Litmus test for India

By Karun Lama

All must be familiar with the most favorable form of political ideology called ‘Democracy’, which prevails in most of the countries in modern times. Since its inception in ancient Greece hundreds of years ago, it has continued to exist in this modern era although a lot has changed in its modern variation.
Democracy, being the only political ideal whose 2,500 years was celebrated enthusiastically all over the world in 1992, emerged in its modern form again in the West in the aftermath of the Civil War in Britain in the 17th century. With the industrial and political revolutions in the 18th century, countries like France and America embraced this form of governance.
In the aftermath of World War I, in order to bring peace and prevent war further, world leaders like Woodrow Wilson and Winston Churchill started promoting democratic ideals across the globe. Unfortunately, with the rise of Fascism and Nazism, the world saw the inhumane period in Europe in 1939 that further spread in other major countries of the world.
India, then being a British colony, also had to participate in the war. Finally after two years, it got independence from the British and eventually, emerged as a democratic and republic country. As such, the period of decolonisation saw many new nations in Asia and Africa gaining independence. But not every country emerged with the ideals of democracy.

A free democracy

With India’s independence, our leaders of the freedom struggle envisaged an idea of inclusive India — a country for all, irrespective of faith, caste, creed, class, etc. and penned down a Constitution incorporating the best features of the constitutions of over 30 countries. Though many had then opined that the Indian democracy wouldn’t survive for long because of the diverse populace in the country, today, even after 70 years, India proudly boasts of being the largest democracy in the world.
India has stood united, setting a new synonym for ‘unity-in-diversity’. For this, it is never enough to applause our freedom struggle personalities and many unsung men and women of different faith, caste and creed.

In a new global order

Post-independence, the first prime-ministership under Pt Jawaharlal Nehru impeccably paved India towards a successful democracy creating a new global order. Nehru’s domestic and foreign policies had indeed given India a significant status in the world view. Perhaps, these were what that sustained India’s democracy unlike in other countries like Pakistan or Sri Lanka wherein a very short period, democracy saw its worst form resulting in coups many a time in the recent past.

Litmus tests

However, India’s democracy has also undergone dark phases in the past decades. For instance, Democratic India, during Indira Gandhi’s regime, saw great heights of clashes between the executive and the judiciary. Many of the laws and amendments brought by the Indira Gandhi legislature then sought in aiming certain political interests through the arbitrary use of power. Judicial interventions, time and again, saved and strengthened the democratic and constitutional fabric of the nation.
Landmark cases such as The Golak Nath (1967), Bank Nationalization (1970), Privy Purses (1970), Kesavananda Bharati (1973), etc. are to name a few. Notwithstanding, the emergency years marked various unfavorable instances and unfortunate sufferings across the country which had certainly left indelible scars in the political history of India.
Thus, as witnessed, a major drawback in a democracy may occur when a single majority party comes in power; the Cabinet gets the power to bring any law or regulation which many a time, may not coincide with the aspirations ofown people. However, it’s fortunate that the judiciary had time and again proved to be the protector and interpreter of the constitution and the guardian of its people.
The present Modi’s regime formed by a thumping majority has indeed created a similar kind of scenario unfavorable to India’s polity. At a time when the country’s economy is suffering regressive slowdown, the degrading indices in health, poverty and hunger, education, employment, etc. of the nation, legislations such as a religion based citizenship law, nationwide NRC have been creating many hues and cry amongst its common masses in general and the minorities in particular.
All this certainly undermines the spirit of our democratic values. This religious parameter being used by the legislators for the first time has indeed induced a threat in India’s secularism. That apart, Assam accord being violated, how the way the supreme guardian would take care of its indigenous people is in much anticipation.
With the rise in the political ideology of Hindutva across the nation, how long India’s constitution and democratic values sustain remains doubtful. As of now, it is high time the judiciary and the media, being the other pillars of democracy, to execute their independent and unbiased stand.

(The author can be contacted at [email protected])

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