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Friday, April 19, 2024

Ouch! Too Much Democracy in India!

IndiaOuch! Too Much Democracy in India!

India is a democratic secular republic as chartered in our Preamble and to suggest it is too democratic would be hitting at the heart of the Constitution.

Text: Dr. Yameen Ansari

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant’s recent controversial statement that ‘there is too much democracy’ in India had citizens surprised because India is always proudly referred to as one of the world’s largest democracies.  India is a democratic secular republic as chartered in our Preamble and to suggest it is too democratic would be hitting at the heart of the Constitution. In fact, there can be no halfways in democracy or its spirit would die.

Democracy Needed in a World that is Polarizing

Due to the present polarizing climate in the world, it is favorable for India to delve into its democratic values. Incidentally, I wrote this article in concern for the fractured democratic implementations seen in our country even before Amitabh Kant made his alarming statement as if just waiting to counter his statement!  Perhaps today, more than ever before, we need to nourish the ideals of democracy in a world that is being blown apart by autocratic control and suppressing the voices of people.

Different groups of people describe and interpret democracy differently. Democracy is defined as a political, moral, economic, and social structure. Based on the principles laid down by democracy, we can test a government, state, society, or ideology as to whether this system or ideology is democratic or not. Democracy is defined as “the rule of the people, by the people, for the people”

The Meaning of True Democracy

Democracy values all people equally and crowns people’s power over monarchial power.  However, over time, in different eras and circumstances, the application of democracy became a bit more diluted.  A democratic government always refers to a government in which the public is the source of power and decision-making to determine what kind of government, administrative, judicial, economic, and social system they would like.  A form of a democratic system of government is a representative government, in which people elect their representatives and entrust them with a system of power. It is now up to the elected government or party to assess how profitable it will be for those who elected it.

The government comes under a test in terms of what it has done for its people, whether the people in that country have the freedom to express their views and openly criticize the policies of the government.  It is a litmus test to see whether there is a strong opposition in the country or not to keep a democratic government accountable. Democracy checks whether there is a rule of good governance abiding by the constitution or whether the dictates of a banana republic is in force.

It analyzes whether minorities have religious freedom in that country or not.  Since everyone is the same in terms of law, then does the law apply itself differently to different people? It questions if everyone’s life and property is safe or not.  It gauges if there is economic and social justice or is society divided into class systems.  Topping all of this, it questions if the media in that country is independent or is it in the clutches of the government. We can test the functioning of our democratic governments based on these questions.

How Does Our Present Government Function Democratically

Now if we look at the modalities of our present government in this context, we will find that the present government does not live up to the above democratic principles. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the principle of “rule by the people, by the people, by the people” is not in operation today. Today, the BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already made the laws for the farmers and passed them in Parliament without the farmers’ consent nor consulting with the farmers or their representatives or interacting with any of the concerned people involved in farming.

Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs who came to India under the aegis of the CAA were disappointed and about 243 refugees wanted to return back due to financial difficulties and other inconveniences.

In the same way, there was no consultation or negotiation with Muslims, their representatives, or Sharia experts before enacting a law relating to triple talaq in 2019.   Millions of Muslims protested endlessly, but the government persisted with its plans relentlessly. The abolition of Sections 370 and Article 35-A took a day without the consent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, which slashed their economy and hurt the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir with a long lockdown after this law came into force.  Then came the unemotional announcement of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the NRC, and the NPR.  A “love jihad” law was mechanically passed by the Adityanath government of UP on the imaginary theory of love jihad.

The decision of demonetization taken at midnight did not warn people to prepare for it; millions lost their money and businesses, and some even lives. The similarities in all these decisions are first, the people for whom these laws were made were never consulted nor were their wishes taken into consideration. Secondly, if these steps of the government were for the welfare of the concerned people, then why were the same people protesting against them? In this, the principle of ‘people, for the people, rule of the people’ became meaningless. Could the government provide any statistics as to what percentage of divorce cases have decreased since the law against triple talaq came into force?

The Controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens

On December 11, 2019, the government introduced the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in Parliament and it came into force on January 11, 2020. This law led to spiraling protests all over the nation. On November 26th, TV9 reported that Pakistani Hindus and Sikhs who came to India under the aegis of the CAA were disappointed and about 243 refugees wanted to return back due to financial difficulties and other inconveniences. They received permission to return from the Wagah border. According to officials, most of the papers for the return of Pakistani refugees have come from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Delhi.

It should be noted that Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian (not Muslim) refugees who came to India from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh would be given Indian citizenship by December 31, 2014, after the Citizenship Amendment Act comes into force. While the dust of this issue had not even settled, the government aimed to implement NRC all over India. NRC means National Register of Citizens.  Earlier it was limited to Assam as, since the establishment of Bangladesh, the Assamese people said that their identity had been endangered due to the large influx of Bangladeshi refugees into Assam.

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant’s recent controversial statement that ‘there is too much democracy’ in India had citizens surprised because India is always proudly referred to as one of the world’s largest democracies.  India is a democratic secular republic as chartered in our Preamble and to suggest it is too democratic would be hitting at the heart of the Constitution. In fact, there can be no halfways in democracy or its spirit would die.

When without explanation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced NRC would be implemented all across India, it set the fire in the cauldron burning even higher out of fear that many citizens would be declared non-citizens if they did not have the required documents.  Already, about 19 lakh people in Assam could not make their place on the citizenship list under NRC even though they were legitimate citizens of India. When the final list was prepared, most of the people who were left out of this list were Hindus.  Since this would not benefit the ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who looked at the Hindus as their vote bank, they invented the CAA to include the Hindus, but leave out the Muslims.

While most citizens refused to accept this new selective law, the BJP adamantly rejected all pleas to revoke it.   They kept making different statements related to it.  Once Home Minister Amit Shah linked both the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC in his speeches and statements, the chilling truth hit people.  It became clear that once people were identified under NRC, they would be classified to be sent out of India or sent into concentration camps, which has already occurred in Assam where they are currently kept in a clustered closed environment.

Another major cause for concern among the people was the different conflicting statements made by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.  While Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in a public meeting that there was never any mention on the NRC, Home Amit Shah in Parliament declared that the NRC would be implemented all over India soon.

The Implementation of Demonetization

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetization, he claimed that this step would be taken to bring back black money, take out fake currencies, curb terrorism and Naxalism, end bribery, etc.  However, demonetization proved to be a disaster that hit the Indian economy hard and its doom was passed on to the poor and middle class. Incidentally, no black money ever came back nor did terrorist attacks stop.

In Summary

Unfortunately, all these rashly implemented decisions and overnight acts have brought failure upon the Modi government and those whom the government claimed would be the biggest beneficiaries became the biggest victims of all.

Right now, the three new agricultural laws related to farmers are stirring agitation all over the nation.  The farmers are going to suffer the consequences of losing autonomy over their produce after the law is put into effect.  The government says that the new agricultural laws have been brought with the aim of the welfare of the farmers of the country and their development and prosperity. However, the farmers are aware that the scheme is moving in favor of the cooperates who will rule over them and the farmers say, “We do not want such development and prosperity.”

These laws will promote privatization in the agricultural world and allow the selling of farmers’ rights to corporate houses through the farm laws.  This has led to millions of farmers (men, women, old, and children) protesting against these laws on the streets. After ‘Delhi Chalo’, ‘India is closing down, but unfortunately, this has now become seemingly an ego issue for the Government that they do not want to remove the law.  If the Government of India seriously analyzes its decisions, it will realize that these decisions are not fruitful for a healthy and successful growing democracy, even if  NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant believes that ‘there is too much democracy’ in India.

The author is the resident editor of Inquilab Urdu Daily, Delhi.

The views expressed in this article are personal.

 

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