Representatives of Congress, BJP, AAP join discussions at the Delhi edition of the event

Political jibes, the need for a documentary filmmaker to find his own voice and a lively and poignant discussion on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots marked the morning sessions of the third round of the Delhi edition of The Hindu Lit for Life.

After N. Ravi, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, reiterated the newspaper’s commitment to continue “engaging with books and literature” and Lit for Life curator Nirmala Lakshman stating that “literature is the foundation of an enriched life,” the floor opened out to a dynamic discussion with representatives from the Congress, the BJP and the new entrant, Aam Aadmi Party.

With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, the session — moderated by The Hindu’s strategic affairs editor, Praveen Swami — explored whether there was a paradigm shift in Indian democracy. “The fundamental shift has been the emergence of new media and democratisation of information space,” Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari said. This would have an impact in the coming elections. “Over the past years, the Internet has been an audacious expression of anarchy and communication with people has become far more personal and direct,” he said.

For Pinky Anand of the BJP, the situation is “politics of rage versus the existing situation, apart from the politics of expectations,” with corruption and governance being the key issues.

For AAP leader Shazia Ilmi, “civic engagement, urban stirring and an anger that has translated into a positive phenomenon” are what mark the politics of the day.

All three politicians agreed to disagree on various counts.

While Ms. Ilmi underscored the need for devolution of powers which, she said, her party was bringing about through the Swaraj Bill, Mr. Tewari traced the genesis of the Panchayati Raj, which institutionalised this set-up, to the initiative of his government in the 1980s. Ms. Anand, however, was against governance done at the behest of jan adalats and criticised the way the AAP government was going about to get the Jan Lokpal Bill passed in Delhi.

With the election year also throwing up the idea of “personality cults,” the panellists acknowledged the pull of key politicians. “There is a serious challenge to parliamentary democracy as it stands today,” Mr. Tewari said.

At a later session which attempted to decipher the “anatomy of a riot,” senior journalist Sunil Sethi moderated a lively discussion that marked the 30 years since the 1984 anti-Sikh riots shook the city. With the Delhi government having announced an SIT to re-look the issue, senior journalist Manoj Mitta said that three decades ago, “the culture of accountability and documentation was very different,” with the government then quashing any attempt at probing the violence.

While journalist Rahul Singh enumerated important questions on the issue that need to be answered, writer Amandeep Sandhu warned people against being misled. “If people want, they can prevent parties from appropriating their pain and making it into a political issue,” he said.

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Lit for Life 2014 in DelhiJanuary 22, 2014

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