This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Saifi Ali. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Democracy In India Is Facing An “Existential Crisis”, These 6 Reasons Are To Blame

More from Saifi Ali

Right after independence, the path that was chosen by India to realize her destiny was a difficult one. For a nation with a humongous population with widespread illiteracy and poverty, democracy was nothing less than a mirage. Before this great experiment in the country of subcontinental size, democracy flourished only in the cocoons of rich nations of Europe and America. According to some western thinkers, certain prerequisites were required for the introduction of democracy in any country.

Jawaharlal Nehru delivering his tryst with destiny speech.

They included an educated population, absence of poverty, and vibrant democratic culture. Unsurprisingly, none of these conditions was available in our country. The colonial rule robbed us of our wealth and fortune. The reading of thinkers like J. S. Mill suggests that the oriental societies were barbaric and democracy was not meant for them. He placed India in this category.

The History Of Indian Democracy

When India decided to be a democracy there was an agreement across the world that this grand experiment would fail. The decision to grant universal adult franchise was termed as the “greatest gamble in the history“. Nowhere in the world was democracy introduced at such a large scale. It was a revolutionary moment for the country.

Amid all these suspicions, there was optimism on the side of Indians as the soul of a nation, long suppressed, was going to find utterance. In the words of our first Prime Minister Pt. Nehru, “Long years ago… we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially.” He further remarked, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

After almost 70 years of this experiment, history stands witness to the spectacular success of democracy in this land of great diversity and resilience. But this is also the time we should ask ourselves some tough questions. Has the pledge been redeemed? Why did the freedom promise remain unrealized for most of us at the bottom?

The experience of the last decade especially since 2014 has raised many questions on the functioning of democracy in India. The journey of democracy in India was like a roller-coaster ride but it managed to emerge stronger after every crisis. The most severe assault was of course during the era of emergency(1975-77). But the period of emergency, rather than breaking the neck of democracy, only deepened its roots and made the resolve to protect it stronger. Post – emergency period saw the emergence of a strong civil society and various social movements.

The next major challenge was the period of the 1990s. The country faced an economic crisis of an unprecedented scale. There was political instability without a stable government. Faced with immense pressure, democracy again demonstrated remarkable resilience. Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and the country witnessed one of the highest growth rates in the world. This helped normalize our relations with the west, uplifted the international stature, and gave strategic weight to India’s position.

But since 2014, the developments that have taken place in the country not only challenge democracy but also raise some serious questions about its viability and existence. Constitutional values like secularism, liberty, equality, justice, fraternity, etc are being challenged. Democratic norms and practices are blamed for being an obstruction in the road to development.

Senior bureaucrats and politicians are blamingtoo much democracy” for delayed development. In short, democracy today is not only challenged but facing an existential crisis. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we are living in a state of undeclared emergency. So, we must identify the major trends that pushed us to such a sorry state of affairs.

The rise of Hindutva as an ideology directly corresponds to the increase of polarization and hatred.

Why Are We In Such A Sorry State Of Affairs?

1. Shrinking Public Space – Public space is that part of a democratic society where different ideas compete, confront and converge. It acts as a zone of harmony. The success of any democracy can be measured by identifying the richness of this space. A well-represented, diverse, and inclusive public space is an indicator of a healthy and mature democracy.

The divisive agenda of the current government based on the ideology of Hindutva has done great harm to this invaluable democratic asset. The result is intense polarisation, mutual hatred, exclusive nationalism, etc.

2. Weakening Institutions –  Vibrant and functioning institutions are the bedrock of any democracy.  From RBI to Constitutional bodies like Election Commission, the credibility of institutions is being questioned. This is resulting in a loss of public trust.

3. Hijacking Of Parliament – Parliament which is the highest deliberative body of the country is getting diminished with each passing day. Once the temple of Indian democracy is now merely a rubber stamp to approve the executive’s agenda. Bills are pushed without parliamentary scrutiny. Increasing resort to ordinances even during normal times is a worrisome trend.

4. Turning Into A Police State – Political prisoners accused of crimes against the state are filling up jails which is again a dangerous signal to the rights of citizens. Activists, students, NGOs, etc are all facing the wrath of the government for speaking up freely. Draconian statutes like UAPA, NSA, 124A, etc are unleashed with full force to curb dissent.

5. Demonising Opposition – For the first time in the history of this country, the opposition is becoming so meaningless. An opposition -‘ Mukta(free)’ Bharat is a precursor to the fascist ambitions of the current government.

6. Electoral processes – With serious doubts raised over the impartiality and independence of the election commission, the future of democracy in India seems to be in a perilous state.

Problems From Colonial Rule

All the above-mentioned problems remind us of colonial rule. The only difference, it seems, is that the government committing these sins is elected by the very people of this country.

Democracy is not the private property of few rich people. It is a collective asset of all citizens. To blame others only is nothing less than turning back to our Constitutional and moral responsibility to protect it. ‘We The People’ will have to unite and punish those who are trying to subvert it. The democracy that we have today should not be taken for granted. Millions of fellow citizens sacrificed their lives for it.  The time is difficult and any resistance on our part would invite severe repression by those in power.

But great struggles demand great sufferings and sacrifice. I would like to conclude my article in the words of our great freedom fighter Bhagat Singh – “If you oppose a prevailing belief, if you criticize a great person who is considered to be an incarnation, you will find that your criticism will be answered by calling you vain and egoist.”  This is the time to remind the saboteurs of our freedom that governments will come and go but democracy is here to stay forever.

You must be to comment.

More from Saifi Ali

Similar Posts

By Ishmeet Kaur Mac

By Aayush R. Sinha

By Ayan Tanweer

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below