To promote a spirit of genuine democracy among people, especially the students and youth, we the activist groups and NGOs of Pune are organizing a five-day democracy festival in Pune.

      As Rousseau argued long ago in the eighteenth century, if all that the people do is participate in elections, and all decision making rests with the members of parliament, then the people are not free. Genuine democracy is one wherein the power of legislation rests with the people, wherein people actively participate in decision making. This implies a society with an active and vibrant people willing to voice their opinions and taking an active interest in all aspects of social, economic and political life. In such a society, it will not be possible for a small powerful minority to monopolise wealth and implement policies that further increase its wealth at the cost of impoverishment and destruction of livelihoods of the vast majority. However, in our society, democracy has come to mean that the masses have only one small right of electing members of Parliament; after that they become slaves of the very policitians they have elected.

      We live at a most critical time in history, when we face unprecedented threats both to humankind and nature. The broader political reality of today is the imperialist war on terror launched by the USA, which is actually is nothing but a cover to hide its real aim, the establishment of a global empire. This is a war that is limitless, borderless and endless, constantly changing and adding new aims and targets. This is a war for resources, for occupation and conquest. This is a war for economic dominance by the empire and its allies.

      The ruling classes in the third world countries are on the one hand abandoning their previous non-alignment and becoming collaborators of the US, and on the other hand they have also launched an offensive on their people. In the name of “globalisation”, all the gains won by the people in these countries since independence from colonial rule are being rolled back in the wake of this twin offensive, leading to mass scale impoverishment and unemployment.

      In our country too, our rulers are inviting huge and voracious Multinational Corporations (MNCs) into the country. To exploit the resources of our country, make super-profits, and take the profits back to their country. In the name of Privatisation, public sector corporations and, very soon, public sector banks and insurance companies, built out of the savings and by the sweat and toil of the common people, are being handed over at throwaway prices to these MNCs and their Indian collaborators – the big private Indian corporations. Even Indian agriculture, on which 60% of the Indian people still depend for their livelihoods, is being deliberately destroyed – so that it can be taken over by giant agribusiness corporations. The consequence: thousands of farmers are committing suicides; over 60 crore people are slowly being driven out from the villages into city slums. Basic necessities, like education, health, transportation, electricity, even drinking water, are being privatized and transformed into instruments for naked profiteering. The public distribution system created to check speculation in prices of foodgrains and other essential commodities is on its way to being scrapped altogether. Tens of thousands of small businesses have downed their shutters. There are simply no decent jobs for the youth, and if one uses the standards of the developed countries, probably nearly half the population is unemployed or underemployed. The imperialists want to control what we eat, drink, see, think, read. And so along with MNC capital, imperialist culture is also flowing in. All Central and State Governments are implementing these policies. Today, there is no need for foreigners to rule over us directly. By seizing control of our country’s economic pulse, they have brought back colonialism in a new form.

      As the economic system becomes more and more sick, the social and political system is also becoming more and more degenerate. All-pervasive corruption, an educational system that makes us think that we are incompetent fools, a caste-based social system which is exploited by politicians to make the upper caste youth believe that the reservation system is responsible for lack of jobs, a communal political system that divides people in the name of religion and fills them with hatred against each other, a value system that promotes crass selfishness and unconcern and apathy for others, a society where cynicism and moral bankruptcy permeate every nook and cranny – this is the reality of today.

      The imperialists and their allies and minions can only promote and achieve their agenda under conditions wherein the overwhelming majority of people remain subjugated, subservient, slavish.

      At such times, the first condition for challenging this offensive of the imperialists and fundamentalists is to promote a spirit of genuine democracy among the people, a spirit wherein people are confident and bold, wherein they are willing to speak out fearlessly, wherein they believe that they are the true rulers of society and must actively participate in decision-making. A truly democratic society is the condition for the fullness of life. Only in such a society will human beings become truly humane, and creativity, spirituality, individual and collective achievements attain glory and grandeur.

      Simultaneously, it is also necessary to build a broader platform based on interfaith and intercultural cooperation and solidarity. There is need to explore and highlight convergence based on our common humanity as well as to translate the wisdom and insights from traditions, cultures, religions and philosophies into a language that will speak to and motivate the broadest sections of the people.

      To promote a spirit of democracy amongst people, a spirit of dialogue and cooperation amongst communities, we are organizing a DEMOCRACY FESTIVAL in Pune. We inaugurate this festival on January 26, 2008, the day we gave to ourselves the Constitution of India, to January 30, 2008, to remind people that all that we fought for during our independence struggle is under threat; we conclude this festival on January 30, the day the religious right murdered Gandhiji. 


Jan 26, 2008:

      9 am: Flag hoisting at S M JOSHI AUDITORIUM.

    9.30–11.30 am: WALK FOR DEMOCRACY We are inviting all possible activist groups/NGOs of Pune to join us for this MARCH, with their slogans etc. Some colleges also have agreed to participate in this WALK. We can have songs, placards, etc, during this WALK. 
    5-8 pm: CULTURAL PROGRAM Progressive songs and a play, by IPTA group from Mumbai. Venue: Sneh Sadan, Pune.

Jan 27 (SUNDAY):


    10am-7pm: Documentary film screenings. Venue: Dynaneshwar Hall, Marathawada Mitra Mandal, Next to Gokhale Institute, Deccan, Pune. Each screening would be followed by a discussion.

    3-5.30 pm: Film TAKING THE SIDES (108 mins). Venue: NFAI auditorium, Law College Road, Pune. To be followed by discussion. 

    Jan 28:

    Morning: Inter college poetry competition, at MARATHAWADA MITRA MANDAL college Dyaneshwar Hall.  
    Evening: CULTURAL PROGRAM. Venue: Tilak Smarak Auditorium, Tilak Road, Pune.

    5-6 pm: Play:  And Dead Tree Gives No Shelter

    A solo directed and performed by Parnab Mukherjee from Calcutta, one of the leading alternative theatre directors' of the country. Based on three short stories by Mahasveta Devi.

    6-8 pm: Lamps on Lilypads: Performance by Jaysi, a US based medical doctor and dancer, which presents a contemporary intercultural experience of Kathak dance, Hindustani music, poetry, and story-telling, a provocative performance engaging tradition with the modern moment, exploring freedom and peace, challenging notions of success, and reveling in Love.

    Jan 29:

      Morning: Inter college ELOCUTION CONTEST, at Marathawada Mitra Mandal college Dyaneshwar Hall.

    Evening: SEMINAR ON COMMUNALISM Venue: S M Joshi auditorium.

      6.00-6.30 pm: Play YEH KISKA LAHU HAI? By Iqbal Niyazi from Mumbai.

    6.30-9.00 pm: Seminar on Communalism. Speakers: Gauhar Raza , Rakesh Sharma and Neeraj Jain.

Jan 30:

    Morning: Street plays in various colleges, to include MULGI ZHALI HO by Stree Mukti Sangathana of Pune, and EVERY ACTIVIST IS A RIVER by Pranab Mukherjee.

    Evening : CULTURAL PROGRAM. Venue to be decided. Most probably ILS Auditorium. Second choice – Nehru Memorial Hall.

    Mallika Sarabhai to perform SVA KRANTI.

    About Sva Kranti: A one woman show by Mallika Sarabhai incorporating videoscapes, theatre, music and dance, talking of women the world-over who are putting up non-violent struggles to change society. 

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