by Ravindra “Ravi”
translated from Hindi by Ashley Cohen
You can read the original article here.
Haven’t we always celebrated our democracy on an international level on our Republic Day? But look, our national democracy is barely keeping its head above water now… One has to ask, to what extent do we still even have a democracy worth celebrating in such a ceremonial fashion?
Friends/comrades, ever since the general election of 1952, democracy has been killed consistently and gradually, and in the twenties of the 21st century this murder has been clean and swift. For this murder, what have been weaponized are the profiteering of corporate houses, and the information ecosystem and the media, whether print, TV, or social media. Bootlicking has become the defining feature of Indian media. One way to illustrate the trust deficit in the Indian democracy is to recall a time when clothes were stitched by hand and then worn. These took a lot of hard work and the result was attractive. Gradually, machine-made garments took the place of khadi [homespun] clothes, and eventually entire attires were available ready-made, without the toil of weaving or the exertion of stitching. Anyway, when your pockets are full it’s very easy to procure your nice suit. In just this way, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call today’s democracy ready-made.
In independent India, the meaning of constitutional democracy was this: vote by vote, the public, following their convictions, invested thousands of hopes in their public representative, and this representative would, to gain the public’s trust and regard, have to do everything under the sun, and effect real development beyond empty slogans. It was such an honest public servant and deserving representative who could become the pride of the parliament.
By the time this web of illusions could be rendered naked before the public, today’s ready-made era had already begun. In these years we have seen the most loathsome form of the Indian democracy, an age of ready-made democracy. The foundation that has been erected on the corpse of our dead democracy is extremely worrying. Here there is neither the need for development nor even the necessity of showing someone else as inferior. The endorsement of the corporate houses, control over a large part of the media, and a few crores is all you need to get a ready-made public representative. We’ve already seen this in one form in Madhya Pradesh. Democracy suffered a lethal blow. Every possible means was used to suppress the constitutional right of ordinary citizens—the right to dissent. They were called enemies of the state, urban naxals, terrorists, and Khalistanis. These various titles were awarded in an effort to suppress strikes, demonstrations, and movements, the likes of which have never even been dreamed of in independent India. There is no doubt that government agencies right up to the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and ED (Enforcement Directorate) have been misused for this purpose. Fortunately, despite all this, in Rajasthan the powers opposing democracy have certainly been defeated.
In order to distract the general public’s attention from the real issues, new bogeymen/phantasms are fabricated all the time: sometimes the film industry, and sometimes Pakistan are attacked, sometimes Hindu nationalism is propped up, and sometimes the freedom of the press is placed under assault. But in the midst of all this one thing has gotten lost and that is the value of the vote, which today has already become zero now that voting has become and continues to be a mere selfie event. Because now your vote can we choose our representative based on our inclination. But there is no assurance for how long the representative will remain in the current political party. On the other side, the constitution’s secular character’s spine is being broken. The idea of a total Hindu Rashtra is causing schisms in our organized society. And all this at a time when humanity itself is facing an existential crisis, where even our ability to merely go on living is at stake.
In times like this only the public can push beyond polarization and bring Indian democracy back to its best health. Raise your voices. Where you glimpse injustice, oppose it passionately and nonviolently. The people’s voice can be stifled for a little while, but it’s impossible to stem the flood of ideas. After all, no movement can swell like ours has without a foundation in the people of India.