Friday, January 28, 2022

News Destination For The Global Indian Community

News Destination For The Global Indian Community

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British Raj to Modi Raj

British Raj to Modi Raj

The Indian Democracy (Dichotomy of Hindu-Muslims): From Victorian England to Modi Raj

Abstract:

The world in the 20th century broke the chain of colonisation and slavery and has seen the rise of Democracy as the new rule of law. India which was a single nation till the evening of 14th august 1947, was eventually carved out into three separate nation-states in form of India, Pakistan, and later Bangladesh.  We attempt to analyse the adoption of democracy as the rule of law in the Indian subcontinent. This article traces the development of the democracy in India from the ashes of the partition to be the world’s largest democracy. The beginning of the third decade of the 21st century is marked by the devastating second wave of the coronavirus in India. India being the world’s largest functioning democracy has seen the people waiting outside the crematorium with the bodies of their loved ones to lay them on the pyres and on the other hand it saw the election campaigns and the elections in the coastal state of West Bengal. This raises some serious questions about the functioning of democracy in India. This paper attempts to analyse and understand the Indian democracy from being a demand from the colonial masters to being the world’s largest democracy with a crippling public sector and poor performance in the various development indexes. Thus, this article will help the readers to understand that the Indian democracy is just a simple flawed version of the democracy borrowed from Victorian England or it is just a myth.

Introduction:

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy” -Abraham Lincoln 

The 20th century globally was a century of establishment and enrichment of democratic politics. The world has seen two devastating world wars along with the rapid colonisation of the countries of Asia and Africa. The second world war ended with the defeat of Axis powers and the allied power emerged as the winner. It doesn’t mean that the axis powers like England and France got a better hold of the world after winning the war. The war cost the colonial powers very heavily which in turn was a burden on the countries being colonised by them. Britain at the end of the war with a struggling economy and was facing strong opposition from the Indians. The common Indian population being colonised by the Britishers from the last 200 years and by the Moghuls before the Britishers, wasn’t aware of the modern concept of Democracy and Rights. The land was ruled by the Kings and it was not a single and unified nation-state though it experienced some kind of unity during the reign of Mauryas and Moghuls in the past. The establishment of modern democracy required that the people must understand the essence of the demography.

                The expanding English educated middle class formed the ground for the emergence of the modern democracy with rights. The introduction of the modern education system helped in the assimilation of modern ideas. Those who visited England for higher studies and for other liberal professions like doctors, Lawyers experienced and saw the working of free and modern democratic institutions which they compared to British India where even the basic rights were denied to the population. It was the section of the population that provided leadership to the different political associations in the national movement. The study of western political thought which included the radical and liberal thought of philosophers like J.S. Mill, Voltaire, Rousseau , Spencer etc. provided a new shape to political thinking and awakening to the emerging educated middle class. It was the time when the spread of modern education and modern ideas led to the awakening in the Indian population about their basic rights and freedom. It further led to the preparation of the ground for the freedom movement. The land which was ruled by the kings over the years was preparing its ground for the age of democracy. India got independent on the 15th of August 1947 after a long-fought struggle for freedom but the independence came along at the cost of bloodshed and partition. India adopted the Westminster model with borrowed features from several constitutions of the world. India began its journey with the promise of being a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic that will believe in equal rights and justice for everyone.

The Transformation: From Riyasats to a Democracy (to put federal system)

“There are many in the West, and some in India too, who consider India an artificial construct. The British colonial administrator John Strachey declared in 1888: The first and most important thing to learn about India is that there is not and never was an India.” 

The transition from a former colony to a newborn democracy was not so smooth. The different constituent units of the Indian Union which were called Riyasats earlier had a different ruler and these different rulers had their own aspirations and hereditary rule over their Riyasats. It was a difficult task to appeal to the patriotic feelings of the rulers to join the Indian dominion. Sardar Patel in charge of the state’s ministry in the interim cabinet played a pivotal role in the integration of these states into the union of India and due to his efforts about 136 states had joined the Indian union by 15th august,1947. It was a crucial task as the constitution-makers knew that regionalism was going to be a big challenge in front of the unity of the newly born nation. The states of Junagarh, Hyderabad, and Kashmir posed a threat to the process but somehow it was managed by the Indian forces in Hyderabad and Kashmir and the plebiscite in Junagarh. The dream of the Indian nationalist to see India as a democratic nation-state was going to turn into reality with the adoption of the constitution on 26th November,1950 and with the first general elections in 1951. The Indian constitution in its article 324 has made the Election commission an independent and permanent body to ensure free and fair elections in the country. The first major task in front of the election commission was to conduct elections for the very first time and it became more difficult due to the level of illiteracy among the voters. Independent and regular elections are the very first and basic need of a successful democracy but in the first general elections, the election commission had a major task of making the population aware of democracy and the importance of elections in a democracy. The election commission played a pivotal role in the very establishment of democracy in independent India. Indian National Congress (INC) had won the elections with 364 seats out of 489 seats. The essential takeaway from the election was the successful and peaceful conduct of the elections by the election commission in the aftermath of the partition. On the eve of the elections, Sukumar Sen called them "the greatest democratic experiment in human history." ‘A very significant majority [will] exercise votes for the first time: not many know what the vote is, why they should vote, and whom they should vote for; no wonder the whole adventure is classified as the biggest gamble in history,' said a seasoned Madras editor.

Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic. - Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

With the successful conduct of the first general elections in 1951, the Indian democracy geared up for its future endeavors. Most of the historians, constitutional experts and commentators predicted that Indian democracy wouldn’t survive for long and they were quite optimistic about their claims as a country with such vast geography and population with different ethnicities, religions and cultures came together to form a secular democratic republic. There were different fears and one of the biggest fear was the tyranny of the majority over the minority in the aftermath of the partition. The differences between the communities were large and the bloodshed made it more difficult for the leaders to lead a country different from what the Pakistan sympathisers imagined for their land. Sixteen years before the independence during a temping respite from civil disobedience the nation’s leaders decided to make public their dream of what they would do for the country’s good when at last it was free. This was laid out in the fundamental resolution, which was drafted by Jawahar Lal Nehru and moved by Mahatma Gandhi at the Karachi session of the congress from March 26 to 29 in 1931[5]. It promised universal suffrage, civil liberty, the abolition of caste disabilities in the public sphere, the state’s neutrality in respect of religion, protection of labour rights, including special rights for women, reduction of land tax, and finally the state’s ownership and control of key industries and services. The resolution on fundamental rights was a milestone to achieve for a country enslaved by the chain of colonialism, casteism, untouchability, illiteracy. The pragmatism and belief the leaders of the Indian freedom movement showed were going to be the basis of the independent and democratic India. But the big question ahead was that a country which has such vast geography where every subpart has its own struggle, culture, ethnicity, will even be able to survive what the leaders dreamed of!

Federalism and the process of becoming a democracy

“We choose the system of parliamentary democracy deliberately, we choose it not only because, to some extent, we had always thought on those lines previously, but because we thought it was in keeping with our old traditions also, naturally the old traditions, not as they were, but adjusted to the new conditions and new surroundings, we choose it also- let us give credit where credit is due- because we approved of its functioning in other countries, more especially the United Kingdom” - Jawaharlal Nehru

 It’s been seven and half decades since India got independence after throwing off the yoke of colonial rule through a long drawn struggle, one of the major struggles in modern history which got worldwide attention. As mentioned earlier and it was clear through the Karachi congress session that the nationalist movement was not aimed at getting political independence merely but it had a clear perception of how independent India will look like and social plus economic independence is equally for everyone along with the democratic, secular and federal nation. India was turning towards federalism from being a country with of different riyasats with their own rulers and own ruling style. It was merely going to be a historical experiment at that time when even the Indian Standard Time was introduced on September 1,1947, before this different provinces and princely states had their own times and reading which was a complex affair on its own. Also, building a country with 564 or so sovereign and semi-sovereign princely states was a difficult task. Though India became a federal republic with a strong center and quasi-federal structure, it came along with its own difficulties. As early as 1920, the linguistic basis of states was recognised. For the linguistic reorganisation of states, an arduous struggle became necessary. Linguistic reorganisation at that time was such an issue in the front of a newly independent country which might become detrimental

Struggle and Course

Does the Indian democracy being claimed the world’s largest democracy really standby to the claim? Does the Indians being ruled by the Kings and Princes from several dynasties are fitted and adhere to the claim of being democratic? Does a country have more than a quarter of its population being illiterate can claim to be a successful democracy? The answer to all these questions which question the basic essence of  India as a true democracy lies in the implementation, adoption, and success and failure stories attached to the institution of democracy. India's constitution being adopted on 26th January 1950 constituted India into a sovereign, democratic, republic. A vast land from the Great Himalayas to the Vindhyas in the middle and from the Deccan to the Malda gap to the east of which lies northeast India and to the coromandel coast in the south stretching further to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. It was not an easy task to constitute such a vast tract of land stretching about 3,287,240 km into a sovereign democracy being ruled from Delhi in the north which symbolises the seat of political power from the era of Mughals to the Britishers and then in independent India. The constitution-makers after rigorous study of different and best constitutions of the world adopted the best features and inserted them into the Indian constitution but as the Chairman of the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said “  however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot”[7]. It was on the shoulders of the coming generations that how the country is going to be ruled and does India will be a glaring example of being a democracy after invasions and being colonised for so many years. The Nehruvian era primarily revolved around the policies and thinking of J.L. Nehru who being an internationalist and rationalist believed in secular politics and was the heir of the politics of nonviolence of Gandhi in the true sense. The current BJP government which holds the power under the leadership of Narendra Modi alleges Nehru and congress for his blunder mistakes for ruining India as a nation from the very beginning itself. Nehru being argued as the truly democratic and secular politician believed in building a country free from the yoke of communalism, casteism, and illiteracy. But as the people in power argue and rapes and murders that happened in the name of caste and religion are sufficient to prove that the ghosts of communalism and casteism still haunt India. Also, the controversy like state reorganisation on the basis of language and debate over Hindi imposition, president’s rule in Kerala in the late 1950s, India’s defeat in indo-china war, India’s import from the USA as India desperately needed American wheat under the US Public Law 480 on rupee payment — and at relatively low prices because the country had no foreign exchange to buy food in the world market. All these factors combined proved fatal and skeptical of the capability of Indian democracy. Political thinkers, constitutional experts, and scholars commented on the fate of the Indian democracy. They become more skeptical after the death of J.L. Nehru, the only major political figure left leading India after the deaths of Gandhi, Patel, and other prominent freedom movement leaders. Amidst all the speculations about the Indian democracy, Lal Bahadur Shastri was named as the successor of the Nehru. It was the watershed moment in the course of Indian democracy when we look back at the journey of Indian democracy. Shashtri got command of an infant democracy which lost a war against its neighbour and the friendship about which Nehru was so optimistic, china a friend turned into a foe due to the tensions at the border. And after the war and death of Nehru, India was regaining its strength the result of the Sino-India Conflict of 1962 encouraged Pakistan to seek a military solution to the Kashmir problem: A modernized Army, to which the U.S.A. had contributed substantially, added to her confidence. But India under the leadership of Shastri won the war and defended its borders in the north and northwest. The next halt in the course of Indian democracy was the infamous death of Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent on 11th January 1966. The second prime minister of the world’s biggest democracy was found dead in mysterious conditions. It came as a shock to many and also as a relief as it was alleged that the Soviet Union put heavy diplomatic pressure on Shastri throughout the talks in Tashkent so that India accedes to Pakistan’s demand for the return of all territories in Jammu and Kashmir which had been taken by the Indian army in the 1965 war. The death of Shastri remains a mystery till date and it was allegedly called a planned murder by some people and they blamed people of some elite circles who wanted a transition of power from Shastri who became the new “Hero” after the war against Pakistan.

