Prof. Prasanna Kumar with President Abdul Kalam
The latest issue of the Bulletin of the Centre for Policy Studies, Visakhapatnam, dated 02 August 2022, carries an editorial which is apt, responsible, objective, bold and farsighted. Written by Prof. A. Prasanna Kumar, editor of the respected publication, the editorial says in its caption that the image of Indian democracy has been dented. He reminds this generation of Nehru’s historic and most inspiring speech ‘Tryst with Destiny’ at the time India became free. The rating to Indian democracy given by Freedom House, and the place where India stands in the table of countries on corruption as judged by the Transparency International have been mentioned without mincing words. He bluntly quotes, “Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has presided over discriminatory policies and increased violence affecting the Muslim population.” It requires guts. Saluting the learned professor for his courage of conviction and the forthright and frank piece, we herewith produce the editorial in its full form for the benefit of our readers:
Dented Image of Indian Democracy
In less than two weeks, India will celebrate its 75th anniversary of Independence day with Narendra Modi delivering his ninth address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort as the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy. It is a historic occasion that conjures up memories of the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s stirring Tryst with Destiny midnight speech in which he proclaimed the goal of the liberated people of India and the path for them to follow: ‘It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.’ India’s foreign policy goal of promoting good relations with all nations and cordial relations with neighbours earned for the nation the trust and goodwill of both big and small nations across the globe. Among those who commended India’s role were Nobel Laureates, scientists and philosophers such as Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and Arnold Toynbee. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, both the superpowers held frequent consultations with Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister for advice and help in easing tension between them. India is no longer the prominent role player and trouble shooter it once was in world affairs.
According to the Washington based Freedom House, the global watchdog of human rights and civil liberties, India’s ranking as a democratic nation declined from free to Partly Free. ‘While India is a multiparty democracy, the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has presided over discriminatory policies and increased violence affecting the Muslim population. The constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other government critics has increased significantly under Modi. Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis) remain economically and socially marginalized,’ said the Freedom House report.
Intolerance of dissent and criticism and arbitrary arrests and harassment of those who write or speak adversely about the Narendra Modi led BJP government bear testimony to the increasing authoritarianism of the ruling class. This trend has unfortunately spread among the 29 states of the Unionin which the Chief Ministers feel like France’s Grand Monarch Louis IV who said: “I am the State” and the more arrogant utterance of his successor Louis VI “My words are Law” was repeated by the Chief Minister of a state in India not long ago. The gap between rhetoric and reality keeps widening always in politics. When he assumed charge as the head of the BJP led government ten years ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to eliminate corruption in the government and create opportunities for employment to alleviate the suffering of millions of frustrated young men and women. Corruption has not been eliminated and India is ranked 86 on the scale of corruption among the 180 countries indexed by the Transparency International. Noted historian and author Ramachandra Guha said that India is ‘election- only democracy.’ What India needs today is the elimination of the dominance of the fundamentalist forces at all levels that use caste, religion and faction to oppress the minorities and disadvantaged section of the society and the restoration of freedom from fear and insecurity. Creating a climate of peace and harmony, reducing inequalities between the haves and have-nots and access to all for equal opportunities pave the way for good governance which is too nuanced a process to be left entirely to the politicians. The legislatures, including Parliament of India have let down the people while the executive has failed to fulfil the promises made to the people at the time of elections. Nor has the judiciary inspired much public confidence in its role as the custodian of the rights and liberties of the billion plus people. Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh aptly said that ‘judicial overreach’ was due to ‘executive under reach.’ On August 15, 2022 will begin the platinum jubilee celebrations featuring the nation’s completion of 75 years of India’s independence and also the 150th birth anniversary of the great seer Sri Aurobindo!