Murli Manohar Joshi, Shazia Ilmi dominate democracy debate on last day at Jaipur Lit Fest
Ruchi Kumar/ Andre Borges
The final session of the Zee Jaipur Lit Fest was a debate on `Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest`. The panel included prominent political figures like senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi and senior AAP leader Shazia Ilmi, the president of a Bhutanese political party, Lily Wangchhuk as well as war correspondent Peter Godwin, Bangladeshi scribe K Anis Ahmed, novelist Indrajit Hazra and former IFS officer Pawan Varma. The debate was introduced and moderated by festival director Sanjoy Roy. As soon as the panel entered on to the stage, the crowd cheered vigourously. The biggest cheers were reserved for Joshi and Ilmi.
On the subject of democracy, Indrajit kicked off the debate saying, "Democracy is not a perfect spouse and you realise quite quickly that you, the cog in the democratic machine aren`t either."
K Anis Ahmed followed this with his statement, "Democracy is a system for which people give their lives, I`ve known other systems that take lives."
Lily Wangchhuk offered a slightly different perspective from Bhutan which she said they received as a gift from their king. "There is no perfect system of governance; it is the leaders and individuals that make the difference."
Peter Godwin shared his experience of covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and the anti-apathy movement in South Africa, "Empowering any society to decide what`s best for itself cannot be an imposition."
Pawan Varma, a festival regular, giving the example of Adolf Hitler and Indira Gandhi spoke about the dangers of allowing undemocratic elements to come to power via democratic means. He urged the middle class to rise up and asked the audience, " we are all for democracy but how many of us are ready to fight for it?"
The debate further received momentum from the only two politicians on the stage, Ilmi and Joshi. Ilmi was wearing her trademark AAP cap and said, "We will continue fine tuning our democracy until it is democratic for everyone." Hinting at the Dharna by Arvind Kejriwal she added, "Aren`t social protests part of democracy? Protests against an unfair system and the right to protest belongs to everybody, even a CM who has a problem with the way India is run."
When Murli Manohar Joshi got up to speak, a member from the crowd chanted `Narendra Modi zindabaad`, to which Joshi replied `Koi zindabaad nahi, koi murdabaad nahi. Democracy zindabaad`. With this comment he once again got a rearing reaction from the crowd. In his speech, he further lauded Indian democracy saying, "Democracy is a celebration of diversity, differences and independence of the human mind. The fact that you`re allowed to question is the greatest value of democracy." He also added, "with all its defects in the form of governance, I love, respect and fight for democracy."