top of page
Image by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič

The Idea of Democracy - Chapter 3 | Chandigarh


Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Erosion of civil liberties, suppression of political opposition and dissent, weakening of independent media, manipulation of electoral processes, and the concentration of power in the hands of a few—this is increasingly how our world has been looking lately. The optimism and the triumph of Democracy that the world witnessed at the dawn of the 21st century has rapidly diminished.

History confirms that when democracy is in decline, eventually, citizens may lose faith in the system, leading to increased social unrest, political instability, and even violence.

It is crucial to identify and address the factors contributing to backsliding of democracy early on to prevent further deterioration of democratic institutions and practices. And our education institutes play a very crucial role in this.

Education can provide the conceptual alphabets for a vocabulary of peace, only through the consistent interrogation of pedagogical frames that overtly—or even subliminally—transmit prejudice and intolerance. The implementation of the new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) must provide the context to not only mould “global citizens” but also “intelligent patriots” with the courage to hold up the mirror and question the shibboleths we live by. —Meenakshi Gopinath

Our quest of ‘moulding’ the global thinking intelligent citizen is incomplete without addressing the urgent need of the hour—of critical thinking, dialogue, civic participation, community engagement and non-violent action.

After having deliberated on The Idea of Democracy with teachers and students in Calcutta and Ludhiana we are pleased to announce our upcoming initiative in Chandigarh.

Speakers and workshop facilitators at The Idea of Democracy - chapter 2 are:

Zoya Hasan, Krishna Kumar, P. Sainath, Rajni Bakshi, Suraj Yengde, Neha Pradhan Arora, Grace David, Isha Mathur and Venika Menon (YLAC), Sana Siddiqui and Ishita Singh (We, The People’s Abhiyan), Priti David and Vishaka George (PARI), Nadim Nikhat, ComMutiny-The Youth Collective.

Scroll down for the conference programme.


The cost per teacher is Rs. 1500 and per student is Rs. 750, which includes conference material, snacks, and lunch. You may nominate up to 2 teachers and 2 students.

Payments will be accepted via the online mode (NEFT or IMPS) only. Please mention 'History for Peace' in the Remarks section. Bank details on registration form.


Participants not based in Chandigarh are requested to make their own arrangements for accommodation. Once you register, we will gladly help with suggestions.

Registrations open till 30 April 2023!



The Idea of Democracy: chapter 3


7.40 – 8.40 a.m. Registration

8.40 a.m. Welcome Address. St Kabir Public School, Chandigarh.

8.50 a.m. Opening Address. Meena Megha Malhotra, Director, History for Peace.

9 a.m. – 10.15 a.m.

Keynote Address:

Challenges to India’s Democracy

Zoya Hasan

The 75th anniversary of Indian Independence is a landmark event in the history of our democracy. As the largest democracy in the non-western world, India is a success story. Its success, however, has primarily been recognized as an electoral democracy, with regular free and fair elections registering high voter participation, and also peaceful transfer of power. Elections certainly are a climactic moment of the democratic process but by no means the only important one. Politics between elections is central for understanding the challenges facing Indian democracy, and it is important, therefore, to contextualize democracy.

India has changed politically, socially and economically. Democracy has faced its most serious challenge in the last few years as its basic tenets came under stress. The very idea of a democracy based on equal rights irrespective of caste, class or faith is changing under the pressure of majoritarian politics and implementation of policies that privilege the interests of the majority community above civil rights. This lecture tries to make sense of these shifts through a thematic exploration of the trajectory of Indian democracy since 2014 focusing on three overlapping developments—the consolidation of a majoritarian brand of politics, the decline of independent institutions, and the shrinking space for political dissent and protests. Each of these issues, distinct and significant in its own right when taken together, constitutes a major challenge to our democracy.

Zoya Hasan is a political scientist, academic and commentator. She is Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Distinguished Professor, Council for Social Development, New Delhi. She has been Professor, Centre for Political Studies and Dean of the School of Social Sciences, JNU. She was Chairperson of the Centre for Political Studies and founding Director of the Centre for Women’s Studies and Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion, JNU.

Hasan has taught at the Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi. She has held visiting appointments at National University of Singapore, University of Zurich, and fellowships at, among others, University of Sussex, Rockefeller Centre, Bellagio, Maison des Sciences Del’ Homme, Paris, and the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin. She was a member of the National Commission for Minorities, National Integration Council, Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) and the National Book Trust. She is currently a member of The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy (Chennai) and Centre for Multilevel Federalism (New Delhi). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of several journals and was elected President of the Contemporary History Section of the Indian History Congress in 2019.