                 The new era in the chapter of Indian democracy started with Indira Gandhi rising to the power after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Indira Gandhi daughter of J.L. Nehru rose to the power after sidelining the heavyweights like Morarji Desai. Despite being compelled to accept Morarji as her deputy prime minister, the Congress's electoral defeat in 1967 allowed Indira to emerge as a leader on her own terms. Her power conflicts with the syndicate, which included K. Kamaraj, S. Nijalingappa, S.K. Patil, Atulya Ghosh, and N. Sanjeeva Reddy, lasted for at least two years. Following the death of Zakir Husain in 1969, the syndicate and Indira fought openly in the presidential election.  Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was chosen as the candidate for president by the former. On the 18th of July 1969, just five days after making this decision, she expelled Morarji from the Cabinet and retained the Finance ministry for herself. She announced the nationalisation of fourteen banks by a presidential edict on July 21, 1969. She later announced the removal of privy purses. As a result, she gained a reputation as a progressive leader among the general public. Indira was outspoken in her opposition to Reddy and backed then-Vice President V.V. Giri for the presidency of India.  To assure Giri's victory, she urged the electoral college to vote their consciences, and on August 20, 1969, V.V. Giri was elected President of India by a razor-thin margin.

                                        Indira’s tussle with the judiciary came to the fore after the Golaknath case in 1967 which restricted the parliament from any kind of amendment to the fundamental rights. The government responded with the 24th amendment and the supreme court in the Kesavananda Bharti case propounded the Basic Structure doctrine in which the Supreme Court stated that the parliament can amend the fundamental rights but without any changes in the basic structure of the constitution[9]. Indira’s popularity rose to new heights after India’s win against Pakistan in the 1971 war which led to the partition of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh as a new nation. The opposition attacked Indira for her style of running the office and alleged her for the despotic rule by his son Sanjay Gandhi and Indira herself. Jayprakash Narayan from Bihar rose as a strong popular leader with massive support from students from all over the country and as a face of opposition against Indira. The alleged chaos and internal disturbance led to the black chapter in the Indian democracy which resulted in the Indira government imposing an “Emergency”. “ The president has proclaimed Emergency. There is nothing to panic about”.Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's statements were broadcast on All India Radio in the early hours of June 26[10]. The public, as well as Gandhi's Cabinet members, who had been told just hours before the PM went to the AIR studio, were completely unaware of what had happened. The Emergency Proclamation had been signed by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed the night before. Soon after, newspaper presses across Delhi went dark, with no news being produced for the next two days due to a power outage. Hundreds of political leaders, activists, and trade unionists opposed to the Congress Party were arrested in the early hours of June 26. The purpose of the country's 21-month-long Emergency was to prevent "internal disturbance," for which constitutional rights were suspended and freedom of speech and the press were revoked. Indira Gandhi defended the severe move as being in the national interest for three reasons. First, she said that Jayaprakash Narayan's campaign was endangering India's security and democracy. Second, she believed that there was a pressing need for quick economic development and the upliftment of the poor. Third, she warned against foreign countries interfering in Indian affairs, which might destabilize and weaken the country.

Growing unemployment, widespread inflation, and food scarcity characterized the months leading up to the declaration of the Emergency. The poor state of the Indian economy was accompanied by riots and protests in several sections of the country. Surprisingly, the country's long-simmering borders were relatively quiet in the years leading up to the Emergency. "As if to compensate, there was suddenly unrest in the heartland, in regions of the country that had long felt themselves vital components of the Republic of India for reasons of history, politics, custom, and language," writes historian Ramachandra Guha in his book "India after Gandhi."

