The role of civil society groups in a federal setup is essential because it takes care of at least the basic needs, requirements, and grievances of the oppressed classes of society, said participants in a panel discussion during Dakshin Dialogues 2022 in Hyderabad on Saturday, 17 September.
This is especially important when the majoritarian community propagates that all is well and the elected class is doing a good job, they said.
Whenever an issue involving a minority community or a criticism against the ruling party — the BJP at the Centre — is raised, there is an avalanche of social media reactions and trolling, which becomes the scale for measuring who is right and who has wronged, and the real victims could be the ones fighting on the streets for justice, said the panellists.
“Civil society is all of us: the politicians, bureaucrats, and everybody put together. However, we civilians have been pushed to the sidelines, and remain there. Yet, if federalism is alive and kicking today, it is because of us, who have been on the sidelines but refuse to remain there,” said social activist Brinda Adige during the panel discussion.
“We demand accountability from the people in whom we have vested powers, and from the people who draw their salaries from the taxes we pay. That is what civil societies are all about,” she explained.
Another panellist — social activist Meera Sanghamitra — said that civil society has been fragmented into layers, but these layers have their own ways of coexisting with each other.
A great example would be the farmers’ agitation in the country and the NRC and CAA protests, which taught the government lessons, she explained.
“When a class of people feel that they are being ignored or betrayed by the ruling party or the government, where else can they can go?” she asked.
“Everything would get bottled up, and — as is the rule of nature — there will be an outpouring,” Sanghamitra said.
“Institutions have been created and vested with powers and authority to uphold democracy, federalism and the rights of the people. Now, with the civil societies coming to the streets and struggling, what are politicians, bureaucrats, and these institutions there for?” asked Adige.
“When the country’s institutions do not do their job, it becomes our (civil societies’) responsibility to hold them accountable,” she said.
“I think the strategies that the civil societies adopt are being pushed to the edge so much that we are scared, and these institutions have no right to make us feel scared or threatened when they are supposed to be working for our welfare as a whole,” Adige added.
Civil society groups should not get carried away with an ideology or an issue that has come to the fore or on social media.
They need to be educated more about federalism and democracy and have to get to the core of issues to find solutions.