India’s Liberal Treasure Chest

Preserving India’s Indigenous Liberal Tradition
indian liberals fnf ccs India’s Liberal Treasure Chest Preserving India’s Indigenous Liberal Tradition

True liberalism may be dormant within India’s mainstream politics but the digital archive is trying to keep its spirit alive by providing access to indigenous liberal writings and other archival materials from India. The web archive was started in 2015 by the Centre for Civil Society (CCS) and since then has introduced new features to its website and expanded its repository. The Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) in New Delhi supports Indian Liberals in partnership with the CCS. Up till 2015, the Freedom First magazine founded by Minoo Masani was the oldest surviving liberal publication in India, which advocated minimum government and maximum freedom for more than sixty years. 

The Indian Liberals project tries to deconstruct the notion that liberalism is an ideal of the West by illustrating various shades of Indian liberal thought. The archive maintains a repository of periodicals and in one of its initiatives has procured 27,000 never-seen-before papers that shed light on India’s oldest liberal party, the Swatantra Party (now defunct) which was formed in 1959 largely as a reaction to the repressive Licence-Permit-Quota Raj policies. Some of the texts archived in Indian Liberals were written in the wake of independence. For example, B. R. Shenoy vehemently partook in India’s freedom struggle and headed the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). But Indian Liberals also engages with prominent contemporary liberals presently active in India. In a series of recent interviews with the CCS, Gurcharan Das discussed his vision for India’s prosperity and Jagdish Bhagwati discussed Milton Friedman and the criticisms of centralized economic planning.  

The archive has introduced a brand-new feature which has audio and video content in the form of lectures, interviews, and podcasts. One such video briefly captures the work of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, one of the pioneering leaders of the Indian National Congress and an avid proponent of constitutional reforms which can be watched here. To engage regional audience and capture discourses that may be missing within the mainstream, Indian Liberals maintains a collection of texts in Indian regional languages including Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Marathi.

Through forums like Indian Liberals Essay Contest 2019, the Indian Liberals provides space to young liberals to engage in discourse on pressing issues. Hindol Sengupta, an award-winning author and journalist, in his interview with Indian Liberals feels that the current generation has a responsibility to rewrite the history of India, emphasizing its fundamental pluralist tradition. Indian Liberals will soon commence its campus talks. To know more about such events, check out their Events page.