Navnirman Andolan in Gujarat

Students from Ahmedabad's L D College of Engineering went on strike in December 1973 to protest an increase in school fees. Students at Gujarat University erupted in protest a month later, asking that the state administration be dismissed. The movement was dubbed the 'Navnirman movement,' which means "regeneration movement." Gujarat was ruled by the Congress at the time, with Chimanbhai Patel as the chief minister. The government was known for its corruption, and its leader was known as chairman chor (thief).

                            The Narendra Modi government which has faced huge demonstrations mainly from the students of Jamila milia Islamia, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi recently during the protest against the Citizen Amendment Act and NRC, got a fascinating connection with the student protests as the Navnirman Movement was the first interaction of Modi with public protest. According to the Navnirman Movement page on Narendra Modi. "the Navnirman Movement was Narendra's first interaction with public protest and led to a substantial expansion of his viewpoint on social issues." "It also catapulted Narendra to his first political office, General Secretary of Gujarat's Lok Sangharsh Samiti, in 1975.

JP Movement and Aftermath

In 1974, Jayaprakash Narayan, armed with the virtues of India's saintly political tradition, led a mass campaign against Indira Gandhi's administration. He was imprisoned under the Emergency and the struggle, in the end, resulted in the defeat of the Congress party for the first time in 1977.

Despite the fact that he was the architect of the Janata government, JP, like Mahatma Gandhi, avoided power politics. He inspired a generation of young people to take part in huge satyagraha against corrupt governments in Gujarat and Bihar, to avoid the use of violence, and to fight against caste and class injustice. JP movement was the main opposition force during the Indira Gandhi government. The first non-congress government came into power as the “Janta government”, unfortunately, which didn’t survive to complete its five-year term in the power. Indira Gandhi again rose to the power with a massive victory after the collapse of the Janta government.

The next halt in the course of Indian democracy came in the form of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star which led to the entry of Indian armed forces in the golden temple of Amritsar which is regarded as one of the holiest places of the Sikh sect. The demand of Khalistan and the terrorism in Punjab led to military action which in turn angered the Sikhs and led them to avenge it with the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

The assassination was followed by the Sikh riots in Delhi which led to the killings of Sikhs in Delhi and other cities of the country. After the death of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi rose to power which further consolidated the power of the Nehru-Gandhi lineage. In May 1991,  Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber from the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam(LTTE). After the death of Rajiv Gandhi, the one-party rule or congress rule ended in India and a new era of coalition governments or unstable governments paved its way.

 Atal Bihari Vajpayee government formed in 1998 completed its five-year term as the first non-congress government in the office. TheCongress again formed a government with the alliance of several regional and national parties from 2004 to 2013 with Dr. Manmohan Singh as the leader of the government.

Narendra Modi Era

The Bhartiya Janta Party which got 2 seats in the 1984 elections crossed the 272 mark comfortably on its own in 2014, without allies winning 282 seats, a gain of 166. This mammoth victory of Bjp which they themselves did not anticipate became possible due to the face of Narendra Modi. The three-time chief minister of Gujarat earlier used to be an active member of  Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh the parent organisation of Bjp. With its successful campaign of putting the Gujarat Model as the true picture of his leadership, Modi came to the power with the promise of leading a nationalist government and fulfilling the promises such as a decrease in petrol prices, the issue of black money, and raising the nationalist sentiments high on issues of Pakistan and Kashmir. Modi came to Delhi after sidelining heavyweights and potential candidates for the post of prime minister from the BJP side like L.K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh. Modi portrayed his Gujarat model while the opposition portrayed Modi as a hardcore Hindu leader and alleged him as being Anti-Muslim.

                      However, there has been a lot of articles and discussion about the impending end of India’s democracy, particularly in the western media. The extreme left-wing in India and from the west compared Modi as being equivalent to Hitler. The reforms like demonetisation and GST which led to Modi's failure on the economic front also led to the criticism of the current Modi government. The recent controversy on CAA and NRC dented the image of the Modi government as being the oppressor of minorities. India’s rank in the various indexes like democratic indexes and human rights indexes slipped too. It is said that India is moving towards a one-party state. But do all these claims and commentary on the Indian democracy are justified or these are just rhetorics. In reality, the Indian democracy still remains very much vibrant and particularly in states, it is very much alive. The regular and successful conduct of elections in various states where the ruling Bjp government lost in big states like West Bengal after a long election campaign. It is alleged that India is turning intolerant and the government is projected as pro-Hindu against the sentiments of the minority. But does it really present the true picture of democracy in India and as it is claimed the minority is totally under stress and India is moving towards becoming a Hindu Rashtra! The answer is debatable as Indian democracy and the constitution are still very much alive. The second-largest religious group in the country claims to be the minority in the country. Isn’t it is ironic that people claim India as a democracy that suppresses its minority to a big extent while its so-called “minority” which is in actual its second-largest and ethnic group protests in large numbers on the roads of Mumbai on the statement given by French President Emmanuel Macron? The so-called “oppressive” democracy includes the same groups and organisations who protested at Azad Maidan in Mumbai in the support of Rohingya Muslims and destroyed public property. 

