Save Dissent to Save Democracy
THE rising instances of physical violence and threats against political opponents and the inability to accept dissent must raise huge concerns amongst all of us who see democracy as perhaps the really stellar achievement since Independence.
AAP’s attack on BJP headquarters and acts of arson committed under the very noses of their elite leadership; the attacks on Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia in Gujarat in the last two days; the recent manhandling of the caretaker of journalist Siddharth Varadarajan’s house by some garden variety thugs; and the violence and threats meted out regularly to their political opponents by political parties is surely deplorable and condemnable. This is a fatally flawed trend which will destroy the very foundations of our democratic institutions if not pushed back with all the strength and condemnation that the civil society can mobilise.
Replaying the past
To begin with, it must be clarified that we should not jump to any premature and unfounded allegations against any particular political party or political leader as this will be simply wrong and not serve any purpose at all except to start a bout of mutual recriminations and finger- pointing.
It itself is dangerous as it effectively condones the violence by opponents comparing their dastardly act against the others.
It is not the level but the act itself which cuts at the root of our democracy.
The tendency for violently quelling political dissent and physically threatening one’s opponents has long history as democracy came to be established in a fundamentally feudal and unequal society.
Upper caste violence against the dalits was the norm in the fifties and sixties. I recall the early seventies when Sanjay Gandhi’s rise was accompanied with increasing instances of gangs of lumpen youth masquerading as Sanjay brigade threatening and attacking anyone who dared to voice her opposition to his high handedness. The consequence was the emergency and near derailment of our democracy. Subsequently, we saw the same tendency in an even stronger version during CPM’s long rule in West Bengal which was condoned by Bengali bhadralok like Jyoti Basu and leftist scholars who simply shut their eyes to the dehumanising violence of CPM dadas . It took a lot of bloodletting and violence to exorcise the fear in the West Bengal voters to liberate them from the dead hand of CPM rule. And unfortunately we have not seen the last of this. But we must resist lest the worst aspects of our feudal past overtake us and we see the replaying in even greater ferocity the worst aspects of human behaviour in the name of safeguarding our political views and lionising our chosen leaders. Violence or the implicit threat of violence will see us quickly descend into ungovernable chaos, which will take us towards fundamentalism or fascism, both of which are complete anathema to a civilised, multi- ethnic and multi- religious society that we proudly and rightly claim to be.
It is often argued by some political leaders that the threatening behaviour in public or increasingly these days in the social media by their supporters is spontaneous and un- directed. Consequently, it is argued it cannot be controlled by the party leadership.
Political parties’ role
But having experienced some of this in another context, I can testify to the trauma that it creates when day after long day one is bombarded by exactly the same threatening message repeated from different sources and persons, all completely unknown and appearing out of nowhere. We certainly do want to descend into the situation across our western borders where the line has long been crossed and political or ideological opponents are routinely eliminated to quell dissent and drive the fear deep into the hearts of the ordinary voters.
The onus of preventing any further slide down this very slippery and dangerous slope must lie squarely on the leaders of our major political parties. We cannot hope for it to come from the Left parties because their core ideology glorifies violence and at the very minimum calls for the combined use of parliamentary and unparliamentary means to secure political power. All the sophistry of the Karats and the bhadralok intellectuals cannot take away from this anti- democratic nature of their politics. The religious fundamentalists cannot also be expected to raise their voice against, let alone shun political violence as for them means justify the ends and howsoever deplorable they may be, the means receive the ultimate sanction of having ‘ served their chosen gods’ purpose.’
The good leader
Therefore, we have to look towards and urge the leaders of mainstream and regional political leadership, who avowedly support our democratic institutions, to come out strongly against this pernicious tendency of physically threatening their political opponents. I am sure that if the top leadership unambiguously and strongly voiced their opposition to such behaviour, the spontaneity of their supporters and their enthusiasm for browbeating their leader’s opponents will be curbed. The leader herself/ himself will have to chastise them or at the least request them from refraining from such behaviour. This must be done immediately by all those who are already nominated as or consider themselves as prime ministerial candidates.
There are several ways of evaluating a good democratic leader. Clearly he has to lead and not pander to the popular opinion for that will result in ‘ majoritarianism’. This will effectively destroy democracy, which survives on assuring the minority that it will be protect and its interest safeguarded.
The good leader will have to provide effective governance and take the responsibility for his government’s performance rather than take refuge in showcasing his personal integrity and honesty.
The good leader will also have to rise above sectional interests, especially those of individual businessmen and their cronies and be seen to in fact serve the national interest. But to safeguard democracy, our cherished and necessary institution, he will have to above all, be seen to graciously accept dissent and live with it. Good leadership apart, the leader who takes the lead in articulating his support for the right to dissent will surely secure an electoral gain at this time.
The writer is Senior Fellow at Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi
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The CIA’s tortured past
From: ”Raha Wala, Human Rights First” <> Fri, 21 Mar ’14 2:21a
To: and others

Dear Naresh:
The pressure is mounting to declassify the Senate torture report.
Last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein came to the Senate floor and accused the CIA of spying on Senate intelligence committee staff responsible for investigating the CIA torture program. Senator Feinstein noted that she stands by the committee staff’s groundbreaking findings and that, by the end of this month, the Senate intelligence committee will vote on whether to send the report to the White House for declassification.
