India’s COVID Democracy Crisis: Lockdown of Labour and Liberties


Wednesday, June 17, 2020, 12:00pm to 1:15pm


Virtual Webinar (Registration Required)

In response to the public health crisis of COVID, India has imposed one of the most stringent and ill prepared lockdowns in the world, leading to a humanitarian disaster. Over 700 people have died unrelated to the virus but due to distress directly caused by the lockdown, such as hunger. Even as the state has flexed its executive muscle, activating police forces to enforce the lockdown with excessive force it has receded from the space of welfare and wellbeing. It has left millions of migrant workers stranded in big cities forced to walk back to their homes thousands of miles away. Red flags have also been raised about contact tracing methods, via the Arogya Setu app, being used instead to further build up the surveillance state. The speakers will bring light to this urgent humanitarian and democratic crisis from their experiences rooted in rural communities and courts, even as the peak of the public health crisis looms large up ahead.

  • Nikhil Dey | Founding Member Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (Workers and Farmers Union)
  • Vrinda Grover | Human Rights Advocate
  • Erica Chenoweth (co-moderator) | Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School 
  • Inayat Sabhikhi (co-moderator) | Topol Fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights, Harvard Kennedy School 

Nikhil Dey is a social activist and founding member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and the co-convenor of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information. He has been a member of the Central and State Employment Guarantee Councils of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act. He has been involved in struggles of the poor for justice, including grass root struggles for land and the payment of minimum wages. He has also been a part of MKSS’s lead role in larger campaigns - most notably for the Right to Work and the Right to Food, and the protection of human rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. His contributions via the MKSS have been foundational in thinking of democratic accountability via social audits and social accountability. He was a core member of the taskforce set by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India that developed national social audit standards. An envoy to the Open Government Partnership, he was on the steering committee from 2011 - 2014.

Vrinda Grover is one of India's most well-known human rights lawyers and activists. The focus of Vrinda's litigation and research has been to interrogate the impunity of the state for human rights violations. Some of the cases that she appeared in and which led to landmark victories or substantially advanced human rights jurisprudence include the conviction of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of Uttar Pradesh for the targeted custodial killing of the Muslims of Hashimpura, the Maruti workers struggle, the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, a PIL challenging the longest internet blockage in Kashmir. She has also represented victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, adivasi leader Soni Sori, the Bhima Koregaon accused activists, gang rape survivors of Kandhamal, Muzaffarnagar targeted attack on minorities, victims of Hapur mob lynching, and death row convict in Nirbhaya case.

Erica Chenoweth is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School and a Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard University. She studies political violence and its alternatives. Chenoweth’s next book, Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford, 2020), explores what civil resistance is, how it works, why it sometimes fails, how violence and repression affect it, and the long-term impacts of such resistance.

Inayat Sabhikhi is associated with the citizens’ campaigns for the Right to Food, and the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information in India. At the Harvard Kennedy School she is doing the Master’s in Public Administration and is a fellow at the Center for Public Leadership

Virtual Event Details:
This event will be livestreamed on YouTube Live. Attendees registered for this event (link below) will receive a reminder for the livestream fifteen minutes before the event along with a link to the YouTube page where you can participate in the live chat and ask questions during the event.


Registration Closed