“Democracy is not just an election, it is our daily life.”
Democracy- of the people, by the people, and for the people. But is it really true in the Indian context? A recent blow to the fourth pillar of democracy would suggest otherwise. The Ministry of Electronics and IT amended the Information and Technology Act, 2000. Union Law & IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on February 25, announced the new guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code, which will supersede the 2011 guidelines for internet intermediaries.
Ravi Shankar talks about an alleged “double standard” as the reason for destroying media freedom.
Mr. Prasad earlier raised the concerns to issue these norms, after the Red Fort incident on January 26, 2021. “There should not be double standards. If an attack is there at Capitol Hill (US Congress), then social media supports police action. But if there is an aggressive attack at Red Fort, the symbol of India’s freedom where the Prime Minister hoists the national flag, you have double standards. This is plainly unacceptable,” Mr. Prasad commented while announcing the new rules.
The ministry proposed that from now on digital news organizations, social media platforms, and OTT streaming services will be regulated by the government and that the rules will offer an “overarching architecture” for the media companies to follow. But to think rationally should this be the reason to change the media rules? There are various other concerns, cybercrime, bullying, and whatnot but the major reason Mr. Prasad addressed was the Red Fort incident. Whatever happened on January 26, was not acceptable at all but should our ministers just focus on this issue while addressing a press release?
Mr. Prasad said that the rules are a “soft-touch oversight mechanism”, whereas Udbhav Tiwari, Public Policy Advisor at Mozilla opined, “These rules will harm end to end encryption, substantially increase surveillance, promote automated filtering and prompt a fragmentation of Internet that would harm users while failing to empower Indians”. The government might shift from “soft-touch” to “hard-touch oversight mechanism”, and we might witness the revolution, which we read about in 1984.
“One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
Mr. Tiwari also stated that the “ripple effects of these provisions will have a devastating impact on freedom of expression, privacy, and security.” According to the new rules, if asked by the court or government, the social media platforms will have to disclose the identity of the content originator. This will breach end-to-end encryption protocol and thereby weaken the overall security system.
A major event that doddered the political democracy of India was the abrogation of Article 370, which ended the special status of Jammu & Kashmir in the Indian Constitution. The President of India, on August 5, 2019, promulgated the Constitution Order, 2019, which superseded the Constitution Order, 1954. Also, the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019, was introduced to bifurcate the State into two separate union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. This step affected the internal politics of the country as Kashmir has always been a sensitive matter to deal with.
The government promised a new order and a path to paradise but what the residents got was the opposite. Strict restrictions were imposed on the residents of the area and they were not allowed any connectivity facilities for more than 50 days. After almost two months, the post-paid services were resumed in Kashmir after imposing security and communications lockdown. What kind of democracy is this? Even after a year of the abrogation of Article 370, a two-day curfew was imposed across the Kashmir Valley. The government claimed that this would be a significant step for the people of Kashmir but then why all the restrictions and lockdowns?
The imposition of CAA and NRC is another example of the abrogation of democracy. In Assam, almost 2 million people were asked to prove their citizenship. The protesters gathered all over the country and many of them were even booked under the amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act as a means of punishment for holding protests against CAA and NRC.
The protesters even claimed that the politicians were openly advocating violence against the peaceful protesters. So now we have even lost the right to peaceful protests. A similar situation is with the protesting farmers against the three farm laws.
Indian democracy has its power from the people of India but its pillars have now started to tremble. But recently the people have been outspoken about the operation and working of Indian democracy.
Our first pillar, the legislature, has been shaken with a sudden introduction of acts like CAA and Farm Laws. The second pillar of our democracy, the Executive, is endowed to implement the acts passed by the government but the executives are under the influence of the ministers and thereby don’t make rational decisions. The third pillar- the Judiciary, the judicial system of India surely has a broken leg with a delay in the judgments. Speaking of the judiciary, how can we forget about the Chief Justice of India who headed the bench in his own case of alleged sexual harassment? This is the situation of the judicial system in India. Fourth, of course, the media has now been under the ‘overarching architecture of the government.
Therefore, the above deliberation vividly depicts the loopholes of the Indian democracy and the problems that the Indians are facing currently are because of the improper functioning of the four pillars of our democratic system. So do you think with all of this happening so frequently, India is a true democracy today?