How India Wants to Whitewash Its Democracy Image?

Arvind Kejriwal

It was early part of last year when the chores of India as ‘mother of democracy’ had gathered pace.

The summit for Democracy held in March, witnessed PM Modi in his virtual address sharing his pearls of wisdom as India being “indeed the mother of Democracy” citing reference to Vedas and Mahabharata (1)

Delegates who arrived for the G 20 summit in Delhi were similarly greeted with the slogan Welcome to the ‘Mother of Democracy’ ( -do-)

Rightwing think tanks were not behind to project India’s past experience in its very own Indic Democracy despite proofs to the contrary (2)

With the slow ebbing of G 20 rhetoric and the growing hiatus between this ‘mother of democracy’s claims and unfolding world reality, perhaps the chores became redundant. One could even say that the Gaza conflict which witnessed unprecedented genocidal war against the Palestinian people – where the excuse was provided by attack by Hamas militants on civilian population inside Israel – perhaps exposed this highly inflated mother of democracy rhetoric to no end.

The news that India wants to devise / create / plan its own democracy index’ has rekindled this debate again.

Reports have appeared in a section of the media that India wants to develop its own homegrown democracy ratings (3)

As per reports the government approached a friendly think tank ‘The Observer Research Foundation’ – which is supposed to be itself close to one of the biggest corporate houses in the country – to develop these democracy ratings which can show India’s situation in a better light.

One learns that the idea is to announce these ratings before the elections – which start on 10 th April – so that they serve the dual purpose of countering the ‘Western Propaganda’ (as the government wants gullible citizens to believe it) and also ensuring them that things are not bad but better vis-a-vis these ex Colonial countries and how India is taking great strides under Modi led dispensation.

Unconfirmed reports even tell that The NITI Aayog ( www.niti.gov.in) – which was created after dismantling the Planning Commission which was in force since independence – ‘the government’s own public policy think tank’ has also been involved in this process of developing this rankings.

It is well known how it has been closely involved in defending India’s position on international forums whenever leading think tanks in the western world have raised questions on democracy’s trajectory in India or its downgrading in global rankings.

A cursory glance at the reactions of NITI Aayog, whenever such critical reports appeared in the world media makes interesting reading.

Right from the days when Freedom House – a US based think tank called India a “partially free democracy” in 2021 to India being classified as “electoral autocracy” by the V Dem Institute, based in Sweden, it was in the forefrunt to defend India’s image. It not only debunked these classifications as part of Western Propaganda or as part of the ex colonial countries growing envy at the strides made by India under Modi. (4)

In fact, the need to develop homegrown ratings was underlined during internal discussions within NITI Aayog and  government functionaries, officials, after such adverse reports appeared in a section of the national and international media

The Economist Intelligence Unit was no less scathing in its own evaluation of India which had ‘ranked India 53rd in its 2020 Democracy Index, labelling it a “flawed democracy”  ( -do-)

It is highly debatable whether such homegrown index which basically strives to prepare an index ‘more favourable to New Delhi’s paradigm’ (5)  – which as per an analyst looks akin to a child ‘surreptitiously changing the marks on one’s report card in case of a poor showing’ (-do-) – would serve any useful purpose or not or make India a laughting stock in the world.

One would even say that its striving to whitewash its image resonates with a Sanskrit Subhashitam which says that ‘ A Cat Drinks Milk with closed eyes and think that the world does not see it

With elections approaching and the ruling dispensation displaying its increasing nervousness about the results – by attempting to stich up alliances with unlikely partners or arresting of opposition politicians and usher into ‘opposition mukt India’ (6) which have even attracted attention of  the western world. It was rather unprecedented that not only Germany but a senior official in the US government recently raised questions about India arresting opposition politicians on the eve of elections.

Forget these western think tanks, reports have already appeared in the press about how India is slowly lurching towards a genocide of India’s religious minorities (7) There have been umpteen occasions when its own policy initiatives – right from its sudden revocation of Kashmir’s special status ( 2019) or the idea to introduce discriminatory legislations like CAA – which is based on exclusion and it violates the basic principle and values of the Constitution of India-  which effectively introduces religion based citizenship and upturns India’s commitment since independence not to discriminate with anyone on the basis of faith, religion  – has come under scanner of not only neighbouring countries but also justice and peace loving peoples of the world.

It is possible that the government will still have the audacity of going ahead with these homegrown democracy ratings but as of now only it is being asked what is the content of this democracy which talks of rendering justice to persecuted communities but limits itself to three neighbouring counties which are Muslim majority ones but does not look at the persecution faced by various minority sects among Muslims. In fact, its arbitrariness is evident also in countries like Sri Lanka n Mynamar which are neighbouring ones but here Hindus ( Tamil ones) n Muslims ( Rohingyas) face persecution which is unseen by the Indian regime.

Perhaps the easiest way before the Indian government to come out of this rigmarole is to heed the advice of this analyst who says that “[g]iven the number of indices on which India has slid recently, it might be easier for the government to invest in a ‘brainwashing’ machine like the one in Hirak Rajar Deshe to whitewash all criticism.’ (8)

Subhash Gatade is a left  activist associated with New Socialist Initiative

Notes

1. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-mother-of-democracy-home-to-idea-of-elected-leaders-much-before-rest-of-world-pm-modi/article66675267.ece

2. https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/mother-of-democracy-ancient-india-offers-no-evidence/cid/1936900

3, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/21/modis-india-plans-its-own-democracy-index-after-global-rankings-downgrade 

4. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/21/modis-india-plans-its-own-democracy-index-after-global-rankings-downgrade

5.  https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor-centre-plans-its-own-democracy-index-amid-global-rankings-dip/cid/2008696

6. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/suhas-palshikar-writes-with-kejriwals-arrest-one-more-step-towards-opposition-mukt-elections-9231415/?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email ; https://www.economist.com/by-invitation/2024/03/23/yamini-aiyar-laments-the-damage-done-to-indian-democracy-under-narendra-modi?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email)

7.https://time.com/6320003/india-weaponizing-history-against-muslims/ ; https://thewire.in/rights/india-mass-killing-genocide-report ; https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/16/expert-warns-of-possible-genocide-against-muslims-in-india

8.  https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor-centre-plans-its-own-democracy-index-amid-global-rankings-dip/cid/2008696

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