India is the world’s largest democracy with a population of over 1.2 billion, spread over an area of 3.287 million sq. km. With almost 1600 spoken languages, 2000 ethnic groups, and with people from the 9 most recognized religions, India is one the most diverse nations in the world. In a country like ours, an efficient political system, with responsible and accountable leadership is essential. We have a democratic form of government, and in a democracy, it is necessary that the people vote and do so responsibly. Our constitution gives its people the right to vote irrespective of their religion, caste, economic status, gender or sex. 11th April 2019 will mark the offset of the 17th Lok Sabha elections.
With the upcoming elections, I want to throw some light on certain issues through this article.
India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. As this data indicates, India is a country of the youth. The youth has a vital role to play in deciding the nature of politics, the future of politics, and thus, the future of this country. The problem, however, is the ignorance and indifference of people when it comes to politics. It is as a result of this mass political unconsciousness of the people and the youth, that democracies fail.
The common notion is that politics does not have any role in our lives, and that thinking about it and talking about it is simply an utter waste of time. However, the reality is vastly different from the common notion. Politics has everything to do with our lives. Our education – what we get to learn, what we get to teach, what our jobs are, how much we are to be paid for our jobs, our healthcare facilities, the prices of the things that we are going to buy, it’s the reservation quotas we will have to deal with, the colleges we will go to, the amount of taxes we are going to pay, our future pension plans, everything is decided by political bodies, figures, and the nature of politics.
Even though politics literally control our lives most people, and especially the youth chooses to be ‘apolitical’, because it’s easier to stay within their comfort zones. Thus, it is rightly said that for them, ignorance is bliss. Well, what happens when people choose to remain ignorant about politics? When they are too lazy to let go of their privileges and come out of their comfort zone and remain ‘apolitical’?
Here’s a glimpse of what the situation of our country is right now:
The party that is in power has members who say that the voting rights should be taken away from the entire Muslim community, who comprise about 15% of the population. The hate speech by the party politicians has increased by almost 500% of what it was under the previous government. In most cases, the targets of hate speech have been the people of the Muslim community and other minorities of this country.
In Maharashtra, the names of 40 lakh voters, 17 lakh of which are Muslims and 10 lakhs of which are Dalits, are missing from the voting lists. Hate crimes against Dalits have reached a new high. Dalits, SCs, OBCs are being ostracized, they are being denied their right to education. In certain backward areas of the country, they are getting lynched simply for their desire to pursue education. Dalits and Muslims comprise about 70% of the mob lynching victims.
Today, a new kind of violence is haunting India, a term, probably never heard by millennials before 2015; cow vigilantism. People are being beaten to death for eating beef or for wearing leather. As many as 97% of these attacks were reported after the new government came to power in May 2014, and about half the cow-related violence – 32 of 63 cases – were from states governed by the same political party when the attacks were reported. And very surprisingly, most of the victims turned out to be Muslims.
Farmers whose hard work is the reason we have food on our plates, are not getting paid their fair share. In certain states of the country, they are being made to sell onions and potatoes at about Rs. 1.04/kg. The farmer suicide has reached 12000 per year. That’s 1000 every month, and thus, about 33 every single day. The government is still quiet about this matter and has done nothing to improve the situation
Manual scavenging is still legal in our country. Those working in the stigmatized industry face acute challenges, given their low social status and abysmal working conditions, which expose them to death-like situations or life-threatening diseases, and one manual scavenger dies every five days but the government hasn’t taken any action for the betterment of the situation.
The Army, whose name the government never fails to use in their rally speeches to stir the nationalist sentiments among the people, the army who is politicized constantly and is used as nothing but as pawns in their political agenda, is being underpaid. The government creates an image as if it truly cares about the army and wants to protect its integrity but the facts are clearly against it. The army is being deprived of basic human working conditions and privileges but surprisingly enough, the government which poses as the protector of the army has not said anything about the actual problem it is facing.
When it comes to the issue of women, India is now officially the worst country in terms of women’s safety. 106 is the average number of rape cases filed every single day in India, 4 out of 10 of which are minors. Moreover, government agency data has given proof that almost 99% of rape and sexual harassment cases go unreported. Members of the ruling party are taking advantage of the established patriarchal system and are campaigning by promising that they will bring back child marriage if voted into power. Marital rape, even after 72 years of independence, is not a crime. Women who cook mid-day meals for school children are paid the menial amount of ₹37 only, which probably does not even help them afford a three square meal every day. Human trafficking levels of India are off the charts.
