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Seminar

Challenges of democracy for the masses


"The citizens of India are more concerned about religious, sectarian, and caste issues than democracy, constitution and their motherland. The biggest democracy of the world has become the democracy of uncaring and docile people". These thoughts were expressed by Ved Vyas, President of Union of Progressive Writers at a seminar entitled "Challenges of democracy for the masses".

The seminar was held in Udaipur on April 20, 2009 and organised by Bhaichara Foundation (Brotherhood Foundation) of Jaipur in association with Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat of Udaipur. Ved Vyas appealed to the intellectuals to make concrete efforts to foster constructive democracy in the country. He stressed that they should educate people to practice constructive democracy and expressed his sadness that even after 60 years of independence there is no basic respect for each other in our society.

Islamic scholar and thinker Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer also participated in the seminar. He mentioned that political parties in India choose their candidates based on their religious affiliations. How can then the candidate be expected to remain oblivious to these factors, he wondered. He said that these leaders use democracy to increase their wealth and status rather than solve the basic human issues and problems. “There is no place for a common man in the democracy. India has a ‘political democracy’ at present, unless there is no ‘social democracy’ established, there won't be any equality in society,” he said.

“Although the caste system has been abolished by the constitution, society still actively practices and encourages it. If the constitution is practiced properly no one in society can dare practice caste system,” he said and also stressed for fundamental changes to the education system to bring about change.

Sawai Singh Shekhawat of Sarvodaya movement said nothing has changed in the past 60 years of independence. “Voting numbers indicate the disinterest of the common public in the democracy and shows their lack of trust in the political leaders. The upper class has no interest in the democracy, while the lower class votes are bought by political leaders through incentive and bribes,” he said.

Dr. Zenab Banu of Sukhadia University said there is no democracy in India, and even if there is, it is at its lowest level. She said the government has not been able to give basic human rights to women even after 60 years of independence. “Women's status is still not the same as men, and women do not play any significant role in making key decisions that can affect the politics and society of our country,” she said.

A poet and artist from Nathdwara, Kishan Dagheech said 50 to 55 per cent people still don't exercise their right to vote, and that could significantly influence the result. He asked the intellectuals and thinkers to organise such seminars and conferences from time to time to discuss important issues and make the common people aware of their rights and bring about some positive change in society.

Vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Professor Mohammed Shafi Agwani said that democracy has become a profession rather than a service these days. He said if we don't act now, we will lose democracy and will not be able to save it even if we wanted to. He called upon the intellectuals and leaders to act now and stop this trend.

Famous poet and thinker Dr. Nand Chaturvedi, who presided over the event, ruefully pointed out that there is no dialogue between various sections of society. He said policy making in this country has gone into the hands of a few upper class elite. “The current model of development has no place for the common man. The urban centres are getting developed at the expense of rural areas, he said and urged the audience to act in a democratic manner to bring about necessary reforms in society.

Acting Secretary of Udaipur jamaat, Commander Mansoor Ali Bohra earlier welcomed participants and stressed the importance of such gatherings. In conclusion Dr. Abid Hussain Adeeb, President of Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat, stressed that reform movement was based on such democratic principles and that reformists will continue to fight for them. He thanked the speakers, guests and attendees. Dr. Hemendra Chandalia conducted the programme.

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