The State of Democracy in India

James W. Arputharaj
President of South Asian Federalists; Former EC member of WFM; Coordinator for India for the Campaign for UN Parliamentary Assembly; Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

The article titled The Decay of Indian Democracy by Milam Vaishnav, published on Foreign Affairs (March 2021), depicts the downward trend of the Indian democracy, which is true. For many of us, the shrinking of the democratic space is worrying. Many students, journalists, human rights lawyers are in prison for expressing their opinions, due to draconian laws like the NRC (National Register of Citizens) which aims to target minority communities, and the “Farmer Laws”, which ensure the monopoly of multinational corporations in the agriculture sector.

In a democracy, there should be independence of the judiciary, the executive and the media. The media houses are coerced to convey the narrative of the Government. The Central Bureau of Investigation is used to target opposition leaders in the hope they would join the ruling BJP party. In many states, like Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Karnataka, the members of the legislative assembly were bought over and they resigned in  order to  bring down the democratically elected  Governments. The Courts are also on the side of the Government, which is  the most dangerous situation since Independence. A 83 year old Catholic Father is in prison and the courts are not giving him bail for over 4 months. He was in solidarity with the land rights of the tribal peoples against the Multinational Companies engaging in mining in Bihar and Jharkhand.

I firmly believe that the majority of Hindus are aware of the politics of polarisation and would not support the BJP, as seen in 4 states where elections were held  on 6th April; the results announced on 2nd May were a death knell to the BJP and the Sangh Parivar (Hindu religious forum).

Not only in the political sphere, but in the cultural areas too, the BJP has destroyed the system by bringing in a new education policy. Even Vice Chancellors of prestigious universities are appointed from Sangh  Parivar members without adequate expertise. The head of the Planning Commission is not even a Commerce or Finance graduate.

Modi is no doubt  a towering personality in the Indian politics after Indira Gandhi. His oratorial skills and his providing a narrative suited to the ruling party are his characteristic style. The illiterate masses are attracted to him, though he did not provide the one million jobs that he promised in 2014. By demonetisation (i.e. withdrawal of a particular form of currency from circulation [Trl. Note]), the small and medium firms slowed down, and with the introduction of the Goods & Services Tax (GST), they almost died. He declared a lock down with 4 hours notice during the COVID wave, and many people walked hundreds of miles and never reached home. The Government states that there are no data on this.

The Indian democracy is resilient and the people would bounce back, as did after the emergency in 1975. Tribals in India were practicing democracy and gender equality before the word Democracy appeared in the Oxford dictionary..

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