In light of shrinking democratic spaces that should uphold the common good, a new citizens’ platform for Democratic Renewals in Meghalaya called KAM Meghalaya, facilitated a collective and participatory space for citizens’ engagement towards a more equitable, inclusive and just Meghalaya.
About ninety members of civil society, unions and individuals gathered in Shillong on June 17, to discuss and dialogue around the issues plaguing the state today and to look for ways to take the citizen’s concerns into the electoral arena.
KAM aims to challenge the sense of hopeless cynicism present in the current political climate in the state that has sidelined the values of participatory democracy, accountability and honesty.
Angela Rangad, one of the founding members of KAM said, “We must not be forced to choose a lesser evil. We cannot compromise on values of ethics, civility and honesty that we try to instil in our own children.”
The genesis of the political platform emerges from the experiences of people’s struggles across the gamut, from gender justice movements to environmental justice protests, anti corruption and workers’ rights struggles. Challenging and resisting authoritarianism and fundamentalism that infringe on individual and collective rights and that erode the common good is central to the platform’s aim of democratic renewals and just futures.
With an aim to gather civil society’s voices to intervene in the upcoming state elections, as candidates and voters, KAM proposes the need to identify shared values that are committed to changes that are democratic, pro-people and inclusive.
Unity and a commitment to a principled politics of integrity will be needed to challenge the arrangement of power in the state and tilt it toward the people.
KAM released a draft discussion and action document in Khasi and English to identify both the crisis of democracy and governance in the state as well as ideas towards cleaning up the mess. They also released a website, www.kammeghalaya.in
that carries the documents for download as well as an interactive survey through which citizens can voice their concerns and ideas for change.
Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh, one of the active participants in the creation of the idea of the KAM platform said, “ Many of us have always insisted on a deliberative democracy that believes that no movement for change can exist without engagement with ideas and concerns which arise out of common citizens. But ideas in themselves are not some dry intellectual exercise but have to be rooted in actual struggles and movements to challenge power.”
In a lively discussions moderated by Kong Wanpynhun Kharsyntiew of Domestic Workers Movement, participants in the gathering representing the cross section of Meghalaya’s citizenry both in terms of class and ethnicity, engaged with the document and idea of the platform and made many valuable suggestions towards taking KAM forward.
KAM has identified fifteen themes it will be working towards to spur democratic renewals and just futures in the state: Transparent governance and politics, defeating corruption and the criminalisation of politics, protecting land, environment and farmers, ensuring health, enabling quality education, democratic economy, decentralised, well funded and accountable civil governance, supporting youth, corruption free jobs, defending workers’ rights, ushering gender equality and the rights of women and sexual minorities, peace, security and safety for all citizens, opposing religious fundamentalism, federal and plural politics and encouraging dissent and debates
The platform is an invitation to transform a polity dominated by dynastic power and patronage and funded by destructive business interests, which requires the full and active participation of the working class.
Angela Rangad emphasised that, “We may be workers, farmers, daily wage workers, students, self-employed youth, homemakers, teachers, artists, musicians, retired government servants, intellectuals and activists, but we share a passion for reclaiming democracy by speaking truth to power. We in KAM believe that true change will come not through Leaders but through the coming together of people who want to discover the values of democratic citizenship in their everyday life.”