The constitution of the Indian republic which gives equal rights to every citizen of the land mentions in Article 44 about the Uniform Civil Code. The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption. The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India. The statutory enactments have largely secularised and modernised Hindu personal laws. In 1956, the Hindu personal laws (which also apply to Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists) were defined by the Parliament. The Muslim personal laws, on the other hand, have mostly remained unchanged and traditional in content and manner. The personal affairs of all Indian Muslims in India are governed by the Shariat law of 1937. It expressly declares that the state will not intervene in personal disputes and that a religious leader will issue a pronouncement based on his interpretations of the Quran and Hadith. Apart from that, Christians and Jews have various personal laws to follow. Article 44 in the Directive Principles of the State Policy is still till-date not followed by various groups consisting of the religious group which forms the second largest majority of the country. It clearly indicates the collective failure and vote bank politics of all the governments that ruled the country after 75 years and even after the cases like the Shah Bano Case of 1987, the uniform civil code is still not implemented “uniformly”.

                        The secular politics in the country is not so secular if we look deep into the political discourse around the Hindu religion. The Hindu temple management system is clearly an example of this dichotomy.  The Hindu temples have been usurped by the very entity that is duty-bound to preserve religious freedom—the “Indian state,” argues Supreme Court advocate J. Sai Deepak. After the Supreme Court declared the Hindu Religion and Charitable Endowment (HRCE) Act "unconstitutional" in 1954, Hindu endowments were placed under state control by implementing a similar statute at the provincial level. The key justification was that it would prevent property misappropriation and misuse. However, history shows that it has only resulted in corruption, perpetrated by none other than the state apparatus itself, during the last half-century. There have been a plethora of examples in which politicians in authority and officials in charge of temple affairs have been accused of significant corruption, the most recent of which is the Tirupati episode. However, it is tantamount to "taxing" Hindus for practicing their faith in their own country. “For every hundred rupees a Hindu donates at a temple in Tamil Nadu, the government receives Rs 18.” So, in fact, even after Independence, Hindus are paying a Jaziya-style religious tax," says Deepak. 

                       The culture of violence in the name of a caste in the Hindu religion is also still very much alive. The recent examples are the rape cases of girls from the “Dalit” community in hathras in Uttar Pradesh. In the 21st century which is in a true sense a globalised and connected world, the discrimination in the name of caste is very much worrying as it causes the alienation of the people from the lower castes from their own fold. Also, various organisations in the northeast specially and various parts of India are at work with the same thinking and motive as same as “Macaulay’s Minute of Education” of 1835 which wanted to create a pool of Indians who would be “Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect”. Hindu religion from the colonial times has accepted reforms and gradually evolved with the help of work done by the great reformist like Raja Ram Mohan Roy who forced the Britishers to bring the legislation to ban the evil of Sati in 1829. The work done by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who championed the cause of the downtrodden and untouchables of the country is still among one of the difficult struggles of modern history led by an individual. Thus, the ruling government and people of the country really need to understand the urgent need for reforms and change in the mindset towards the people from the lower fold so that the spirit and the very being of the constitution must remain alive.

Conclusion

The Constitution is not a mere lawyers’ document, it is a vehicle of life, and its spirit is always the spirit of age- B.R. Ambedkar 

The modern form of parliamentary democracy as a form of government came to India through the Britishers who left a huge impact on the culture, cuisine, lifestyle, and mindset of the people. India is the most prized possession of the Britishers served its colonial masters for more than 200 years. The coming of modern parliamentary democracy was altogether a different and new experience for a country that was in the shackles of colonialism for years. The Britishers never had a written constitution as it evolved over the years from different charters like Magna Carta in 1215 and different interpretations of the court over the years. India being a vast land and being a heterogeneous society of so many different cultures, ethnicities, religions needed a supreme body according to which the legislature, executive, and judiciary will be doing their work with complete independence and without any interference from the other. It was the wisdom and farsightedness of the constitution-makers that they realised the need for a constitution which will be essential for successful and democratic functioning. The constitution-makers under the leadership of the chairman of drafting committee B.R. Ambedkar studied different constitutions and borrowed the best features and assimilated them into the Indian constitution. It was a tough task to prepare a common constitution and according to the wishes of the people from the Himalayas up in the north to the Nilgiris in the south. The constitution-makers done it very efficiently and India became a sovereign democratic republic on 26th January 1950. It was a difficult task to run the administration of such a vast land. The constitutional commentators and political experts all over the globe were pessimistic about the idea of India at that time. After 75 years of independence when we look back at the course of the Indian democracy, one realizes that how fascinating the idea of India was at the beginning and how optimistic our constitutional makers and the freedom fighters were for the independence and democracy for India. India is a rising economic power with a large population of youth still lagging behind in various sectors. Also with the coming of the digital age and with the slogans of digital India and shining India, the government must need to look at strengthening the weakest links of the chain and needs to think about the development of the people standing at the end of the row. India raised a large chunk of its people from poverty but a lot is still left to be done for the underprivileged community. It was the legacy of the colonial administration that we had rampant corruption in the government offices. The discrimination between the white race and the Indians brought the feeling of inferiority and gave birth to the division in the society. This division further intensified on the basis of caste, region, and religion after the independence. The ghost of communalism still haunts the country after so many years of independence. It’s time that the people of this country need to understand what our constitution-makers envisioned