A vote to declassify may come as soon as next week.  Help us keep the momentum going. Sign our petition urging the Senate Intelligence Committee to declassify its torture report.
Last week, President Obama said that he is “absolutely committed to declassifying [the report] as soon as it is completed.” Even former CIA Chief Legal Officer John Rizzo, one of the architects of the CIA’s torture program, reiterated his support for declassification. He stated, “Everything needs to get out on the record. Let people judge. Let people decide and move on.”
Naresh, you deserve to know the truth about torture. Releasing the torture report will allow us to understand the consequences of the CIA’s torture program prevent our nation from returning to these ineffective and un-American practices.
Raha Wala
Human Rights First
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Harleen Ahluwalia
To Harleen AhluwaliaMe
Today at 3:39 PM
Dear Friends,
We wish to invite you to the opening of an exhibition titled “BEYOND THE NAKED EYE” by eminent Indian artist, DP Sibal today evening at 5:30 pm at the Art Gallery of the Hungarian Centre. 
Please join us for cocktails after the opening.
For more details, refer to the invite below:
Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre
New Delhi 
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CPR-CSH Workshop on The Meaningful City* in India: A Discussion on Tuesday, 25 March 2014 at 3.45 p.m. at CPR.
Dear Friends:
As part of our Urban Workshop Series, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), Delhi, are delighted to invite you to a Workshop on The Meaningful City* in India: A Discussion  by Dr. Himanshu, Prof. Surinder S. Jodhka, Mr. Chandrabhan Prasad, Mr. Rajendra Ravi and Dr. Awadhendra Sharan. 
Date:                Tuesday, 25 March 2014
Time:               3.45 p.m.
Venue:             Conference Hall, Centre for Policy Research, Dharma Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110 021
The Urban Workshop series, held on last working Tuesday of every month, has completed a continuous series of forty nine workshops. For the fiftieth workshop, it is organising a panel discussion that reflects the multi-disciplinary nature of the workshop. It will draw on different disciplines to address a common question.
Today, in India, the city is arguably becoming a more salient focus of social inquiry. Historically, cities have been seen as sites of social emancipation – places where existing mores are questioned. They have also been centres of political expression, often, strongly enough to lead to changes in national political systems – a fact that we are often reminded of in today’s world. Increasingly too, they are being seen as the engines of growth, the loci around which benefits of agglomeration are driving increases in economic productivity, often intermingled with their role as home to the “creative class”. Yet, cities, especially in India, are also sites where it is often common to find inequality, deprivation and lack of opportunity.
So, what is the rationale for today’s city in India? शहर का मकसद क्या है? What kinds of meaning do city dwellers invest in and find in their city? How does this meaning differ across different residents of the city? How has this rationale evolved over time? These are the some of the questions that will be posed to the panel, and it is hoped that this will provoke a lively exchange of views.
Dr. Himanshu is presently at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. • Prof. Surinder S. Jodhka is presently Chair, Centre for the Study of Social Systems School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi • Mr. Chandrabhan Prasad is a journalist and political commentator• Mr. Rajendra Ravi  is an urban transport researcher and activist  Dr. Awadhendra Sharan is with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
*with apologies to Denise Scott-Brown  “The Meaningful City,” Journal of the American Institute of Architects 43, January 1965, pp.  27-32
This is the fiftieth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Jayani Bonnerjee at, Partha Mukhopadhyay at or Marie-Hélène Zerah at 
We look forward to welcoming you to CPR for what promises to be an interesting discussion. Please feel free to share this invitation with friends and colleagues who may be interested.
A line of confirmation will be highly appreciated.
With regards,
Navroz Dubash
Senior Fellow
Officiating as Chief Executive
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Doing Business in Asia:
2014 and Beyond
An event at the Asia Society
WHEN: Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2014 | 6:30PM-8PM
WHERE: 725 Park Ave., New York, NY
**Networking reception from 8:00 pm**
Doing business in Asia is more important than ever to multinational corporations, the landscape has never been more challenging. Shifting regulatory conditions, slowing growth and heightened local competition have contributed to a bearish outlook for many economies that not long ago seemed locked into permanent growth. Companies are being forced to work harder to protect their bottom lines, even as the importance of Asia’s markets — and its billions of consumers — continues to grow. What will 2014 bring? Where are the solutions to these challenges in China, India, Japan, Hong Kong and the other economic juggernauts across Asia?
Join us for a dynamic panel discussion among thought leaders and practitioners active in Asia who will share up-to-the-minute information and insights for multinationals investing and doing business in Asia.
Edward Cunningham is an Assistant Professor in Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment and Director of the Harvard Kennedy School Asia Energy and Sustainability Initiative. Professor Cunningham is fluent in Italian and Mandarin.
Gwynn Guilford is a reporter and editor for Quartz, where she writes about Asia, focusing in particular on China. She holds a masters in international affairs from Columbia University.
Ed Koehler is the managing partner of the Hunton & Williams Bangkok office. He advises a wide range of U.S., European, and Asian parties in all aspects of development, acquisition, financing, and divestiture across sectors.
Bruce Thomas is President of MeadWestvaco Healthcare, a global leader in medication packaging. He has worked to pursue growth strategies both in and from developing regions, including India, China, and Brazil.
Tom Nagorski (moderator) is the Executive Vice President of Asia Society. Previously, he was Managing Editor for International Coverage at ABC News.


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