Rutgers Global and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Co-Host First Conference: “Delivering Democracy: The Indian Experience”
Wednesday, February 27th
On Friday, February 22, Rutgers Global, in partnership with the Consulate General of India and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), presented the conference “Delivering Democracy: The Indian Experience.” This event was the first-ever ICCR-Rutgers India conference and drew an engaged audience of faculty, students, and members of the community.
The conference provided an opportunity to discuss in detail the upcoming Indian General Elections, scheduled for April and May of this year when more than 800 million people will vote, representing perhaps the largest democratic exercise in human history.
Democracy is an integral part of Indian culture, with a strong and vibrant tradition of people’s participation in governance. Known as the largest democracy (the U.S. is known as the oldest democracy), India’s experience in a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and multi-linguistic society is worthy of a deep-dive discussion.
And yet, as Mohini Mukherjee, associate director of international student services at Rutgers Global–International Student and Scholar Services, who introduced the conference noted, “it is important to note that democratic governance is a subject that finds little mention in the global discourse about India.” Whether the result of misperceptions or certain gaps in understanding, Mukherjee noted that one of the motivations for “Delivering Democracy” was to fill the gaps and showcase the rich legacy and future possibilities of the Indian democracy.
“Delivering Democracy: The Indian Experience” gathered together an impressive roster of scholars, diplomats, and business leaders to discuss, in depth, India’s democratic, economic, and social achievements. In addition, the group also analyzed the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for India.
The conference consisted of three panel discussions. In the first panel on Democracy and the Economy, Nikhila Natarajan, a journalist with Firstpost moderated a discussion with Syed Zafar Islam of Air India, Hirsh Vardhan Singh with Hi-Tec Systems, and Ashwini Kumar Tewari, of the State Bank of India USA. The second panel discussion focused on the topic of Democracy and Public Participation and included reflections by Milind Kamble from the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Senator Vin Gopal, the senate majority leader in the New Jersey legislature, and was moderated by Navnita Chadha Behera, professor of political science at the University of Delhi. For the final panel discussion, Richard Rossow, senior advisor and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, moderated a lively conversation on Governance and Democracy with Dhananjay Singh of the National Human Resources Development Network, and Sandeep Chakravorty, Consul General of India.
As the leading public university in the state, Rutgers University was honored to present this conference because it is uniquely positioned to respond to the opportunities provided by the strengthening of connections and relationships with India and, through these relationships, foster a deeper understanding of Indian culture, language, and people. Through various curricular and programmatic initiatives—including the South Asian Studies Program in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative, a grant awarded to the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and the School of Management and Labor Relations—the ties between Rutgers and India run deep.
Rutgers Global extended a special thanks to Sandeep Chakravorty, Consul General of India (New York), and Shatrughna Sinha, Deputy Consul General of India (New York), for their invaluable guidance in planning and co-sponsoring this event, and for their support of Rutgers University’s engagement with and in India.
(Photo caption) On Thursday, February 21, Rutgers University renewed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Consulate General of India for the ICCR (Indian Council of Cultural Relations) Visiting Lectureship in Contemporary Indian Studies. Pictured from left to right, top row, are: Rick Lee, Asher Ghertner, Deputy Consul General Shatrughna Sinha, James Masschaele, Kim Pernice, Eric (Rick) Garfunkel, and Mohini Mukherjee. Bottom row, left to right: Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty, Barbara A. Lee, Christopher J. Molloy, Chancellor of Rutgers University