while framing the constitution. It must be realised that Indian democracy is nascent as compared to the American or to the British democracy. Indian democracy adopted a lot of features from these two democracies and it needs to improve in its journey further. The course from being a colony of British to a sovereign democratic republic, Indian people adapted the democracy very well. The universal adult franchise enabled them to choose their representatives from a pool of candidates. It is the journey of the democracy which will decide the fate of this country and till now this country has successfully though with so many hiccups in its course moved further. It is in the womb of time that how this land which once covered a whole continent in itself will react to the experiment of democracy by the constitution-makers.

 

Abhishek Yadav

Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Science, University of Delhi,

 

 

British Raj to Modi Raj

British Raj to Modi Raj

The Indian Democracy (Dichotomy of Hindu-Muslims): From Victorian England to Modi Raj

Abstract:

The world in the 20th century broke the chain of colonisation and slavery and has seen the rise of Democracy as the new rule of law. India which was a single nation till the evening of 14th august 1947, was eventually carved out into three separate nation-states in form of India, Pakistan, and later Bangladesh.  We attempt to analyse the adoption of democracy as the rule of law in the Indian subcontinent. This article traces the development of the democracy in India from the ashes of the partition to be the world’s largest democracy. The beginning of the third decade of the 21st century is marked by the devastating second wave of the coronavirus in India. India being the world’s largest functioning democracy has seen the people waiting outside the crematorium with the bodies of their loved ones to lay them on the pyres and on the other hand it saw the election campaigns and the elections in the coastal state of West Bengal. This raises some serious questions about the functioning of democracy in India. This paper attempts to analyse and understand the Indian democracy from being a demand from the colonial masters to being the world’s largest democracy with a crippling public sector and poor performance in the various development indexes. Thus, this article will help the readers to understand that the Indian democracy is just a simple flawed version of the democracy borrowed from Victorian England or it is just a myth.

Introduction:

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy” -Abraham Lincoln 

The 20th century globally was a century of establishment and enrichment of democratic politics. The world has seen two devastating world wars along with the rapid colonisation of the countries of Asia and Africa. The second world war ended with the defeat of Axis powers and the allied power emerged as the winner. It doesn’t mean that the axis powers like England and France got a better hold of the world after winning the war. The war cost the colonial powers very heavily which in turn was a burden on the countries being colonised by them. Britain at the end of the war with a struggling economy and was facing strong opposition from the Indians. The common Indian population being colonised by the Britishers from the last 200 years and by the Moghuls before the Britishers, wasn’t aware of the modern concept of Democracy and Rights. The land was ruled by the Kings and it was not a single and unified nation-state though it experienced some kind of unity during the reign of Mauryas and Moghuls in the past. The establishment of modern democracy required that the people must understand the essence of the demography.

                The expanding English educated middle class formed the ground for the emergence of the modern democracy with rights. The introduction of the modern education system helped in the assimilation of modern ideas. Those who visited England for higher studies and for other liberal professions like doctors, Lawyers experienced and saw the working of free and modern democratic institutions which they compared to British India where even the basic rights were denied to the population. It was the section of the population that provided leadership to the different political associations in the national movement. The study of western political thought which included the radical and liberal thought of philosophers like J.S. Mill, Voltaire, Rousseau , Spencer etc. provided a new shape to political thinking and awakening to the emerging educated middle class. It was the time when the spread of modern education and modern ideas led to the awakening in the Indian population about their basic rights and freedom. It further led to the preparation of the ground for the freedom movement. The land which was ruled by the kings over the years was preparing its ground for the age of democracy. India got independent on the 15th of August 1947 after a long-fought struggle for freedom but the independence came along at the cost of bloodshed and partition. India adopted the Westminster model with borrowed features from several constitutions of the world. India began its journey with the promise of being a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic that will believe in equal rights and justice for everyone.

The Transformation: From Riyasats to a Democracy (to put federal system)

“There are many in the West, and some in India too, who consider India an artificial construct. The British colonial administrator John Strachey declared in 1888: The first and most important thing to learn about India is that there is not and never was an India.” 

