India seems to have become a leading democracy in the world.
No, not according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index, which states that India slipped 10 positions to 51st position in Democracy Index rankings. Not even according to the Global Press Freedom Index, where India ranks 142 out of 180 countries.
Not even according to the draconian law passed in the parliament last year, which compartmentalized and threatened on the basis of religion and not the place they live in. And yes! Definitely not according to people from historically marginalised castes for whom this nation is no less than a ‘playground for the exclusive’
It was the migrants who were the first to be segregated from our urban settings so that affluent and rich class couldn’t catch the rampant virus that shook the world. It was women who were locked inside the patriarchal pools of this so-called civilised society. While living in an urban setting and while the human civilisation has advanced by decades and centuries, you might have forgotten that there are people around you, very close to you, who are being thrashed and beaten to death just because of their identity.
I came across news of a Dalit man, in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district, being beaten to death. His crime? Belonging to a Dalit community? No! His crime was that our nation was ‘way too democratic’. Our nation was way too kind and generous to some elites, and our social structure supports this feeling of dominance among these individuals. Our nation is way too generous to our corporates for whom it’s merely a matter of some phone calls or a strong political connection, and that business tycoon can expand their business way beyond the social or environmental norms.
So, when the CEO of NITI Ayog (Mr Amitabh Kant) labelled India as “too much of a democracy,” I wonder, democratic for whom? It may be for the ‘elites’, maybe it is for people from the so-called upper caste communities, maybe it is for the politicians or it may be for the oppressive ‘demagogues’ who aim to divide people on the basis of caste and religion, and while doing so move away from being scrutinised for the same.
While we live in this amazing and funny democracy, Mr Kant supported his statement by saying that “tough reforms are difficult in the Indian context”. I wonder, if by ‘tough reforms’ he means to say demonetisation, then we really never had any opposition for that disaster which shook the Indian economy. Even after such monumental chaos, the ruling party won a heavy majority in the then-Uttar Pradesh state elections. Even after the monumental tax reforms like the GST, which affected the functioning of small business owners and increased debt for the state governments, the Modi government returned to power with an even stronger mandate.
While the second term of NDA saw even greater policy oscillations, like the introduction of the draft Environmental Impact Assessment, which is expected to weaken the environmental lobby against the corporate lobby which didn’t instigate enough uproar, and the CAA-NRC protest which was shadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Kant found “tough reforms are difficult in the Indian context.” His theory about ‘political intolerance’ is funny enough as the Farm Ordinances, that were passed during the monsoon session, couldn’t stop BJP from being the second most popular party in the recent Bihar elections.
But, at the same time, we have farmers from Punjab and Haryana protesting against the ruling government and were greeted with water cannons, tear gas, and trenches. So, if Mr Amitabh Kant considers India to be “too democratic“, I would like to interpret it to be ‘highly democratic only for certain elites and upper-caste capitalists or crony demagogues’. And yes! If that is the case, we definitely need to make India less generous to these ‘exclusives’ and make it more democratic for oppressed communities and the young people who are a testimony to our democratic evolution.