How Debate And Dissent Are Important For Indian Democracy

Posted by abhimanyu mallick in Politics
March 28, 2017

It’s an accepted fact that no individual on earth can be called a perfect human being. Every person is a mixed bag of strengths and flaws. The same applies for our nation, India. Thereby, it is logical enough for us to accept that the government, made from the very same people, cannot be perfect. There will be times when a government policy shall be accepted and celebrated and, there shall also be occasions when such policies will be criticized and questioned.

To be precise, in a democratic country constituting of more than 1.2 billion people, there will be and rather, there should be individuals who exercise their rights and question authority. But sadly, India as a nation is retrograding from a democracy towards an autocratic nation.

The more imminent threat is the trend of tagging individuals over their opinions. If it is in favour of the government, the people are labelled a ‘bhakt‘ (disciple, or follower) and if an individual has raised a question against the government, they are surely, and absolutely an ‘anti-national’. In both cases, we are literally undermining the democratic rights of an individual.

People standing in queue outside the HDFC bank to get new currency.

Now, as an individual with a certain amount of intellect, what I fail to understand is why cannot I simply celebrate the right and question the wrongs, without getting a tag? Why can’t I support the diplomacy of our Prime Minister but at the same time raise questions on his demonetization policy?

Why can’t I celebrate the fact that Sushma Swaraj is one of the nations best external affairs minister, yet, be compassionate to a simple question raised by Gurmehar Kaur as to what good has war ever done for a nation? Does that make me a hypocrite? The answer is absolutely not. All of this makes me and every individual sharing my thoughts, a sane democratic personnel.

What happens if I question the government on demonetization? Regardless of the implicative effect the policy had black money, which is again a whole new debate altogether, can’t I question the government over a remote possibility of a better execution?

Irrespective of all the government press releases stating that demonetization was openly accepted by citizen across all ranks, there are audio visual images which show thousands of citizens aggrieved by the execution. Are we presuming here that every individual standing in queues outside banks, venting out their frustration at being barred from their own monetary resources, are the ones who were involved in black money laundering? Of all the death reports that surfaced from these queues, even if one is genuine, isn’t the government responsible for that individual’s demise?

If truth be told (without any political inclination whatsoever), when it comes to global diplomatic ties, we haven’t had a better prime minister than Narendra Modi. At the very onset, he knew that for India to progress globally, diplomatic ties with as many countries as possible, needed to be strengthened.

Yes, we may laugh at the memes being circulated regarding his exorbitant travel schedules. But, the fact that the support we got from numerous countries to condemn Pakistan’s never ending barrage at our border cannot be undermined. It is all due to Modi’s hard work and dedication. Similarly, Sushma Swaraj and Suresh Prabhu (railway minister) deserve to be praised nationally, irrespective of caste, class, religion and race, for their hard work and dedication.

Never have we had offices so prompt on their jobs, as the external affairs ministry and the railway ministry presently. Every complain, every request has been dealt with as much expertise and promptness as expected from any government offices. I applaud their efforts with complete sincerity. So does that make me a bhakt or just a level headed individual capable of appreciating the progressive work culture in my country?

Gurmehar Kaur protested against ABVP’s violence and called for peace between India and Pakistan, only to be threatened with rape and murder.

There have been alarming issues like that of Gurmehar Kaur. Gurmehar Kaur, a student of Delhi University, protested against Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and its inherent culture of violence and religious disharmony. A simple quotation which should have inspired students to stand up against radicals like ABVP, was met with death and rape threats directed at her.

To top it all, previous images of Gurmehar calling for peace between India and Pakistan, resurfaced and fuelled by certain celebrities, was turned into a nationalist issue. I would like to ask the government, does an individual have no right in a democracy to question or raise their voice against miscreants? Did she deserve being stigmatized as an ‘anti-national’?

Here is learned daughter of India, who, irrespective of losing her father in a battle, seeks out peace between neighbours. Even our prime minister, at the onset of his journey, engaged in peace talks with Pakistan. Does that make him anti-national too? Accepted that no free thinking country wants to go to war unless forced into it.

But as an individual, was Gurmehar wrong for calling out for peace so that no other child has to go through the horrors of losing one’s father in a war? Or were the people who shamed a martyr’s daughter, to such an extent that she had to retract her protest against ABVP’s violence, on the wrong side of democracy?

To be honest, it seems like a built up agenda to protect organisations like ABVP, RSS or it could be a larger cover up to divert national attention from the amendments of RBI, IT and RP acts as proposed by our Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley. If these issues do get highlighted (and which, I believe, should be highlighted), they question the basic integrity of the government.

India as a nation isn’t unfamiliar with scams, corruption or violent radical outbursts. But the nation ushered in Narendra Modi as its prime minister with a hope that finally it will attain true secularism and democracy; it has been overshadowed by corruption and radical violence.

But the truth today is far from expectations and it will continue to be so till we have leaders like Kiren Rijiju, who, try to out trivialize prevalent democratic questions with statements like, “who is polluting Gurmehar’s mind?” Kiren Rijiju, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, is the same person who stated that the India is getting into the ill habit of questioning authorities and that Hindutva is reducing in India as unlike minorities we don’t force conversions.

Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, is known for his controversial statements.

Isn’t that a rage provoking communal statement in a secular country? As for the ill habit of questioning authorities it’s a disclaimer against the basic rights of an individual in a democracy. One of the times when the world saw a crack down on such “ill habits” came with the rise of a man called Hitler and his Nazi regime.

At the end of the day, no matter how much global progress we make industrially, the Indian roots of democracy and secularism will always be a weakened infrastructure with leaders like Kiren Rijiju or outfits like ABVP or RSS at the very pinnacle of our government. As far as Narendra Modi, our honorable prime minister, is concerned, I still believe a change is possible.

A change is necessary for a progressive India where democracy and secularism are not just mere words but the actual pillars of the Indian society. As stated by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and repeated by president Pranab Mukherjee, “I do not want India to be a country in which millions of people say yes to one man, I want a strong opposition.” It is the very dynamics which the democracy of India requires, to forge a sustained growth in the years to come and surely, not through violent rebukes or stigmas such as ‘bhakts‘ or ‘anti-national’.