India’s “Schrodinger Moment” On the Fourth of June

Schrodingers cat

Schrodinger’s thought experiment

Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1933. In 1935, he posited a thought experiment – later coming to be known as “Schrodinger’s cat” – in the study of quantum physics.

Stated simply, a hypothetical cat is placed inside a box along with a mechanism that will eventually release a poisonous substance that can kill the cat, and the box is closed. Schrodinger posited that only when the box is opened, is it possible to determine whether the cat is alive or dead. Until the box is opened to observe the cat, in probabilistic terms there is 50% probability that the cat is alive and 50% probability that the cat is dead.

Let us leave Schrodinger for the moment, and examine the two entities of “the cat” and “the poisonous substance” in a present context.

The present context

Since BJP-led NDA came to power in the 16th Parliament, there have been innumerable instances of BJP politicians and Hindutva activists, making speeches and utterances, which create fear and hate of minority community people, and of the community itself. [“Muslims will outnumber Hindus”, “India will become a Muslim majority state”, “Hinduism and Hindus are under threat from Muslims”, “Muslims are conducting love jihad”, “Goli maaro s—o ko”, “Hindu women’s mangalsutras will go to ‘ghuspetiyan’”, etc., etc.].

Social media posts have been full of similar toxic matter for many months. This divisive poison of fear and hatred has seeped deep into the body politic of India, dividing people within communities and even within families, into being pro-Hindutva or anti-Hindutva, with no third position possible.

Fast forward to 2024

Let us cut to the present of the ongoing 7-phase elections for 543 seats in India’s 18th Parliament, with Election Commission of India expected to declare the results on the 4th day of June.

At the time of writing, we have gone past the halfway mark of the 4th phase and speculation is rife whether BJP will win the targetted 370/400 seats, or a simple majority (more than 272 seats), or less than 272 seats. So far as BJP-led NDA is concerned, there are only the above three possibilities, but the probability of each of these three depends on the kind of information that is being considered, its source, and the credibility.

Basing upon statements made by senior RSS and BJP leaders over the past few years, there is fear that if BJP gets a two-thirds majority of 363 or more seats, the new government will change the Constitution of India to create a Hindu Rashtra, a theological Hindu majority State, with First Class citizenship status to Hindus and Second Class (inferior) citizenship status to non-Hindus. This will inevitably impinge on the democratic rights of non-Hindu people – they will lose the democratic rights which they now enjoy under the present Constitution. Thus, the possibility of BJP getting two-thirds majority makes democracy virtually dead.

4th June may be a Schrodinger moment for Indian democracy 

Let us revert to Schrodinger’s cat experiment. Think of a closed box with “democracy” as the hypothetical cat, and the “divisive communal agenda” as the poisonous substance, which can destroy democracy if BJP gets two-thirds majority.

In this election scenario thought experiment, the result can be only one of two possibilities, namely, BJP gets 363 seats, or BJP gets less than 363 seats. However, until ECI opens the box on 4th June and announces the result, we cannot know which of the two possibilities will be realised. Thus, there is 50% probability that democracy will live and 50% probability that democracy will die.

In the interim, let us keep speculating to our heart’s content, and wait for the Schrodinger moment of Fourth June.

S.G.Vombatkere retired in 1996 from service in the Indian Army, in the rank of Major General.

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