Abhigyan Kumar

Defining Democracy

Most Indians have lost the correct definition of democracy. A country cannot be called democratic only if it conducts elections. Even China conducts regular elections, but we refuse to call it a democracy. Ever wondered why? Elections might be a core idea of democracy but democracy’s meaning expands more than the perception of a common man.    

What democracy means?

Democracy means more than just elections. In a democratic country, it should be ensured that free and fair elections are conducted and each political party is being provided equal opportunities. Additionally, it must be ensured that a “majority rule” is not established after the elections are over. Here a majority rule, as I explain it, is a situation when the ruling political party disregards the opposition, and considers that it has legal rights to do whatever it wants. A The Tribune article reports that several Indians believe democracy means a majority rule. This is a very wrong approach to understand democracies. It has been several times observed that the speaker of the Parliament’s lower house or Lok Sabha repeatedly asking opposition leaders to sit down and handover their chance to others, sometimes due to lack of time or sometimes for no reason at all. This generally happens because the speaker of the lower house is by convention a part of the ruling party.

In a democracy, people should elect the authority or the person who in future will be accountable for all major decisions. This is a key feature of democracies since the Government is held accountable for any unfortunate event caused due it’s policies or actions. This idea might seem very basic, but we can see how this simple idea has been violated in countries such as China and Pakistan under military coup, although they conduct elections.

One person, one vote, one value is an important aspect to build a withstanding democracy. Each person, no matter what their social or economic backgrounds are, with no discrimination shall be allowed to vote. Moreover, each person’s vote’s value must be equal. For example, a country where the black’s one vote’s value is one and white’s one vote’s value is two shall not be considered a democracy. For example, in Fiji the electoral system was constructed such that the value of an indigenous Fiji is more than the value of an Indian-Fijian. This creates an issue as the interests of the Indian-Fijian community are not reflected in elections, thus the Government would not only not show interest in the welfare of the Indian-Fijian community but might also bully them by drafting certain laws and policies. This is discrimination on the basis of race and thus, undemocratic. Also, in Saudi Arabia women were not allowed to vote until 2015. This was discrimination on the basis of gender. Saudi Arabia, however, cannot be called democratic for several other reasons as it is led by a monarchy and is also considered as the seventh most authoritarian regime by The Intelligence Unit and The Economic Times’s World Democracy Index.

The Government in a democratic nation should rule within the limits of the Constitution. Recent actions of the Government of India such as the Citizenship Amendment Act has been considered unconstitutional by several people as it’s possible implementations have been accused of violating right to equality, a core part of the Constitution of India inscribed from article fourteen to eighteen.

Criticism should be welcomed in a democracy. It has been several times in India itself, suppression of criticism against the ruling party has been observed. This is not only limited to protests but also online content such as movies, TV shows and even tweets. Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”¹. Recently the Government of India requested Twitter, Inc. to withheld around fifty tweets. Most of them criticized the Government of India and the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the mismanagement of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The exact number of tweets is unidentified as neither the Government nor Twitter has made any press statements on the incidence.  

Exploring Mexico

Mexico is a wonderful country, below the United States of America on map. However, the country experienced something which can be sensed today in our own country as well. We first explore Mexico’s situation to assess how bad it is and if India is in it’s path.

Mexico gained independence in 1930. Mexico holds elections every six years for choosing their president. Since 2000, only one political party namely the Institutional Revolutionary Part or simply the PRI has won every election. This gives a sense that people consider the party very good and suitable for them. Actually they do, but this is just because majority of the people have been psychologically transformed into believing that PRI is the best. Newspapers’ editors and news channels’ anchors are regularly bribed to show PRI’s propaganda and news in favor of them. The media also criticizes the opposition all day. Bureaucrats’ were called for almost all meetings dominated by members of PRI so that their minds may get programmed to work as they say. To make last minute victories the party repeatedly moves polling booths which creates confusion. This confusion causes the voter to feel lazy and thus sometimes not even going to vote. The PRI also spends lots of money in campaigning and political rallies. Huge rallies help make a “heroic” feeling between people for the party’s candidate in the presidency. Even teachers at Government schools advice parents to vote for PRI. This technique has been used by previous dictators such as Adolf Hitler to win elections and then bring dictatorship, but hopefully Mexico has never been under dictator rule. We do not know the future of Mexico as the PRI, being in high majority in the parliament can even pass unconstitutional laws and there won’t be anyone to go against them as they have practice other dirty tricks, such as targeted harassment, death threats and trolling, to suppress critics. The dirty mind games played by PRI is remarkable but indeed a tragic step to develop a good sustaining democracy.  

What about India?

Unfortunately, suppression of criticism has been observed in India also. The current ruling party has earned lots of seats in the lower house without even any coalition. The party also spends lots of money on advertising and political rallies. Approval of laws such as the Citizenship Amendment Act and amendments to the Information & Technology Act show how the minority and freedom of speech — both online and offline — is being suppressed. According to the Intelligence Unit, India’s Democracy Index has been falling since the last few years. Also, India has been tagged as a “flawed democracy” by The Economic Times. Biased news channels are several times reported and critical films and TV shows are censored. Along with this, new regulations for OTT platforms contribute to a cut in our freedom of speech as more and more platforms are coming under the control of the Government. V-Dem institute did not fear to call India an “electoral autocracy”. These unfortunate events show that our country is in danger. Please note that this is my opinion and there are high chances that your ideas may contradict with mine, and that is totally fine. We just hope that our country sustains a strong democracy.

- 14 toasts