Valuing Democracy

The security of democracy depends on our conscience and our adherence to democratic values!


Replying to a question on the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proudly said that India is not only the largest democracy in the world, but also the oldest. They were mostly referring to the Licchavi Republic.

The Licchavi Republic was established on present day Bihar two and a half thousand years ago. The General Assembly of the Republic of that republic had about seven thousand people. They were the kings of their respective provinces and these kings used to subsist by farming as usual. Policies are being formulated through deliberations in the Ganasabha. Anyone had the right to speak out against the king’s policies. This right of the people was the greatest force of democracy that we can be proud of even today.

This place of India is safe in the history of world democracy. But the security of India’s current democracy depends on our conscience and our adherence to democratic values.

The right to freedom of expression enshrined in our Constitution is a very strong shield to protect democratic values. This will definitely be on the mind of the Prime Minister when it comes to the right to protest. It is the right of the people to draw attention to the shortcomings and faults of the ruler and to raise their voice in support of their demands. In the last 70 years, many things have happened in the country to protect our democratic rights.

The manner in which the agitation against the emergency began under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan is the greatest example of the awareness and strength shown by the citizens to protect democratic traditions and rights. The people of this country have raised such awareness from time to time. This awareness is essential for the survival of democracy. To take this awareness lightly or to ridicule it is to show distrust of democratic values.

Replying to a debate in Parliament on the President’s address, Modi said, “Movement is the right of the people, but here some people have become ‘agitators’ on the lines of laborers and thinkers.” His complaint was that these agitators stand up to make announcements in any movement. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. It is not clear from his statements that the people are aware of the right to agitate in a democracy.

There is a big movement going on in the country today. Farmers in the country are protesting against three new agricultural laws. Farmers from different parts of the country have been agitating for the last two and a half months on the border of the capital Delhi. Some farmers have died in it. Apart from the unfortunate incident at the Red Fort on January 26, the farmers’ agitation is completely non-violent. Today, Indian citizens are looking at this movement with curiosity and admiration.

The democratic way in which the farmers are running this movement is a commendable example. In such a situation, it is not appropriate to throw sentences like ‘Andolanjivi’. Joomla is always used to bounce. And again, these would mean that you have to spend for these processes. But the politics of the twins sometimes determine the turnout.

We have seen many such sentences in the last few years. E.g. – Fragmented Gang, Medal-Return Gang, Urban Naxalites etc. If someone is doing something wrong, committing a crime, he should be punished. No anti-national act can be accepted at any cost, but it is not right to declare a person with an anti-national ideology a ‘traitor’.

To believe in democracy is to try to hear and understand different ideas. Two and a half thousand years ago, when the ‘General Assembly’ was held in the Licchavi Republic, attempts were made to bridge the gap between different ideas. First there were citizens, then there were kings. It was important for citizens to be aware of their rights and duties. Also, the rulers made a sincere effort to understand the opposition. And that is the core of our democracy today.

Democracy also has respect for dissent. Jumla collects applause, but the truth cannot be obscured by the appearance of applause. Rulers need to win the trust of the people. Because that is the characteristic of our democracy, and power too.

Vikas Parashram Meshram is working in the development sector

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