What is Civil Society and how it Evolves

Civil society is a nucleus of independent political activity, crucial in countering the tyranny of the state. It represent the domain of society where ideas are publicly exchanged, associations are freely formed, interests are organised, economic activity functions autonomously and legally protected rights and institutions of everyday life. Civil Society is a non-state sphere of political life. As it is an essential component of democracy, civil society is generally absent or rather weak and ineffectual in authoritarian, militarist and non democratic countries. It provides a buffer between the individuals and the state. Civil society is the site where actions of state can be discussed, influenced and resisted.

Civil-SocietyIn other words, civil society plays crucial role in giving consent to the state and also give rise to the movement to delegitimize it, like the one we have seen in the form of 'Lokpal Movement' to bring lokpal, raised by Anna Hazare. It is essential in framing policies and laws of the country, and are effective only when they are endorsed and accepted, as we have seen in our country, Right to Information (RTI) which is an important act for the citizens, is framed by Civil Society.

A well founded civil society simultaneously safeguards the autonomy of the individuals, and in times protect the state from economic and political crisis. Any division within civil society ultimately reflects on state formation. Citizens have a vested interest in strengthening and maintaining well- founded civil societies. But the concept of civil society should be used with care because it is evident that many of the armed conflicts in India began as sub nationalist movements in civil society. It is found that sub-nationalist/insurgency movement takes life from the civil society.

Some times it is not easy for them to function in a state. It depends on the advocacies they are doing. Many CSO's are ignored and sometimes branded as ant-national because of their criticism of state policies and actions. Home Minister, in response to killing of maoists, once attacked civil society saying that they have restricted the actions of security forces (by raising human rights issues). Government target those civil society activists who are against its policies. The 'with us or against us' philosophy used by state to condemn civil society is dangerous. By attacking the civil society government loses the opportunity to hear the citizens take on any social issue which give rise to the misunderstanding resulting in the sense of anger, hurt, humiliation and ultimately it leads to the conflict. It thus loses the battle for 'winning hearts and minds' of the people, necessary for resolution of any conflict.

Civil society is not appointed by some institution or the other but  evolved out of the social problems. CSO will not exist in a country which is free from any social disorder. But in a country which is fighting from the internal issues like corruption and insurgency in India. Civil society acts like mediator between people's sentiments and government. Like the one we saw in Anna Hazare movement. When something goes wrong in the government, folks of the people which takes up the responsibility of correcting that wrong constitute what we call Civil Society.


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