The transition from a former colony to a newborn democracy was not so smooth. The different constituent units of the Indian Union which were called Riyasats earlier had a different ruler and these different rulers had their own aspirations and hereditary rule over their Riyasats. It was a difficult task to appeal to the patriotic feelings of the rulers to join the Indian dominion. Sardar Patel in charge of the state’s ministry in the interim cabinet played a pivotal role in the integration of these states into the union of India and due to his efforts about 136 states had joined the Indian union by 15th august,1947. It was a crucial task as the constitution-makers knew that regionalism was going to be a big challenge in front of the unity of the newly born nation. The states of Junagarh, Hyderabad, and Kashmir posed a threat to the process but somehow it was managed by the Indian forces in Hyderabad and Kashmir and the plebiscite in Junagarh. The dream of the Indian nationalist to see India as a democratic nation-state was going to turn into reality with the adoption of the constitution on 26th November,1950 and with the first general elections in 1951. The Indian constitution in its article 324 has made the Election commission an independent and permanent body to ensure free and fair elections in the country. The first major task in front of the election commission was to conduct elections for the very first time and it became more difficult due to the level of illiteracy among the voters. Independent and regular elections are the very first and basic need of a successful democracy but in the first general elections, the election commission had a major task of making the population aware of democracy and the importance of elections in a democracy. The election commission played a pivotal role in the very establishment of democracy in independent India. Indian National Congress (INC) had won the elections with 364 seats out of 489 seats. The essential takeaway from the election was the successful and peaceful conduct of the elections by the election commission in the aftermath of the partition. On the eve of the elections, Sukumar Sen called them "the greatest democratic experiment in human history." ‘A very significant majority [will] exercise votes for the first time: not many know what the vote is, why they should vote, and whom they should vote for; no wonder the whole adventure is classified as the biggest gamble in history,' said a seasoned Madras editor.

Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic. - Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

With the successful conduct of the first general elections in 1951, the Indian democracy geared up for its future endeavors. Most of the historians, constitutional experts and commentators predicted that Indian democracy wouldn’t survive for long and they were quite optimistic about their claims as a country with such vast geography and population with different ethnicities, religions and cultures came together to form a secular democratic republic. There were different fears and one of the biggest fear was the tyranny of the majority over the minority in the aftermath of the partition. The differences between the communities were large and the bloodshed made it more difficult for the leaders to lead a country different from what the Pakistan sympathisers imagined for their land. Sixteen years before the independence during a temping respite from civil disobedience the nation’s leaders decided to make public their dream of what they would do for the country’s good when at last it was free. This was laid out in the fundamental resolution, which was drafted by Jawahar Lal Nehru and moved by Mahatma Gandhi at the Karachi session of the congress from March 26 to 29 in 1931[5]. It promised universal suffrage, civil liberty, the abolition of caste disabilities in the public sphere, the state’s neutrality in respect of religion, protection of labour rights, including special rights for women, reduction of land tax, and finally the state’s ownership and control of key industries and services. The resolution on fundamental rights was a milestone to achieve for a country enslaved by the chain of colonialism, casteism, untouchability, illiteracy. The pragmatism and belief the leaders of the Indian freedom movement showed were going to be the basis of the independent and democratic India. But the big question ahead was that a country which has such vast geography where every subpart has its own struggle, culture, ethnicity, will even be able to survive what the leaders dreamed of!

Federalism and the process of becoming a democracy

“We choose the system of parliamentary democracy deliberately, we choose it not only because, to some extent, we had always thought on those lines previously, but because we thought it was in keeping with our old traditions also, naturally the old traditions, not as they were, but adjusted to the new conditions and new surroundings, we choose it also- let us give credit where credit is due- because we approved of its functioning in other countries, more especially the United Kingdom” - Jawaharlal Nehru

 It’s been seven and half decades since India got independence after throwing off the yoke of colonial rule through a long drawn struggle, one of the major struggles in modern history which got worldwide attention. As mentioned earlier and it was clear through the Karachi congress session that the nationalist movement was not aimed at getting political independence merely but it had a clear perception of how independent India will look like and social plus economic independence is equally for everyone along with the democratic, secular and federal nation. India was turning towards federalism from being a country with of different riyasats with their own rulers and own ruling style. It was merely going to be a historical experiment at that time when even the Indian Standard Time was introduced on September 1,1947, before this different provinces and princely states had their own times and reading which was a complex affair on its own. Also, building a country with 564 or so sovereign and semi-sovereign princely states was a difficult task. Though India became a federal republic with a strong center and quasi-federal structure, it came along with its own difficulties. As early as 1920, the linguistic basis of states was recognised. For the linguistic reorganisation of states, an arduous struggle became necessary. Linguistic reorganisation at that time was such an issue in the front of a newly independent country which might become detrimental

