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Is India a Dying Democracy?

History tells us that a populist government always assaults the  democracy and democratic institutions. It even tries to transform democracy into dictatorship.

On May 27, 2019, the result of the world’s biggest general elections came and Narendra Modi won with a comfortable majority for a second time in a row. Since then one question has been on my mind, ‘is there something left that can save our democracy?’ The answer to that is ‘No’. There is nothing in our constitution or culture that can immunize a democratic breakdown. What is democracy? India has regular elections and a government that is highly popular among people gets elected. Even China, which is not a democratic country can make that claim. The litmus test for democracy is not its policy decisions but whether those policy decisions are made through a democratic process.

1975-77, was a period viewed as a dark chapter of an independent India. We experienced a political catastrophe under the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Indian democracy was about to be morphed into an authoritarian society but fortunately the judiciary helped to recover the damage. The judiciary is recognized as the strongest pillar in a democracy like India but in a contemporary political scenario this pillar is going through the unprecedented credibility crisis.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for ‘the wire’, justice Madan B. Lokur said, “the Supreme Court is not fulfilling its constitutional function adequately” he said, adding, “the Supreme Court is capable of doing great job.” Justice Lokur is a retired justice of the apex court of the country. According to his statement, the judiciary of this country is facing its biggest challenges. This raises a very serious question, ‘who is going to protect the rights of the people if not judiciary?” The Supreme Court is a safeguard of the Constitution, having the power of judicial review, if they fail in recovering the damage then nobody can stop Indian democracy from sliding into an authoritarian state like China. It won’t be wrong to say that the Indian democracy is in ICU.

The reason behind the current circumstances are very clear. Two years after the election of Narendra Modi as Prime minister, we started seeing symptoms of authoritarianism in the country. Symptoms like demonetization in 2016, which further metastasized and brought the country to a severe condition. Since 2016 the Modi government has also emerged as a populist government which is harmful for any democracy. History tells us that a populist government always assaults the democracy and democratic institutions. It even tries to transform democracy into dictatorship.

Harvard University political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt studied the prospect of the democratic system in a holistic approach and gave some key indicators of an authoritarian behavior inside their book ‘How democracies die’. Below I have quoted some key indicators of an authoritarian behaviour and calculated it in the context of Indian politics.

First is the denial of legitimacy of political opponents. Narendra Modi always tries to delegitimize Congress, the biggest opponent of the ruling party, in his every political speech. He always mentions in his speech that he is going to make a congress mukt bharat or India without Congress party.

Second is encouraging violence. We have seen some leaders from the ruling party, provoking their followers to be violent against a community in the name of gau raksha (cow security). Union Minister Jayant Sinha gave garlands to people who are accused of mob lynching. Nevertheless, Narendra Modi did not take any action against him and himself said in a rally in Jharkhand that the people who are protesting against CAA (citizenship amendment act) can be identified by their clothes. This type of statement. Clearly shows that, the ruling party always encourages violence.

Third, and the most important key indicator of authoritarianism is the readiness to curtail civil liberty of the opponent including media. Sadly, Indian media has been complicit in the BJP’s assault on democratic and secular values by actively promoting the narrative of BJP. There are still some journalists and intellectuals who have maintained their integrity and work to uphold the democratic ideals of the Indian constitution. Repression of such journalists and intellectuals is the biggest indicator of an authoritarian leadership.

Recently, we saw the arrest warrant against three young Kashmiri journalists, Gowher Geelani, Masrat Zahra and Peerzada Ashiq under UAPA {unlawful activities(prevention) act. The government’s cruelty turned to a darker side when a 27-year-old PhD scholar Safoora Zargar from Jamia Millia Islamia university was booked and sent to jail under the same Draconian law, despite the fact that she is 3-months pregnant. All these incidents are the key indicator of authoritarianism and it raises the biggest question, ‘if our democracy, that gives the freedom to speak, write and express our voice against atrocity, is dying?’

 

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.

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The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
This post was created with our nice and easy submission form. Create your post!

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