Democracy, first and foremost.

As India looks to the next 5 years of Government, it is important to ensure the protection of individual liberties stands at the forefront.

23 May, 2019
2 min read

An organisational statement by Apar Gupta, Executive Director

IFF has over the past 8 months worked substantially to raise civic awareness and institutional engagement on digital rights. With the election results coming in there are celebrations but also anxiety as to the strength of a mandate that can pose a challenge to individual liberties --- freedoms which increasingly interact and are determined by digital tools and technologies. We congratulate the results of this festival of democracy, which by no means was perfect but requires to be respected. We look forward to the next term of the central government which can advance digital rights as a priority.

To those who are fearful at this moment, we wish to reassure and stress on the importance of solidarity. We have been blessed to be in a country that promises us justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. These are values that are articulated by the Constitution, but they will not achieved by default but demand committed labour. IFF is here to serve this need.

Today we draw lessons from Constituent Assembly speech by Dr B.R. Ambedkar on the 25th November, 1949 (PDF link). In his speech Dr. Ambedkar outlined with prescient clarity methods to hold power to account.

  • Strengthen constitutional methods: This means engaging and safeguarding institutions. This includes all our constitutional bodies. The legislature, judiciary and the executive; government in all its arms, such as the Election Commission or the Telecom Regulatory Authority. IFF intends to continue its engagement to ensure that our democratic traditions become stronger.

  • Focus on policy rather than a person: We continue to work on the substance of proposals, legislation, court judgements and executive orders. Promoting evidence based, participative and transparent frameworks for crafting technology policy. Victories on this will only be possible by making these materials engaging, comprehensible and participative for a greater number of ordinary, everyday Indians.

  • Strive for social democracy and fraternity: As per Dr. Ambedkar social democracy consisted of a trinity of, liberty, equality and fraternity. This holistic view is present in all our work and we deeply believe in his words that, “Fraternity means a sense of common brotherhood of all Indians-of Indians being one people. It is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life.”. Today is a day for unity and solidarity. Remembering the objectives of constitutional governance, as opposed to government being only an end in itself. Towards this we will keep engaging and building a community of passionate supporters and collaborating with activisits and civil society organisations.

IFF’s challenges may increase but we remain optimistic. With humility, we recognise the importance of our mission. The integration of technology will increase with our lives, beyond cities and towns into the villages and the distant hamlets of our vast and diverse country. At this moment, we would also like to clearly set out our funding model. We are a registered non-profit aiming to draw funds from individual giving by Indians. This is also being supplemented and being made sustainable by organisational donations.

To us, our funding philosophy is a powerful method for ensuring a level of democratic legitimacy in our work and priorities. It makes us responsive, accountable and transparent. It allows us to do work which carries an element of risk -- such as approaching courts and taking clear advocacy positions on digital rights with political parties. You can strengthen our mission and help us do much more; hire the best staff, have better resources and create a larger level of impact.

I urge you to become a IFF member today. We promise to do our small bit to safeguard our constitutional values in a connected world!

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