The School for Democracy/Loktantrashala is an outgrowth of the experience and learning of people’s political mobilisation in rural Rajasthan during the 1980s, and the 1990s. These movements have strived to enable ordinary citizens to assert their rights, and to use democratic spaces and constitutional means to rightfully claim those rights (including workers’ & women’s rights, the right to information, the right to work etc). These experiences have demonstrated that working women and men often develop a sharp understanding of participatory democracy through collective political action. Yet, they may lack the critical information to make informed choices while dealing with specific issues in the political and democratic framework.
The idea to create a dedicated space to collectively reflect upon the socio-political, economic and cultural context of political action was gradually emerged and finally took shape in the form of an institution in 2004. The founding members were: Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Chunni Singh, Lal Singh, Shankar Singh, Sushila, who were joined by many others from within and outside the geographical area and realms of work.
The location of the School for Democracy at Badi Ka Badia, Bhilwara, Rajasthan, was a result of the support provided by the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). The MKSS, which has worked in the area for over 25 years, transferred 4 bighas of land to the Loktantrashala – by then registered under the Rajasthan Societies Registration Act, 1958. Arundhati Roy provided a corpus of Rs. 20 lakhs, enabling the theoretical conception to evolve, and to take shape into a physical reality.