It is one of the most significant phases in the history of democracy in our country, and also probably one of the worst ones. The government’s ultra-nationalist, casteist, xenophobic and communal nature is now directly violating the secular, inclusive, egalitarian and just provisions of the constitution which defines how the country is supposed to be. The government is campaigning about building a temple on a disputed land and thus taking advantage of the religious nature of the people of the country while shifting the focus from the real issues and the issues that actually matter.
In a country like India, with over 9 major religions, if a political party in power has communal and supremacist ideology towards a particular religion or community, the effects can be and will be catastrophic. It can lead to civil unrest, communal riots, and whatnot. Recognize the communal and divisive politics in play here just to pit one group against another for their vote banks.
It’s time we realized and accepted the reality that we are all Indians and we all deserve equal rights. The cabinet of ministers, including the prime minister is avoiding being held accountable for what they say or do. The prime minister has not held a single press conference since coming to power. The education minister said that Darwin was wrong, the health minister himself said that cancer is the result of past sins.
The media’s role in a democracy is to keep people informed, it is to make people aware of the government’s policies and laws. However, it is now controlled by big corporates and capitalists who take sides with the government. Today, news channels and newspapers do propaganda for the government or to simply defame people on live TV, and spread fake and fabricated news about the government’s deeds. Thus, the government is coming in the way of free speech which is essential for the democracy to survive especially in a country like ours.
46 journalists have been killed and government action has been taken against 27 so far for simply criticizing the government’s policies. Activists, journalists, lawyers, economists, and dissenters of the government are being labelled “anti-nationals”, “urban naxals”, “urban Maoists” for not agreeing with the government’s policies, for practising their constitutional right of protesting. They are receiving death threats for practising their right of freedom of speech and expression publicly, and are being told to go to Pakistan if they are talking about ideas like secularism and equality.
I would request my readers to fact check everything I have said above. Everything you see on the internet, or as WhatsApp forwards should be verified before believing, this should not be an exception either. There are tons of other issues that can be discussed, but this article is not about that.
The Indian struggle for independence was a long, hard and apathetic battle fought by our brave freedom fighters, who believed in certain ideas instituted in our constitution. But that does not guarantee our continued freedom. Democratic rights and freedom requires constant effort in order to be sustained. You might be one of those people who favour the economic policies and other agendas of this government and there is nothing wrong in having your own opinion. I cannot turn you into a secular, egalitarian, liberal-minded person through this one article. But my appeal to you is, this: Stand up for your own rights, stand up for democracy, stand up and hold up the supremacy of the constitution, for it is in danger now.
The democratic nature of this nation is in danger now. The secular, inclusive and accepting nature of this country is under threat. You can be a narrow-minded, conservative, casteist person, but do not think for one second that the government cares about you just because it’s favouring your religion or your class of people at this moment, it’s exploiting YOU the most; it’s because of people like you who have the liberty of being politically unconscious because of your privileges that they are being successful with their agenda. Do not think for one second that if this country is deprived of its democratic spirit, it will be favourable for you, no matter how you are inclined politically or what your political views are.
Your democratic rights are at stake too, your freedom of expression is at stake too. It’s just a matter of time before the government implements a law or policy that puts you in a bad position. Your future, our future, the country’s future is at stake now. Good people of this country, this is what our nation has come to. It’s too late to sit idle and be experimental while electing the government and let politics take its own course. It’s high time to get out of our comfort zones and our seemingly blissful state of ignorance and indifference and get involved.
Place your opinions. Make yourself aware of your constitutional and fundamental rights. Make yourself aware of the policies of the government. Question the powers that be. Discuss politics with your friends, listen to one another, exchange opinions, form your own opinions. It’s all on us now. Without you, without us, the country is doomed. Without you, democracy is doomed. Do not let yourself be subject to propaganda, do not let your focus be sidetracked when the government tries to stir your nationalistic senses by creating a fake atmosphere of war, or by any other means.
Be a nationalist if you want to be, be a patriot if you want to be. But make sure your patriotism or nationalism is also stirred when the farmers of YOUR country are dying and when the women of YOUR country are getting raped. And finally, vote. Vote, not because it’s your right, but because it’s your responsibility as a citizen of this democratic nation. Great things have happened in this country, and do not have anyone make you believe that great things will never happen to this country again.