UGC asks universities to hold lectures on loktantra traditions

 Evidence shows ancient India was not monarchical, but democratic: UGC chairperson M. Jagadesh Kumar

November 16, 2022 10:24 pm | Updated November 17, 2022 09:40 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of University Grant Commission (UGC), in New Delhi. File

A view of University Grant Commission (UGC), in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has urged universities and colleges to hold lectures on themes such as the “ideal king” in Indian philosophy as well as khap panchayats and their “democratic traditions” to celebrate India as the “mother of democracy” on Constitution Day on November 26.

UGC chairperson M. Jagadesh Kumar has written to all Governors to “encourage” universities in their States to conduct such lectures.

On August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address from the Red Fort called India “the mother of democracy.”

The UGC has provided 15 themes on which universities could hold lectures, and these include the concept of the “ideal king (rajarsi or seer king or philosopher king)“ according to Kautilya as well as Bhagavad Gita, India’s “loktantra (self-governance)“, Harappans as the pioneering architect of the democratic system in the world, as well as khap panchayats and their “democratic traditions”.

The Bhakti tradition responsible for religious reforms, and democracy as known to ancient Indian Buddhism and Institutions of the Sikhs also find a mention along with tribal traditions in governance and tradition of local self-government in ancient and medieval Tamil Nadu.

These themes are based on a book brought out by the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) on “India: the mother of democracy”, which is a compilation of 30 chapters contributed by 30 different authors. And in order to take their writings to teachers and students, the UGC has planned 90 lectures in 90 universities across the country.

The over-arching theme for the lectures that has been spelt out by the ICHR is to promote India as a “loktantra” as opposed to “prajatantra” or “jantantra”. According to its explanation, while the former stands for “community system oriented towards the welfare of the community”, “prajatantra” is a mere translation of democracy and “jan tantra” is the “ruler versus people-oriented system”. 

It adds that ancient India was unique because there was no autocracy or aristocratism as there was no concentration of the prestige of birth, influence of wealth and political office, and “Bharatiya” governance was different from ancient Rome and Greece. Sovereignty in India instead rested on “Dharma” which the note explains as “law”.

“There are many indications that the ancient form of governance in India was democratic, contrary to the general belief that it was monarchical. There is more evidence in the form of archaeological, literary, numismatic, epigraphical, bhakti, and so on, to emphasise the Loktantrik traditions of Bharat. The recent archaeological excavation at Rakhigarhi and Sanauli reveals that the roots of people’s self-governance date back to at least 5000 BCE,” the UGC chairperson explained.

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