Delhi convention calls on parties to oppose dilution of Places of Worship Act
A two-day convention demands, among other things, a legal right to minimum support price, strengthening the Lokpal Act and the Right to Information Act
Authors, academics, activists, lawyers, former bureaucrats, members of Parliament, human rights defenders, civil society groups, students and journalists met in New Delhi over the weekend and called upon ‘democratic’ political parties to adopt at least some of the proposals finalised at the Democracy Convention 2024.
Voicing their concern at the steady erosion of democracy in the country, participants called upon political parties to safeguard constitutional rights, promote equality and social justice and to revive the federal contract.
“The country is fragmenting in front of our eyes. In these conditions, we urge the democratic opposition to work together to strengthen constitutional values…”, the declaration adopted at the convention read. Growing tolerance of sexual harassment of women and children in the country, misuse of institutions, horrifying attacks on minorities and curbs on dissent were some of the other concerns voiced, briefed a statement released by the convenor, Radha Kumar.
The convention resolved to call upon political parties to reiterate their commitment, among other things, to the following:
· Strictly adhere to the 1992 Places of Worship Act with the cut-off date of 1947
· Agree to enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law, that protects citizens against discrimination on grounds of sex, caste, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or across intersections of these identities, in employment, education, housing and healthcare.
· Establish a Diversity Commission.
· Repeal the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023, and replacement of the government appointee on the selection committee.
· The ECI should return to its opposition of electoral bonds
· They agree to appoint governors only in consultation with chief ministers and remove them only following a resolution by the state legislature (1988 Sarkaria Commission and 2010 M.M. Punchhi).
· Amend Article 293(3) of the Indian Constitution to remove the requirement of Central government’s permission for states to borrow.
· Review the new Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, which among other things allow arrest on mere suspicion
· Repeal the CAA 2019, UAPA, Jammu and Kashmir’s PSA and similar draconian laws and overhaul the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002.
Participants voiced their distress at the rising levels of unemployment, especially among youth and children, and underlined the need for a social safety net. They also expressed concern at the encroachment on individual rights in the name of a uniform civil code and misuse of agencies like the CBI and the ED.
Open rigging of ballots in the Chandigarh mayoral election, stifling the opposition and debates in Parliament, starving opposition-ruled states of funds and sustained pressure on independent watchdogs such as the media, universities, NGOs and think tanks to blindly toe the government’s line, are the other indications cited at the convention as examples of the ongoing onslaught on democracy.
The declaration adopted at the convention also welcomed “the Congress’ attempt to restore constitutional democracy and fraternity through the Bharat Jodo and Nyay Yatras, the DMK’s fierce defence of federal rights and the grant of an award to fact-checker Muhammad Zubair, the Trinamool’s inter-faith dialogue and championship of the state's cultural and linguistic identities, the AAP’s persistence with health and education programs despite their ministers being arrested one after the other, the CPI and CPI-M's protection of fundamental rights and the courage of regional parties such as the JMM, RJD, SP, NC and PDP and several others.”
The convention was addressed by former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, senior Congress leaders Salman Khurshid and Manish Tewari, CPI-M general-secretary Sitaram Yechury, MP Kapil Sibal CPI-M Kashmir leader Md. Yusuf Tarigami, and PDP spokesman Suhail Bukhari. Participants included G.N. Devy, Jayati Ghosh, Nikhil Dey, Zoya Hasan, Romila Thapar, Githa Hariharan, Wajahat Habibullah, Apoorvanand, Karan Thapar, and Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay among others.