“Defining Democracy” A talk by Dr A Suryaprakash at the Vimarsh Platform of the Vivekananda International Foundation

Welcome Address by Dr Arvind Gupta

Dear friends,

Welcome To the today’s reverse lecture on Defining Democracy by Dr A Suryaprakash.

On behalf of the Vivekananda International Foundation, and on my own behalf, I thank Dr Suryaprakash for taking time from his busy schedule to deliver today’s talk.

As you are aware, we have had the honour of welcoming the countries top experts, leaders, professionals and eminent personalities to interact with the public on issues of national importance at the Vimarsh platform.

Today, we have the pleasure of having with us several prominent personalities who have joined us for participating in the discussion. I thank them for that.

Dr Suryaprakash is well known to this audience. He is a former Chairman of the Prasar Bharati.

He is a renowned journalist, author, columnist and a leading commentator on Indian constitutional, political issues and governance.

He has occupied senior editorial positions in the past in Zee News, Asia Times, and the Indian Express and the Eenadu Group of newspapers.

He is a member of the Executive Council of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, member of the Advisory Council of the Vivekananda International Foundation, among other positions that he holds.

He is a prolific author. His notable works include What Ails Indian Parliament published by Indus, Public Money, Private Agenda and The Emergency: Indian Democracy’s Darkest Hour.

Friends,

Some months ago, the Freedom House of the United States and V Dem Institute of Sweden brought out certain reports criticising the functioning of the Indian democracy. In their assessment, India is regressing as a democracy and becoming an electoral autocracy. Authoritarianism is rising. In support of their argument, these reports have cited certain incidents relating to the arrest of journalists, restrictions on the freedom of expression et cetera.

The reports created uproar in India. The External Affairs Minister went and publicly accused these institutions of hypocrisy and following motivated agendas. The Ministry of external affairs is reportedly mulling a counter offensive.

Last year the World Press Freedom Index had ranked India at a lowly 142 even as several non-democracies were placed ahead of it. As per media reports, Dr Suryaprakash, in a letter to the Prime Minister, had at that time made certain suggestions on what the government should do to counter the assessments issued by such organisations.

It is necessary that we understand why certain institutions, which are not accountable to anyone, are passing judgements on the world’s largest democracy. Why is India getting such negative coverage in the Western media? Who is setting the agenda?

Dr A Suryapraksh today takes forward the ongoing debate on Indian democracy. As a long-time observer of Indian democracy and democratic institutions, his insights would be most useful.

Dr Surya Prakash.

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