civil liberties organisations on the field makes it easier for us to come together for this purpose.

    It is with this aim in mind that we are together inviting organisations and in individuals committed to the struggle of democratic freedoms from different parts of the country for a two-day National Convention in Defence of Indian Democracy in January or February (dates to be finalised) with an objective to launch an all Indian civil liberties organisation in the defence of democratic rights.

    Justice Hosbet Suresh, Girish Patel

    Madhav Sathe, Ramesh Pimpale

    Gautam Thakker, Kirit Bhatt

    Trupti Shah, Rohit Prajapati

    J.S.Bandukwala, Sonal Mehta

    Uday Mehta, Dolphy D’Souza

    Ram Punjani,Teesta Setalvad

    Interested persons please contact us at Communalism Combat, PB 28253, Juhu post office, Mumbai 400049. Email

    Archived from Communalism Combat, November 1999, Year 7  No. 53, Human Rights