Despite its limitations, Indian Democracy has been a successful experiment in a country which was driven by challenges of its times. Unlike many newly liberated countries, where military dictatorships or theocratic bent regimes had taken over, Indian democracy allowed for parliamentary democracy with multi-party system to prevail. While India was still driven by parochial caste, race and religious identities, dominance of feudal values, yet the constitution did lay a ‘vision’ of a futuristic India, which was much ahead of the society that existed at that point of time. The preamble of the Constitution laid this futuristic vision. It did represent an aspiration to move towards ‘Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic’ and providing its citizens with ‘Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’.
The Indian Republic has faced challenges from time to time. It did witnesses instances where civil liberties were curtailed, emergency was imposed, and black laws were brought in. It did witness instances where the ‘identity’ and ‘influence’ of subaltern groups was merely reduced to ‘one vote’ with limited influence in shaping progressive policies in the country. Yet, these never threatened the Indian Republic.
Indian Democracy is under threat particularly from the period 2014 onwards. The regime has undertook a process of 5Ds which threatens the very foundation of Indian Democracy. These include: –
Divide: The regime is bent to create a divide of ‘we’ vs. ‘them’.
‘We’ represent the majority Hindus and ‘them’ the Minorities. While both ‘Muslim’ and ‘Christians’ continue to be seen as ‘enemies’ by the ideological right in India, currently ‘Muslims’ have been singled out as the single biggest enemy of the country. The changes in constitutional status of Kashimir, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are only processes to create divide and widen these gaps. In this divide, there are ones who are ‘lesser’ citizens for belonging to minority and those who are ‘higher’ citizens for belonging to majority. It is not birth in the country but birth in a religion which becomes important, an idea which is anti-modern.
Another divide of ‘we’ vs. ‘them’ is built on the idea of ‘nationalists’ vs. ‘anti-nationalists’. All those who subscribe to Hindu radicalism i.e., ‘Hindutva’ are automatically nationalists and all those who critic this idea are automatically ‘anti-nationalists’. Hence all forms of intellectual, ideological and social traditions opposed to it are ‘anti-nationals’.
Demonize: The idea of ‘Hinduism’ is under threat ‘Hindu khatrein mein hain’ has been consistently used by the Sangh parivar. An image of ‘Muslim’ as a potential ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ has been built over the years. The demonization has been going on for many years. In the current times, this demonization has been used to rationalize violence against minorities. Statements such as ‘the people can be recognized by their clothes’ or ‘if people do not listen to boli (talk), then by goli (bullet)’ or ‘desh ke gaddaro ko goli maro salo ko’ (fire bullet against anti-nationals) are based on demonization.
Innumerable incidents of ‘lynchings’ have taken place, where the victims have never got justice but the ‘inflictors’ have been protected. State sponsored attacks against minorities are based on rationalizing violence.
The recent shooting sprees by those who consumed ‘Hindutva’ idea are the ones who have been influenced by demonization. The technology of Whaatasapp has also given way to ‘Whaatsapp University’, which are being used as a means to demonize and spread hatred.
The demonization is based on the idea that all ‘Hindus’ need to get united and ‘Demonization’ is seen as a process which can enable this.
Demolish: Any decent society needs a set of ‘whistle blowers’, who are able to point to the current wrongs in society. The last few years have seen emergence of critics from the world of academia, journalism, artists, films, politics, writers who can critic the current happenings. Some of the names include people like Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, Ravish Kumar, Harsh Mander, Prashant Bhushan, Arundhati Raoy etc. Institutions of higher learning such as JNU, HCU, Jadavpur University, Jamia Milia Islamia and others have also emerged as places of ‘whistle blowing’. There have also been Political Parties which have critiqued.
This has given way to a vicious campaign by the regime to ‘demolish’ the personal images, institutional images and political images of those who have indulged in act of ‘whistle blowing’.
Destroy: Democracy is built on foundations of autonomous institutions. However, when the autonomy of institutions are ‘destroyed’ and made to become the extensions of the political regime, the institutional effectiveness in strengthening democracy only reduces.
The past few years have seen an attempt at destroying the autonomy of institutions. These could be that of Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Election Commission, Central Information Commission, Central Vigilance Commission etc. The regime has also interfered with judicial appointments, appointments to academic bodies such as ICSSR, ICHR, Vice chancellors of Universities etc.
Destruction of autonomous institutions is seen as a way of creating institutions wedded to Hindutva.
Deviate: The regime consistently follows the policy of ‘Deviate’. When critic is raised on one issue, another issue is immediately brought in to deviate from the other. When the country witnesses criticism over ‘Rohith Vemula’ issue, it is immediately diverted to ‘JNU’. When the regime gets questioned on issues of ‘unemployment, poverty, growth’, it is diverted to ‘Bheema Khoregaon’ or that of a threat from outside ‘Pakistan’. When mass protests arise in the country over CAA, it is consistently diverted to Jamia, JNU, Shaheen Bagh, Delhi etc.
Protection of Indian Republic need to deal with the five ‘Ds’ which is out to destroy Democracy. It needs to build a counter narrative of ‘Unite’, ‘Humanize’, ‘Construct’, ‘Preserve’ and ‘Stay’. ‘Unite’ is for unity of people of India and not religious identities of India, ‘Humanize’ is to display and propagate the human qualities displayed by minorities to counter Hindutva narratives to demonize, ‘Construct’ is to counter the fake narratives around individuals, ‘Preserve’ is to build citizen pressure on institutions to maintain its autonomy and ‘Stay’ is to sticking to core issues of addressing economic challenges and protecting the constitution.
T Navin is a Researcher and works with an NGO