Zoya Hasan has published widely on Indian politics, state-society relations, democracy, social movements and public protests, and more broadly on issues of equality, social justice and the status of minorities.

10.15 – 10.45 a.m. Coffee break

10.45 a.m. – 12.15 p.m.

Who were our freedom fighters?

And what was India's freedom struggle all about?

P. Sainath

The celebrations around the 75th year of India’s Independence seem devoid of any recall of who and what it was the Indian people fought against to win freedom and Independence. Official websites dedicated to the subject tell young readers nothing about what colonialism did to this country. Nor is there any debate on who won India its Independence. A bunch of returning Oxbridge elites? Or, as Gandhi observed, ‘the people themselves’?

P. Sainath’s lecture will focus on his new book The Last Heroes: Foot Soldiers of Indian Freedom which records the life stories of 15 very ordinary Indians—representative of millions of others like themselves —and how they took on the British Raj. Farmers, labourers, cooks, couriers, homemakers, artisans, students and others played astonishingly courageous roles without ever gaining personally. They came from a diverse social spectrum: Dalits, Adivasis, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, OBCs, Brahmins, atheists . . .

What motivated these freedom fighters? And why do they tell us that freedom and independence are two different things? In 5-6 years, not a single one of them will be alive. Our younger generations will never get to meet, talk to, listen to, ever engage with anyone who fought for their country’s Independence. How do we address that loss?

Palagummi Sainath is founder-editor of the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI). A journalist and reporter for over four decades, he has covered rural India for over 30 years.

After an MA in history from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Sainath joined the United News of India in 1980. In 1982, he became foreign editor of The Daily and deputy chief editor of the weekly Blitz in Mumbai. In 1993, he left Blitz to work full-time on reporting rural poverty. In subsequent decades, he has produced the largest body ever of reporting on agriculture, inequality and deprivation in the Indian countryside.

Two universities, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and the University of Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia, have conferred honorary doctorates on him.

Sainath has won over 60 national and international reporting awards and fellowships.

He is deeply involved in the training of journalists.

In December 2014, Sainath launched PARI, a unique online site on rural India. Publishing in 14 languages, PARI is an independent multimedia digital platform, whose reporting mandate is to cover every region and section of rural people. In 7 years, PARI has won over 50 journalism awards.

12.15 – 1.30 p.m.

Democracy and Ideas

Krishna Kumar

Circulation of ideas across society is one of the basic conditions for sustaining democracy. We assume that education enables ideas to circulate as well as percolate, thereby enabling society to attain greater cohesion, and enabling ideas to acquire greater clarity. The lecture will discuss why education in India largely fails to perform both these important tasks.

Krishna Kumar is an Indian intellectual and academician, noted for his writings in the sociology and history of education. His academic oeuvre has drawn on multiple sources, including the school curriculum as a means of social inquiry. His work is also notable for its critical engagement with modernity in a colonized society. His writings explore the patterns of conflict and interaction between forces of the vernacular and the state. As a teacher and bilingual writer, he has developed an aesthetic of pedagogy and knowledge that aspires to mitigate aggression and violence. In addition to his academic work, he writes essays and short stories in Hindi, and has also written for children. He has taught at the Central Institute of Education, University of Delhi, from 1981 to 2016. He was also the Dean and Head of the institution. From 2004–2010, he was Director of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), an apex organization for curricular reforms in India. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the President of India in 2011.

1.30 – 2.30 p.m. Lunch

2.30 – 4.30 p.m. Parallel workshops

· Identity and Privilege [STUDENTS] GROUP C

Isha Mathur and Venika Menon [YLAC]

Through this session, students will explore different aspects of their identity, including gender, religion, caste, sexuality, socio-economic status, and more. They will learn how their identity impacts their experiences and how they view the world. Additionally, they will examine the concept of social and cultural capital and how it intersects with privilege and marginalization. The session will also focus on the role of identity in a democracy and how representation of diverse identities is essential for an inclusive and equitable society. Students will be encouraged to reflect on their own privilege and to consider ways to use it to help those who are marginalized. Through this session, students will have a better understanding of the complexity of identity and privilege and how it impacts their lives and the lives of others. They will be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and tools to work towards creating a more inclusive and just society.

Isha Mathur is a Senior Programs Officer at Young Leaders for Active Citizenship. She graduated with an MA in Philosophy, focusing on feminist and political philosophy from the University of British Columbia. She also holds a BA in Media Studies, Philosophy, and International Relations from the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. In the past few years, Isha has worked on feminist politics, civic education, and social movements. She primarily researches the relationship between gender-based violence and punitive systems to imagine alternative forms of justice. Isha is passionate about working within interventions in civic education and in her free time, she likes to read, cook, and be in the company of cats.

