This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Iamge Credit: Satdeep Gill
by Bhanwar Meghwanshi
Today, India’s democracy is going through an unprecedented crisis, where doubts about India’s survival as a democracy do not seem unfounded. This feeling is rooted in the fact that those who are at the helm of power today have never relied on democracy and the constitution. They have emerged from an ideology where a fascination with authoritarianism is well known.
Lakhs of farmers have been on the roads in India for almost two months, they are in protest against the government’s three agricultural laws and are demanding the withdrawal of these laws. So far, 131 people have been killed during this movement. Some people, suffering from the apathy caused by the government, committed suicide, but the attitude of the Modi government at the Center remains insensitive. Unheard voices are also expected to be heard in a democracy, but the voices of farmers are deliberately ignored. Talks are being staged, the negotiating tables are set up, so far ten rounds of talks have also happened, but nothing has been achieved yet. The reason is that a democratically elected government’s ego is at stake. The Agriculture Minister has said time and again that he is ready to change the laws but will not withdraw them. Is there any justification for this anti-people attitude of a democratically elected government?
The peasant movement is today’s truth and a hallmark of India’s reality, but this government has taken even more undemocratic steps in the name of reforming labor laws. Laborers have been handed over to corporations and the role of trade unions has been further diminished. Now the farmers are on target. While they are fighting vigorously, the ministers in the government are busy spreading misinformation by dubbing this peaceful nonviolent movement as Khalistani and traitorous. The Manuwadi media serves as the biggest platform for this propaganda.
Voices of dissent are being brutally crushed in the country. People who are opposing anti-people policies and programs are being charged with treason under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). A made-up theory of “Urban Naxals” is being used to target well-known social activists and dozens of people have been imprisoned and are being treated in an inhumane manner in jails. The situation is so bad that anyone who is raising a voice in protest is being trapped in some way or the other. Government investigation agencies (ED, CBI, NIA, etc.) are unleashed upon them.
It is difficult to account for the misuse of institutions by this government. The authors of our Constitution had envisaged autonomy of the executive, the judiciary, the legislature, and the press to keep democracy afloat. Although the press is the self-proclaimed fourth pillar, this government has leashed it into submission. After the recently leaked WhatsApp chat between Republic TV’s screaming nationalist journalist Arnab Goswami and BARC director Partho Dasgupta, it has become obvious how a nexus of government and media can become a threat to democracy.
The public has high hopes from the judiciary, but the manner in which Justice Loya was assassinated and the suckling to power by judges mired in allegations of corruption and sexual harassment has made the impartiality and independence of the judiciary a thing of the past. In the meantime, the unilateral verdict given on the Babri Masjid/Ram temple case during this time has undermined people’s expectation of justice.
Recently the Supreme Court appointed a committee of four people without anyone asking for a committee. The members of this committee have earlier declared support for the agricultural laws, bringing in question their impartiality. This erosion of the judiciary is taking Indian democracy in the direction of decline.
The ideological and doctrinal masters of the ruling party are remote controlling this process from the Resham Bagh in Nagpur. The country is being pushed toward Manuwad in a very systematic way. The new education policy can be called a vicious move to present the Varna system in a new way. The way prominent educational institutions have been attacked has thrown the entire system of education into anarchy. Where the RSS can take over institutions, Sanghi swayamsevaks are placed all the way from Assistant Professor up to Vice Chancellors. Where immediate occupation is not possible, an open war has been waged against those institutions. Attacks by police and goons on JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia are irrefutable evidence.
Any group in a democracy, no matter how small it may be, must be heard. But the people who had been agitating for months against the apprehensions arising from the CAA and NRC were not only refused any hearing, but under the guise of the pandemic this movement was suppressed. Just as the Shaheen Bagh movement was neglected, maligned, and eventually crushed, a similar conspiracy is being hatched against the peasant movement.
The government is running away from its responsibility by privatizing what is in the public sector, while curtailing the personal freedom of citizens, and is unnecessarily interfering in their private issues. The government and its protected militia now decides what people will eat, what they will wear, and who they will love. Who will marry whom is a matter of two adults, but the federal institutions and governments have also made it a public issue. Laws have been passed, adults are sent to jail for the crime of marrying of their own will and spending their lives their own way. Even more terrible is that all these laws that take away civil rights are targeting people of the minority community only. Incidents of lynching are increasing in the name of cows, and under the ruse of love jihad.
Under the protection of this government, campaigns of intimidation and hatred are in full swing. Chaotic crowds of raging Hindus are attacking Muslim shrines at various places in Madhya Pradesh and saffron flags are hoisted at these shrines in the presence of the police. The atmosphere is becoming very explosive.
Dr. Ambedkar tabled a draft of the Indian Constitution to the Constituent Assembly on 25 November 1949, warning that we are entering a stage of contradictions, where all will be considered equal in the eyes of the State, but the country will be rife with social and economic inequality. If such inequalities continue, the existence of democracy will be in danger. He also said: no matter how good the constitution is, if the people who implement it will be bad, then the constitution will also prove to be bad. In another interview, he had clearly said that Democracy in India is just the top soil, and due to the lack of an underlying social democracy, this democratic system will be destroyed.
Today we clearly see that our society is still undemocratic. It is governed by the Manusmriti. We are talking about the Constitution and the glory of democracy, but it is just a failed attempt to cover the trash of undemocratic Brahminism with a democratic rug. Manu‘s legislation is being implemented every day and the constitution is being weakened. If it continues like this, the sheer veil of democracy that we have covered ourselves with, will soon be rent.
The totalitarian power that is ruling in Delhi and in various states does not even need democracy. They emanate fascist power and want to militarize the country and society and make everyone bow to the baton of Manusmriti. It is not a question of opposing a particular party: on India’s 72nd Republic Day, it is a time to save the democratic character of the country. Everyone will have to unite.