Civil Society: Delhi panel discusses challenges before people’s chief vanguard
Dimapur, Feb. 11 (EMN): An academic discussion in Delhi hosted by Naga scholars recently broached various issues concerning the idea of democratic society’s chief and apex community vanguard—Civil Society—and the role of civil organisations in being the chief guardian of a people, their welfare and wellbeing.
One of important questions related to community guardianship and people welfare was about how to find ways for people who speak different languages, believe in different religions and belong to different communities, to live together in harmony to enhance the rich diversity of India.
The Naga Scholars Association (NSA) organized a “New Year special talk” on issues concerning civil society, with the thematic slogan being ‘The troubled biography of civil society’ (sic). A press release from the organisation on Monday stated that the discussions were conducted in the School of International Studies at JNU, in New Delhi on February 8.
A political scientist, Prof. Neera Chandhoke, was the resource person for the event. She is also the National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, and a professor of political science at the ‘university of Delhi,’ the updates stated.
In her discourse to the event, Professor Chandhoke gave an ‘in-depth analysis’ about the “origin” and the importance of civil society organisations in contemporary times. According to the press release, “she traced the history of civil society (organisations) way back to history of Eastern Europe,’ and that civil society (organisations) first developed in Scotland in the 18th century when Scotland became a commercial power.”
“Scottish people are very proud of their culture and civilization. The Scottish (people) have developed a culture of debate and discussion which later on gave birth to civil society (organisations). Scottish philosopher Adam Smith said ‘civil society means quality of civility.’
‘Civil society also means sense of polite, civilized something that is aesthetically developed,’ the press release quoted her as having stated.
Further, Chandhoke said that the objective of civil society organisations is not to overtake the state’s power or to compete with the ruling power. Its objective is to safeguard the constitution for the greater good of the society, she said.
“When a society develops a culture of debate, the outcome will be always fruitful as debates can also be on good citizenship and how citizens can live a good life ethically, culturally and aesthetically,” she said.
Further, Chandhoke elaborated how civil society organisations developed in India in the 19th century and early 20th century. It developed as a function of the ‘freedom struggle’ and more importantly from the social reform movements on issues relating to caste discrimination among other social issues, the updates stated.
“Civil society is important not only for democracy but also for good life,” the professor stated. She argued that it was civil society which monitors government activities, which then leads to restraint on the abuses of the state.
“In this context, she highlighted how the Indian civil society today is under stress due to public space is being reduced since it highlights human rights issues in Northeast, Kashmir, etc.”
Despite this constraint, she pointed out, civil society organisations play a great role in the Northeast region because it mediates political situations and highlights broader social security concerns. According to Professor Chandhoke, civil society organisations not only provide space for dialogue and debate but also promote the ‘good life’ as talked by Socrates.
‘She argued that for a good civil society, it should have two faces—one face toward government and one toward itself. She concluded by stating that we can have a good state when we have an active civil society that guard and pressurises government/state for functioning effectively.’
Chandhoke asserted that the most important challenge today in India was in finding a way to how people who speak different languages, believe in different religions and belong to different communities can live together in harmony to enhance the rich diversity of India.