Venika Menon is a Senior Programs Officer at Young Leaders for Active Citizenship. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she studied public policy. Having worked in four countries, her sectoral focus has been gender, education, and inclusion policy. Previously, Venika monitored programs and led donor communications at a grassroots anti-child trafficking NGO, before which, as a consultant for the World Bank, she evaluated a state government funded education project in Madhya Pradesh. She has also managed projects for clients in New York and Israel at Perry Davis Associates, an international fundraising consulting firm.

· Citizen Café [STUDENTS] GROUP A

Sana Siddiqui and Kritika Sethia [We, The People’s Abhiyan]

The Citizen Café is the signature workshop module of We, The Citizen’s Abhiyan, with the objective of raising awareness about the Constitution—especially among the youth.

The Citizen Café focuses on empowering and connecting individuals with Constitutional values and principles through an interactive and informative workshop. Experiential and activity-based, this forum will encourage students to express their thoughts and opinions. By familiarising students with their roles and responsibilities as per the Constitution, the workshop inspires participants to take action.

We also train citizens to facilitate these cafes, within their network and communities, by equipping them with well-crafted materials and guidance.

Sana Siddiqui has been a brilliant facilitator in the field of constitutional values, and human rights. Her expertise is in demystification of complex legal provisions into fairly easy and day to day conversation. She has a very easy going, fun filled way of facilitation. Apart from this she has been involved in research, writing and designing of modules and other capacity building related work under various programmes of We, The People Abhiyan. She completed her LL.M. and has been working as a Legal Consultant since 2003.

After completing her fellowship with Teach for India, Kritika Sethia has dedicated a considerable amount of time to working in the social sector. She has served as the president of a rotaract club, where she conducted sessions and training seminars for young individuals. As a leader and changemaker, she is enthusiastic about making a significant and quantifiable difference. Kritika has extensive experience in instructional designing and adult facilitation, and her exceptional understanding of the Constitution enables her to seamlessly relate its contents to present-day concerns.

· Nurturing a culture of democracy and advocacy through Social Justice education

Grace David & Neha Pradhan Arora [STUDENTS] GROUP B

Social Justice is often misunderstood and not seemingly connected to the practice of education in classrooms. Helping and charitable acts are encouraged while social change and impact through questioning and challenging inequality are considered disruptive activism. However, it is critical to understand that the concept and practice of social justice once embedded in our classrooms and our conversations will help to nurture a culture of democracy and advocacy through a commitment to acknowledging, questioning and challenging inequalities arising from a differential distribution of power, resources, and privilege. This workshop aims to provide educators with an understanding of the concept of social justice and a framework to embed this holistically into our education to be able to create a democratic and just world.

Grace David has a Master’s Degree in English from Delhi University. She is also a student of Christian theology and is in the final year of her M.Th (Systematic Theology) from Vidyajyoti College, Delhi. Her experience for the past 18 years has therefore been also largely with youth groups, Church communities and faith formation as well. For the last seven years she has been working as the Coordinator of Catechetics, Values and Social Justice Education in St. Columba’s School, New Delhi. She has also authored several devotional books in English and Hindi along with papers and articles on theological themes.

Neha Pradhan Arora has worked in the education and development sector for 20 years with a focus on building collective responsibility and transforming children, teachers and classrooms, through dialogue and learning experiences. A social worker and teacher by qualification, she has been the resource person for the Social Justice and Advocacy programme in the Edmund Rice schools in India since 2018. She is also the co-founder of an organisation that works on the issues of safety and protection of women and children from abuse, violence and exploitation.

· The role of good journalism in classrooms today [TEACHERS] GROUP A

Priti David and Vishaka George [PARI]

In a true democracy, journalism functions as the voice of the people. However, mainstream journalism mostly covers urban and corporate India. There is just not enough coverage of rural India—the single largest and most diverse part of our country where over 800 million people live and work. We need to teach and establish the vital role of journalistic practices to inform and educate. Active citizenship in a democracy will start with us becoming discerning and responsible consumers of news.

The People's Archive of Rural India (PARI) was founded by eminent journalist P. Sainath in 2014. An online journal and archive, PARI works with schools and universities to get young people to engage and explore the issues of our times.

Using material from the PARI and our own experiences in the field, this workshop will show teachers how to use journalistic stories, photos, and films on rural and marginalised people to teach geography, economics, science and more.

