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Civil Society Summit

The Civil Society Summit is a knowledge and networking event of civil society in India, gathering leaders from civil society to interact with each other and from different sectors on a long term basis. It is to organise a platform for frank, off the record, interaction with other pillars of the nation.

The premise
The Civil Society Summit will discuss the state of our republic in the years after we promised ‘to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation’.

The Republic Day is in some ways even more special than the independence day. The independence day (15 August) was selected by the British to be on the anniversary of the day they won World War II. R-Day (26 January) was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the Purna Swaraj (total self-rule/ independence) day. Till the Republic Day the Monarch of England was the head of state. From the Republic Day, it was our president and we had our own constitution which promised equality, justice and fraternity—legally abolishing the caste system and ensuring universal adult franchise.

It is to bring together those who work for a strong, forward looking, people-centric community, to share experiences, discuss challenges and opportunities and vision together. It brings together those from diverse spheres for a synergy of ideas. It hopes to build relationships across boundaries, and be a platform for people-centric nation building.

The summit as a process and an event is to

  • Introspect by being a ‘safe space’ for free and frank discussions.
  • Inform civil society actors about the developments in knowledge, technology and best practice.
  • Inspire, by having living legends (senior social activist, and human rights defenders) interact with young leaders. This will facilitate intergenerational learning and mentoring.
  • Innovate by providing space and opportunity for diverse actors—from corporate sector, government, media, sports, medicine and the civil society—to interact, and find areas of synergy.
  • Impact by providing opportunity for sharing information on activities and synchronising them.

The history
The first civil society summit was on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Indian independence for a celebration of continuing freedom struggles and to promote an independent Indian Civil Society Platform. It is a celebration of life, survival, resistance and of continuing struggles for freedom against increasing odds. It is a space for dissent, voicing issues, for celebrating difference and for ongoing freedom struggles. The Summit honours present day freedom fighters who have made significant contribution in promoting or defending the freedoms enshrined in our constitution and remember those who are no longer with us.

Summit I was a celebration by about 725 people from 75 organisations, networks and peoples movements from about 15 states of India and neighbouring countries at Ambedkar Bhavan, Bangalore from 24-26 August 2007. Summit II had about 630 people from over 50 organisations from 5 states, and 5 countries. It was from 24-26 January 2010. Summit III was 15—17 November 2012 and Summit IV is from 24-26 January 2014.