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Importance of Dialogue: Samvaad

“Debate teaches you how to think outside of the box, and how to stand up for yourself without resorting to violence. It also improves your speaking skills, helps you get along with your friends better and you meet smart like-minded people like yourself. It builds leaders that will make these decisions.”

-Takia Wicks

India, that is Bharat, a country where the democracy is in its supreme form. Democracy is, in its essence, a method about by whom, how and in what way a state and a society will be governed. The answer that democracy gives to the question by whom the society will be governed is “people”. Indeed, the meaning of the term democracy refers to people’s rule or people’s sovereignty. However, the concept of democracy as people’s rule is a definition that awaits explanation, because ruling means to make and execute basic political decisions. It involves taking decisions and implementing them, i.e. exerting sovereignty. However, today people do not exert sovereignty personally but instead choose those that will exert it. Until the end of the 20th century, democracy was perceived in the minds of societies to be a set of techniques consisting only of election of administrators. Such a perception meant that individuals were perceived as “passive citizens of democracy” rather than “its real actors”. However, with the 1990s, the crisis of representative democracy began to be one of the most frequently debated (Samvaad) issues in politics.

In particular, developments following the end of the cold war and the process of globalization made it an issue of the agenda that the current perception about the role and position of the individual was not adequate and hence democracy needed to be deepened, that means how a political system that is democratic in terms of its general framework can be rendered more democratic in terms of functioning and for that people should be turned into a component or subject of politics instead of being a mere elector”. For, by virtue of its function, the target that is intended to be achieved through the democratization of a political system is to make democracy people’s administration in the true sense of the expression by rendering people’s sovereignty more functional, for that various theories of democracy have been propounded like direct democracy, radical democracy, participatory democracy, powerful democracy, deliberative democracy etc. with  common emphasis is to make people more active by involving them in the decision-making processes and thus letting people’s will dominate.

The discussion (Samvaad) or deliberation by people of public issues has been proposed as a vital factor. In this study, the place, importance and limitations of public debates/ dialogues/ Samvaads in the democratization of democracies will be the major subject of investigation.

Public debates/ dialogues/ Samvaad are the series of forums where public opinions, interests and expectations are expressed on an issue that concerns the whole or part of the society. The word “public” here refers to people in general. The adjective “public”, on the other hand, means opposite of being individual and private and being connected with social and state life matters, such as such as how the justice system will be structured, how a specific freedom needs to be regulated, how long compulsory education must be, whether troops will be sent abroad or not, whether military service should be obligatory or not and whether euthanasia is a human right or not. A communication environment is established where information, views, arguments and counter arguments on relevant issues are expressed and tested mutually through a public Samvaad regarding the stated matters. Such kind of Samvaads are significant because it serves to establish individual autonomy. Individual autonomy is concerned with everybody’s “making their own laws”. In this sense, each individual enjoys the right to participate in taking decisions that will affect their lives and to gain visibility. In a democracy, people/public needs to gain visibility in order for people’s rule to gain functionality.

The difference between democracies where citizens watch rather than being active. People’s becoming functional can be possible only through active participation and active participation in public life does not only mean continuing a struggle for political posts. Taking part in ongoing debates/ Samvaads about public problems in writing and words outside of election times is quite significant for active participation. No matter what the level of contribution made is, a healthydemocracy is based on continuous and informed participation of large masses. Without such extensive and constant participation, democracy will become one that is only watched and gets weakened in time.

Although “being informed” is one of the important factors for active participation that will take place through public Samvaads can also act as processes that convey information. That is to say, no individual alone possesses all the information that concerns everybody and seems important.

In this context, public debate emerges as a tool for obtaining information.

Democracy appears as a system which finds a ground for survival by the existence of people who talk to one another or Samvaad about social problems and shape up their future. Above all, when emphasis is laid on democracy, this means that the solution of problems is sought in negotiations, politics and interpersonal communication. This indicates that democracy is in fact a process. Democracy is a process about the rules of coexistence.

Making democracy a people’s administration in its true sense by rendering people’s sovereignty more functional requires attaching more importance to participation and communication (Samvaad).

A Samvaad in which citizens will have a say about matters concerning their common lives is an important means for enabling participation and communication. It will be possible to participate in decision making mechanisms through Samvaad.

About the Author

Mr. Rahul Soni is working as an Assistant Professor at Raffles University, Rajasthan. He is an Alumni of NLSIU, Bangalore. Social activities, reading and travelling interest him. Currently, he is interning with the Model Governance Foundation.

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