PARI’s work with young people since 2018 has created a bank of student-led journalistic documentation that covers issues of migration, agriculture, gender rights, healthcare and more. To read more, do visit our free-to-access site with translated material in multiple languages: PARI Education.

Priti David is Executive Editor of the People's Archive of Rural India (PARI). She writes on forests, education, health, women, craft and livelihoods. She is a Guest Faculty in universities and works closely with educators in schools to raise awareness and sensitisation on rural and marginalised lives.

An Economics Honours graduate from Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, Priti began her career with The Economic Times in 1989, and moved to television with Doordarshan, CNBC ABNI and reported for India Business Report on BBC World. She is the author of Coming Home, a novel for ages 10-14 years, published by Karadi Tales in 2020 and listed on the Parag Honours List for 2022.

Vishaka George is a Senior Editor at the People's Archive of Rural India. She writes on agrarian distress, climate change and livelihoods. She worked at Reuters as a business correspondent and CNN IBN as a desk editor. Vishaka graduated from St. Stephens College, Delhi University and has a graduate diploma in Broadcast reporting from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. Vishaka's book for children, House of Uncommons published by Karadi Tales, has been nominated for the Auther Awards.

Priti and Vishaka have been working to bring PARI to schools and colleges since 2018. Since then, together they have given presentations, conducted workshops and taught courses in over 120 educational institutions and 25 organisations working with young people.

· Schools As Spaces to Nurture Jagriks* [TEACHERS] GROUP B

Nadim Nikhat, ComMutiny- The Youth Collective

Jagrik is a word play of Jagruk and Nagrik. Jagrik is a self-awakened active citizen. In this session, we will explore schools as spaces for nurturing active citizenship through our stories and experiments of active citizenship in classrooms. 'Jagrik Journey Begins' is an offering to all those who would like to join the mission ‘Every Youth a Jagrik, Every Space Nurturing Jagriks’. The curriculum—for 6th-9th Grade school students is a set of mini experiences that can turn any classroom into a thriving space of active citizenship. The Bicycle has been used as a metaphor in this journey. This simple everyday vehicle of millions that is easily accessible to most people, whether young or old, for work and play, is environment friendly and an engineering marvel that is activated by human effort and has the potential to galvanize the power of the people to drive grassroots change together.

These compelling experiences are intended to spark curiosity, pose questions, spawn dialogue and build inspiration for real world action projects on the ground. We are confident that these experiences will create the crucibles of love, learning, freedom, ownership and social hope where thousands of youth facilitators, teachers, educators and Jagriks will together show us the way forward towards a better us and a better world.

Nadim Nikhat leads Active Citizenship Cell and Peer Tutor Initiative at ComMutiny the Youth Collective. He is a trained lawyer and has a work experience of 15 + years at various organizations such as ComMutiny- the Youth Collective, Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network, Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion (CSEI), Centre for Social Justice, Gujarat, National Law School of India University-Bangalore, Gujarat National Law University, Nirma University.

He believes that "young and adolescent people are the harbinger of change and constitutionalism is a way of collective conscientisation and a tool of active citizenship and democratic resistance in a constitutional democracy, like ours.” His areas of interests are: active citizenship, education and learning, human rights monitoring, training, collectivization, constitutional awareness, socio-legal research and advocacy, content creation, training, and capacity building, and program designing and effective and creative use of training and research techniques to advance constitutional values, active citizenship, democracy and access.


9 – 11 a.m. Parallel Workshops

· Identity and Privilege

Isha Mathur and Venika Menon [STUDENTS] GROUP A

· Citizen Café

Sana Siddiqui and Kritika Sethia [STUDENTS] GROUP B

· Nurturing a culture of democracy and advocacy through Social Justice education

Grace David & Neha Pradhan Arora [STUDENTS] GROUP C

· The role of good journalism in classrooms today [TEACHERS] GROUP B

Priti David and Vishaka Georg [PARI]

· Schools As Spaces to Nurture Jagriks* [TEACHERS] GROUP A

Nadim Nikhat, ComMutiny- The Youth Collective

11 – 11.30 a.m. Coffee break

11.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.

Non-Violence and the Future of Democracy

Rajni Bakshi

Is Ahimsa a basic human instinct—as Gandhi liked to say, ‘as old as the hills’?

Or is our capacity for violence more ‘natural’ and more basic?

This session will explore a brief history of nonviolence and reflect on how it matters in our everyday life and in building the kind of society we want to live in.

