What is Civil Society? Ten years back, one would have been forgiven for referring to the Dictionary to answer that question. Back then most people (if not all) were clueless about its meaning. Today, even with so much citizen activism happening, it is still hard to arrive at an universal answer to that question. As the definition of Civil Society will vary across countries and societies. So much so that a Civil Society Activist from a Democracy is likely to be called an Anarchist in a Monarchy!
One could say, Civil Society is that informal space beyond our immediate life and work where citizens come together to explore possibilities and arrive at solutions to problems that are being politically neglected. Its role is to celebrate ordinary people even if it means going against the ruling elite.
To explore further, do watch the discussion on The Role of Civil Society between Umesh Anand, Dasho Kinley Dorji, Bernard Imhasly in conversation with Usha Chairman Siddharth Shriram, at the fifth edition of the Bhutan Literary Festival.
Closely linked to the concept of Civil Society is the idea of Democracy as the ‘will of the people’. But the question remains how true a reflection of such a collective will is a Democratic society? Democracy also being an expression of differences is all-inclusive or marred by flawed percentages and rules? And do we need to exorcise the word ‘Opposition’ since the job of the Opposition in the Parliament is not just to oppose, but to do so constructively.
They may not have all the answers, but they do have valuable insights into the workings of a democratic society, how it functions and how ideally it should function, especially in context of the world’s largest democracy India and the newly democratic kingdom of Bhutan. Catch Lily Wangchuk, Pavan K. Varma, Dago Tshering in conversation with Mihir Sharma at Usha presents Mountain Echoes 2014.