For linking and strengthening local groups working to protect civil liberties, women's rights and the environment.
Lokayan, meaning ‘Dialogue of the people’, started in 1980 as a forum for interaction between activists and concerned intellectuals through meetings, workshops, working groups and lectures. Lokayan sparked dialogue for the consolidation of democracy, for equity and people’s control over natural resources, women’s empowerment, cultural plurality, health and the well-being of all. Lokayan’s interactions involved a large network of intellectuals, non-party and mainstream political party activists.
Lokayan soon became an essential platform for promoting alternatives, for example, 1993 Laureate Vandana Shiva has written for Lokayan Bulletin. It was also a platform for intellectual sustenance to several social movements, including 1991 Laureate Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Professor Rajni Kothari founded Lokayan intending to evolve a systematic critique of the established models of development and promote political action drawing upon the large variety of micro-initiatives engaged in the struggle for a just society.
In addition to a core group of conveners, Lokayan’s activities were sustained by a group of part-time associates and volunteers.
The Lokayan programme has sought to evolve a systematic critique of the established models of development and the state, and also to promote political action drawing upon the large variety of micro-initiatives that are engaged in the struggle for a just society. The aim is to build a body of knowledge, opinion and concrete strategies of intervention at the 'macro' level that will promote a decentralised democratic order and enhance respect for the cultural and social diversity of marginalised sections of society. The thinking, values, aspirations and experiences of these people provide the basis for alternative cultural, economic and political thinking, helping to unify the various movements for egalitarian change.
Over the past decades, there has been an increase of democratic urges and assertion by deprived groups in India, paralleled by much ideological debate among activist groups and movements. However, being preoccupied with the dynamics of survival, these groups have not linked up with each other or with the mainstream democratic processes. So Lokayan has sought to provide a forum for such exchanges with regular bulletins of comment and analysis, as well as struggle notes, movement documents and book reviews, which express the wide range of its concerns. The English-language 'Lokayan' journal appeared six times a year.
Eminent political scientist Shiv Vishwanathan has written: "Lokayan, a dialogue with the people, was a legendary thought experiment, which transformed social science in India inalterably. Lokayan was an idea whose time had come, a commons of hospitality open to every variant of every social movement".