This journey will give us glimpses of discoveries in the natural sciences as well as the difficulties and triumphs of people across the world who have successfully challenged oppressive rulers and power structures and fought for the preservation of Democracy by drawing on the strengths of nonviolence.

Rajni Bakshi is a Mumbai-based author, speaker and founder of Ahimsa Conversations.

Her books include: Bazaars, Conversations and Freedom: for a market culture beyond greed and fear (Penguin India, 2009 and Greenleaf, UK, 2012), which won two Vodafone-Crossword Awards; Bapu Kuti: Journeys in Rediscovery of Gandhi (Penguin, India, 1998) which inspired the Hindi film Swades; Long Haul: the Bombay Textile Workers Strike 1982-83 (BUILD, India, 1986). On 30th January, 2020, Rajni launched a YouTube Channel called Ahimsa Conversations, which is a platform for exploring the possibilities of nonviolence.

From 2013 to 2022, she served as member of the Executive Committee of the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

Rajni was awarded the Homi Bhabha Fellowship in 2000.

From 2013 to 2016 Rajni was the Gandhi Peace Fellow at Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations, a Mumbai based foreign policy think tank. She serves on the Boards of Child Rights and You (CRY), Citizens for Peace (CfP) and the Centre of Education and Documentation (CED).

Rajni has a BA in Journalism and Political Science from George Washington University and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Rajasthan.

12.30 – 1.30 p.m.

Violence of Caste and Dance of Democracy

Suraj Yengde

How is one to comprehend democracy in India? Is it a set of rules laid down in the constitution that the country has to follow? Is it a power decentralized through various institutions? Is democracy a code of conduct applied to the many organs of the state? Or is democracy an act of exercising political rights? Democracy is often conflated with many things concerning liberties. Liberties are guarantors of democratic practice. However, democracy is not just a template or mould one needs to fit into. Democracy in India is a historical charter attributed to the republics of ancient times. However, democracy, like anything else, has matured into a set of principles that the citizens must commit to. It is not given but a cultivated notion that develops into a character of representative democracy. Democracy, as Ambedkar stated, drawing upon the Deweyean notion, is “an associated living”. This idea surpasses the extraneous ethic of democracy by making it a personal responsibility.

Democracy, in practice, has not necessarily ameliorated the conditions of the outcastes. However, it has given the subalterns a feeling of belonging. But what happens when democracy is hijacked by the cultural, social, economic, and religious elites? It produces a corrupt version of an adulterated society. Instead of proffering democratic life, democratic vision, and democratic status, democracy becomes a vehicle for the caste elites to exercise democratic malpractices. In this talk, we will examine democracy and the democratic charter of Indian society. We will ask questions such as, is democracy even feasible in a society riven by caste wars and village republics? What is democracy in a country that shies away from cultural changes and adheres to tradition as a foundation of an unequal country? In short, is democracy just a nomenclature used to namedrop to claim a certain ethical superiority in the world?

Suraj Yengde is a Dphil candidate at the Faculty of History. He is the author of the bestseller Caste Matters (2019) and a co-editor of the award-winning anthology with Dr. Anand Teltumbde, The Radical in Ambedkar: Critical Reflections (2018). Caste Matters was a bestseller and listed as the ‘Best Non-fiction Book of the Decade’ by The Hindu.

The book’s Malayalam translation won the Kerala state award for translation. The book has been translated into three languages, with four more in progress.

He has written over a hundred articles in academic and non-academic journals. His articles have appeared in Ethnic & Racial Studies, Diaspora Studies, The Caravan, Seminar, Economic & Political Weekly, among others.

He is a columnist at the Indian Express, running the only caste-centric column in the world.

He is currently working on two manuscripts. The first, Caste, A History of the World, is under contract with Allen Lane and the second, Biography of Dr B.R. Ambedkar is under contract with Juggernaut.

Dr. Yengde is founder-curator of the Dalit Film Festival and co-founder of the Equity in Policy Education initiative at Harvard University.

1.30 – 2.30 p.m. Lunch

2.30 – 4.30 p.m. Parallel Workshops

· Identity and Privilege

Isha Mathur and Venika Menon [STUDENTS] GROUP B

· Citizen Café

Sana Siddiqui and Kritika Sethia [STUDENTS] GROUP C

· Nurturing a culture of democracy and advocacy through Social Justice education

Grace David & Neha Pradhan Arora [STUDENTS] GROUP A


Deeptha Vivekanand & Megha Malhotra


555 views1 comment

1 Comment

Can research scholars attend this conference ?

bottom of page