Democracy has been deeply rooted in India’s traditions, its ethos and culture. In ancient times, the Sabha and Samiti engaged in democratic decision making. Republican states like Vaishali and Vajji flourished in ancient India where the function of the head of state was limited and decisions were made through a democratic process. Fascinating instances of this can be found across the length and breadth of the country. The Indian state of Karnataka, for example, has a rich legacy of democracy going as far back as the 7th Century CE when the Chalukya dynasty of Badami created village assemblies to maintain local law and order. In the 12th Century CE, the great revolutionary Sri Basaveshwara (Basavanna) established Anubhava Mantapa, an academy of saints and philosophers, which worked to build a casteless, creedless society focused on human values. Based on a number of literary and epigraphic sources in multiple languages it can be said that the idea of republic goes back at least 2500 years in India. Features like universal franchise, general assembly, civic rights of voting, deliberations, application of procedures, system of committees and appeals, inter alia, are visible in the working of this republic more than two millennia ago.

Post-Independence, India adopted a representative democracy by providing universal adult franchise and since then the Indian democracy has flourished and deepened. India also gave a constitutional validity to grassroot democracy and today has a significant number of democratically elected representatives at the grassroot level. Despite its multifarious challenges, Indian democracy has continued to strengthen and has successfully addressed the issues of governance and development. Grassroot democracy has played a crucial role in this regard as it has successfully strengthened the people’s right to participate and effectively contribute towards good governance and all-round development. It is important to explore this rich legacy and engage our youth with it.

Issues to be discussed under this theme:

1.    Engage Youth – Energise Democracy: Civic and political engagement of Youth

2.    Education of Democracy: Pedagogy and activities required at school/college level 

3.    Political and Social Democracy  

4.    People Participation and Grassroots Democracy 

5.    Civil Society Role in Democratising Development 

6.    Minimum Government and Maximum Governance – CSOs playing catalyst Role 

7.    Inclusive Democracy (Gender, Disability, Marginalized) – Role of CSOs

8.    Enforced Engagement to Empowered Engagement – Grassroots Democracy  

India Coordinator:  Dr. Basavaraju R Shreshta, Grassroots Research And Advocacy Movement (GRAAM), India ([email protected])

International Coordinator: Benedetto Zacchiroli, President of ICCAR (UNESCO International coalition of sustainable and inclusive cities), Rome, Italy ([email protected])