Freedom House report declaring India as partially democratic has caused uproar and unease in New Delhi’s power corridors. Charging up officers, bureaucrats, secretaries, and ministers taking a stand supporting the ideological merits and machinations of the ruling dispensation. In their obsession with locating the real culprit, are the self-styled western icons and liberals having a distaste for India’s diversity, ethnicity, and pluralism bringing disrepute to our rich cultural and civilizational consensus and character?
The arrest of Disha Ravi and other activists on trumped-up charges shows India’s movement towards autocracy.
But, is it so? Despite India supplying Covid vaccines to around seventy countries argued External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in India Today conclave. Challenging the might and majesty of the nationalist government? The point is, does Jaishankar’s ideas and opinions matter for eminent global bodies and institutions keeping a close eye on the current developments defiling our democracy?
For practical purposes, we are democratic as long as our leaders are organizing and mobilizing public views on vexed social and political issues- CAA, NRC, Article 370, etc but autocratic and authoritarian for exercising governance. Why is the government failing in its commitment to preserve and protect criticism and dissent considered as the safety valve of our democracy? Concerted attempts to blame the protests and movements to a foreign hand have been made unapologetically by the defenders of the right-wing ruling regime.
Disha Ravi, a twenty-one-year-old climate activist from Bengaluru was booked for stirring the farmer agitation in the capital through her tool kit leading to unfortunate scenes in the capital streets marked by hooliganism and vandalism on January 26th. Similarly, Gautam Navlakha and Sudha Bhardwaj were charged for conspiring against the Indian state for allegedly organizing and orchestrating violence in Bhima Koregaon in January 2018.
Comedian Munnawar Faruqi too came under the spotlight for ridiculing Hindu gods and goddesses on the sets of a television comedy show in Indore after a complaint was filed against him by a Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha functionary. In my assessment, nationalism and patriotism have become the arm and agency for muzzling and mishandling suspicion and cynicism on the part of individuals and institutions.
Loyalty and obedience to a coercive state apparatus are to be recognized and rewarded by assigning important portfolios and profiles in important bodies and structures. But at the cost of weakening and bulldozing the very existence and survival of India. I believe Indians are far more capable of being argumentative and accommodative to culture, community, race, and religion there is no denying the possibility but for the ‘netas(politicians)’ visualizing the rhetoric and not the reality in black and white. Remember, what Vajpayee said once “sarkaare aate jaati rahengi lekin desh rehna chahiye (governments will come and go but the country should remain)”. I ponder whether there are any takers for Vajpayee’s words today?