India might not be many things, but one thing we certainly are is that we are democratic. Something I believe we should all be proud of.
The benefits of living in a democratic country is this — the government can’t decide and do something without prior approval and support from the people.
For eg., recently Amit Shah mentioned in a speech of his that Hindi should be made compulsory throughout India, so that people can unite under one language. This he merely mentioned as part of his speech that covered various other topics, but that particular aspect of his speech alarmed non-Hindi speaking society and received widespread criticism and backlash from political parties and the general public. If India was ruled by an authoritarian regime like in China, laws would have been passed making it mandatory for all educational institutes to teach Hindi and make students converse in Hindi with each other. However, that wasn’t the case here.
But there have been instances when certain policies a government that was elected through the peoples mandate can pass without prior notice and without support from other elected officials, like the recent revoking of Article 370 in J&K. By implementing widespread curfew across the Valley and incarcerating influential leaders, the government didn’t allow the people nor the political establishments to voice their opinion on their decision. This is a blatant disregard for democratic values and principles. One that might be akin to the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in the mid 70s.
I am a reticent, shy, silent and often suffer from social anxiety when dealing with other people. I am not comfortable in a setting with more than 2 people. As Richard Ayaode once said “When it comes to people, my default position is NO”. Despite this fact, I am all for people power. I believe that people might be often times bad or difficult to process individually, but as a whole, they are not as bad. In fact, people collectively are capable of doing good things, more often than not. They tend to act unselfishly and for the greater good. Revolutions that are spearheaded by the common people like the one ongoing in Hong Kong and the mildly successful Arab Spring were started because the people believed that their freedom and livelihood were slipping out of their hands and they wanted to take back control.
That’s why I am all for democracy. I am all for people power. When an employer or a government or a religious leader goes about unquestioned and thinks he is answerable to no one, the trouble starts. Individual liberty is compromised and greater harm becomes a possibility.
In order to have a strong democracy, we need strong opposition. In the US and in the UK, there is a palpable discontent in the way things are going on right now. Especially on their leaders. Both Trump and Johnson didn’t win the majority of people’s mandate, yet they occupy the most powerful positions in the world. Although as disheartening as this scenario is, we can clearly see that the opposition in both the countries is strong enough to keep them in check. Every move of theirs is scrutinised and questioned. Sometimes even legal discourse is pursued.
Sadly, this isn’t the case in the largest democracy of the world, India.
The ruling party has become so powerful that they have literally annihilated the opposition parties. In the recent election, they won an overwhelming mandate, leaving no room for opposition voices to be heard in the parliament and in the public discourse.
In one hand, there are positives to this. Decisions can be taken without any delay. Bills can be passed in the parliament without bickering. However, as there is little or no opposition, too much power can be vested in the hands of the ruling party, which is no way conducive in a democratic setting.
There needs to be balance. There needs to be due diligence of every decision the government makes. Unfortunately, this is no more the case in India.
Come 2024, things should change. Balance has to be restored one way or another.
Until then, I urge the opposition and the people to keep voicing their opinions if they find a decision made by the government is unreasonable and can do more harm than good.