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Why The Nation Might Not Really Understand What Democracy Implies

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There’s a certain air of possessiveness for personal liberty that comes to us when we are constantly reminded how we inhabit the world’s largest democracy. We tend to take the other little notions of liberty for granted when we are born in an already established democracy. Am I free? Is everyone as free as I am? The second question, which requires greater contemplation to really determine if all the people are living in the same democracy as you are in other ways than geographical, is often forgone.

When Abraham Lincoln said that the democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people he must’ve not thought about the other far-reaching connotations of this that might also be. The only other prominent word in that idea, except democracy, is ‘people’. And people might be the ones in the way of their own democracy, making the whole idea paradoxical.

India is much like a coalescence of little countries. The different states are marked by contrasting cultural practices which often intertwine with those of its neighbours. The diversification we boast of is actually rather delicate. With the kind of diversification that India exhibits, to hope for uniformity is simply a ridiculous notion. Different chunks of the population practice different religions, speak different languages and have different cultural practices in general. They’re bound together with the idea of a common nationality and well, sometimes, humanity.

Democracy fails itself in our country because a community, for the fear of being overpowered by the Other, tends to overexpress itself. The extremists exist everywhere and everywhere someone narrates a tale to rouse the hatred of the Other. The whole fibre of democracy transforms from being able to co-exist to not to be suppressed or overlooked, and then later to overpower the other. We must understand that this only increases in severity and shall always propagate solely on this path. For everyone deems their religion to be superior, their cultural practices to be right and their ideals to be the truth, and it automatically implies that these same things of the Other are inferior and false.

In the wake of this, are destabilizing incidents of mob violence, riots in the name of reservation, persecution of minorities, or some random acts of setting school buses on fire, issuing public death threats to get a movie banned, only to later realize that it actually glorifies them. One might wonder if it’s really to defend their communal honour or just to stay relevant in a nation. Also, how does one defend their honour through hateful protests?

There’s a bigger question to all this. To pacify this group by saying that a certain piece of art glorifies them is a defeat of its own. It’s an act of appeasement to somehow avoid the violent confrontation that they might bring about. Shouldn’t their violent confrontations be suppressed instead? Suppose it doesn’t glorify them, well, where is the artistic freedom?

This directly threatens the freedom of speech and expression and this is not even an isolated incident. In the past, certain movies have been protested for questioning the superstitious practices of a majority religion. Well, this goes on to say that if I don’t like something you say about me, I don’t shut my ears, I shut your mouth. I don’t just resort to telling you my opinion about it, but I also choose to shut your mouth.

Abraham Lincoln said that the democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people, but there’s a very good chance that people don’t understand that this democracy is for ALL people. They say that India is a power in the making, but there are root destructive issues and ideas that have not overturned and that continue to rot the country from within. Already the patriarchal structure is something to overcome. The persecution of women, the heinous crimes that continue to get gorier by the day, the non-acknowledgement of queer people, xenophobia majorly towards people of African descent, caste-related crimes, crimes against minorities and of course the age-old Hindu-Muslim conflicts, to name a few.

Our only chance at a harmonious co-existence in this country is by acknowledging the other, and being kinder towards their beliefs and practices, if a sense of empathy is too much of a task. This is the basic essence of democracy that seems to have been long forgotten. The democracy we are living in is a lie. The humanitarian issues will never be resolved if the current trend of being on the offensive for ‘my community’ continues to be.

Among the more discernible traits often exhibited by our nation is the tyranny of the majority as put forth by the British philosopher John Stuart Mill which speaks of a majority rule which places its own interests above, and often at the expense of minority groups. Over the past couple of years, certain incidents that point towards the gradual shift of the nation towards the majority rule is alarming. In 2017 itself, violence towards Muslims in cases of cow protectionism reached a new high. Roughly 80% of the country’s population is Hindu and minorities often serve as an appeasement tool, a mere gimmick, during the time of elections. Unrestrained cases of violence are not the only concern in this matter but also the instances that violate the essence of the constitution, like inclination towards making Hindi the official language of the country. Instances of mass conversions of people of different faith to Hinduism, and frequent disruptions in inter-faith marriages, are vitriolic to the secularity that is imbibed in our constitution.

When in a country, the basic values of a democracy become debatable, it cannot be regarded as one. The current trends pose a big question mark on the nation’s understanding of democracy and if we are failing at it. The question of solving gender and humanitarian crisis becomes a mirage and till the realization doesn’t hit us, we will just continue to be a faux democracy.

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        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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