July 4-5, 2014, New Delhi

Call to JOIN US


Central to our idea of India is the affirmation of its diversity. The India we are part of belongs equally to all persons who make it its own – no matter what their religious faith (or the lack of it), their gender, caste, class, language, physical abilities and sexual orientation. The bedrock of the Indian republic is the promise that all its citizens can find space in which to practise their beliefs and cultures, and live freely, confident they will be equally protected by the law of the land.


This inclusive idea of India was stressed by Dr Ambedkar as the essential democratic idea of fraternity. This larger idea of fraternity or social solidarity also leads to the idea of the good state as one which defends the oppressed and disadvantaged, and ensures their access to basic rights necessary for a life with dignity.\


Unfortunately, not everyone shares this idea of India. There is another idea of India, an idea of majoritarian domination, which is alien to the social and political philosophy on which this country was built and consolidated.


This is what this other idea of India leads to. Riots, polarisation. The pulling back of the state from public expenditure on health, education and nutrition in favour of large subsidies to the private sector, weakening of labour and environmental protections, and the theft of natural resources in the name of development. And to enable all of this, a curbing of freedom so people can be told what to think, read, write, say, paint.


For instance: riots have been and are being engineered to polarise communities. Whether in Muzzafarnagar or the Bodo areas in Assam, or more recently in Pune, targeted hate violence is cynically used for electoral benefits. In places such as Bellary or Mundra, big capital seeks to appropriate natural resources, destroying people’s livelihoods in the process. And as for freedom of speech and the right to dissent – rights that underpin Indian diversity – they are under attack on numerous fronts.


A number of self-appointed custodians tell us what we should not read or write, and how we should not behave. They seek to tell us what Indian Culture is, as if we are not part of this culture with all its rich multiplicity. They want to ban books; tell people who they can or cannot marry, what clothes they should not wear, what foods they should not eat. They want to make a list of rules for young and old in their use of the social media.


To discuss our Idea of India as distinct from theirs — particularly in the light of the recent Lok Sabha elections — we plan a two day national convention and seminar on 4 and 5 July, 2014, in Delhi. We will bring together many public intellectuals and human rights and other activists so we can all speak to each other, and understand the contemporary practice of this Idea of India and the challenges it faces today. If we evaluate it in all its complexity, we can move toward strengthening the collective practice of the idea of India -– whether social, economic, or political -– and build resistance against attacks on the rich and diverse nature of the Indian nation.


We appeal to all of you – secular and democratic citizens, movements and groups – to join us in this conference and help us move forward. We will send you more details presently.


Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Anand Patwardhan, Balachander Mungekar, Githa Hariharan, Girish Karnad Harsh Mander, Indira Jaisingh, John Dayal, Kancha Illiah, K Sachitanand, KN Pannikar, Kolse Patil Mahesh Bhatt, Mallika Sarabhai, Nandita Das, Nayantara Sahgal, Prabhat Patnaik, Prabir Purkayastha Ram Puniyani, Romila Thapar, Rooprekha Verma, Saeed Mirza, Seema Mustafa, Shabnam Hashmi, SP Shukla, Syeda Hameed, Vivan Sundaram, Zaheeruddin Ali Khan


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