Struggle and Course

Does the Indian democracy being claimed the world’s largest democracy really standby to the claim? Does the Indians being ruled by the Kings and Princes from several dynasties are fitted and adhere to the claim of being democratic? Does a country have more than a quarter of its population being illiterate can claim to be a successful democracy? The answer to all these questions which question the basic essence of  India as a true democracy lies in the implementation, adoption, and success and failure stories attached to the institution of democracy. India's constitution being adopted on 26th January 1950 constituted India into a sovereign, democratic, republic. A vast land from the Great Himalayas to the Vindhyas in the middle and from the Deccan to the Malda gap to the east of which lies northeast India and to the coromandel coast in the south stretching further to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. It was not an easy task to constitute such a vast tract of land stretching about 3,287,240 km into a sovereign democracy being ruled from Delhi in the north which symbolises the seat of political power from the era of Mughals to the Britishers and then in independent India. The constitution-makers after rigorous study of different and best constitutions of the world adopted the best features and inserted them into the Indian constitution but as the Chairman of the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said “  however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot”[7]. It was on the shoulders of the coming generations that how the country is going to be ruled and does India will be a glaring example of being a democracy after invasions and being colonised for so many years. The Nehruvian era primarily revolved around the policies and thinking of J.L. Nehru who being an internationalist and rationalist believed in secular politics and was the heir of the politics of nonviolence of Gandhi in the true sense. The current BJP government which holds the power under the leadership of Narendra Modi alleges Nehru and congress for his blunder mistakes for ruining India as a nation from the very beginning itself. Nehru being argued as the truly democratic and secular politician believed in building a country free from the yoke of communalism, casteism, and illiteracy. But as the people in power argue and rapes and murders that happened in the name of caste and religion are sufficient to prove that the ghosts of communalism and casteism still haunt India. Also, the controversy like state reorganisation on the basis of language and debate over Hindi imposition, president’s rule in Kerala in the late 1950s, India’s defeat in indo-china war, India’s import from the USA as India desperately needed American wheat under the US Public Law 480 on rupee payment — and at relatively low prices because the country had no foreign exchange to buy food in the world market. All these factors combined proved fatal and skeptical of the capability of Indian democracy. Political thinkers, constitutional experts, and scholars commented on the fate of the Indian democracy. They become more skeptical after the death of J.L. Nehru, the only major political figure left leading India after the deaths of Gandhi, Patel, and other prominent freedom movement leaders. Amidst all the speculations about the Indian democracy, Lal Bahadur Shastri was named as the successor of the Nehru. It was the watershed moment in the course of Indian democracy when we look back at the journey of Indian democracy. Shashtri got command of an infant democracy which lost a war against its neighbour and the friendship about which Nehru was so optimistic, china a friend turned into a foe due to the tensions at the border. And after the war and death of Nehru, India was regaining its strength the result of the Sino-India Conflict of 1962 encouraged Pakistan to seek a military solution to the Kashmir problem: A modernized Army, to which the U.S.A. had contributed substantially, added to her confidence. But India under the leadership of Shastri won the war and defended its borders in the north and northwest. The next halt in the course of Indian democracy was the infamous death of Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent on 11th January 1966. The second prime minister of the world’s biggest democracy was found dead in mysterious conditions. It came as a shock to many and also as a relief as it was alleged that the Soviet Union put heavy diplomatic pressure on Shastri throughout the talks in Tashkent so that India accedes to Pakistan’s demand for the return of all territories in Jammu and Kashmir which had been taken by the Indian army in the 1965 war. The death of Shastri remains a mystery till date and it was allegedly called a planned murder by some people and they blamed people of some elite circles who wanted a transition of power from Shastri who became the new “Hero” after the war against Pakistan.

                 The new era in the chapter of Indian democracy started with Indira Gandhi rising to the power after the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri. Indira Gandhi daughter of J.L. Nehru rose to the power after sidelining the heavyweights like Morarji Desai. Despite being compelled to accept Morarji as her deputy prime minister, the Congress's electoral defeat in 1967 allowed Indira to emerge as a leader on her own terms. Her power conflicts with the syndicate, which included K. Kamaraj, S. Nijalingappa, S.K. Patil, Atulya Ghosh, and N. Sanjeeva Reddy, lasted for at least two years. Following the death of Zakir Husain in 1969, the syndicate and Indira fought openly in the presidential election.  Neelam Sanjiva Reddy was chosen as the candidate for president by the former. On the 18th of July 1969, just five days after making this decision, she expelled Morarji from the Cabinet and retained the Finance ministry for herself. She announced the nationalisation of fourteen banks by a presidential edict on July 21, 1969. She later announced the removal of privy purses. As a result, she gained a reputation as a progressive leader among the general public. Indira was outspoken in her opposition to Reddy and backed then-Vice President V.V. Giri for the presidency of India.  To assure Giri's victory, she urged the electoral college to vote their consciences, and on August 20, 1969, V.V. Giri was elected President of India by a razor-thin margin.

                                        Indira’s tussle with the judiciary came to the fore after the Golaknath case in 1967 which restricted the parliament from any kind of amendment to the fundamental rights. The government responded with the 24th amendment and the supreme court in the Kesavananda Bharti case propounded the Basic Structure doctrine in which the Supreme Court stated that the parliament can amend the fundamental rights but without any changes in the basic structure of the constitution[9]. Indira’s popularity rose to new heights after India’s win against Pakistan in the 1971 war which led to the partition of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh as a new nation. The opposition attacked Indira for her style of running the office and alleged her for the despotic rule by his son Sanjay Gandhi and Indira herself. Jayprakash Narayan from Bihar rose as a strong popular leader with massive support from students from all over the country and as a face of opposition against Indira. The alleged chaos and internal disturbance led to the black chapter in the Indian democracy which resulted in the Indira government imposing an “Emergency”. “ The president has proclaimed Emergency. There is nothing to panic about”.Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's statements were broadcast on All India Radio in the early hours of June 26[10]. The public, as well as Gandhi's Cabinet members, who had been told just hours before the PM went to the AIR studio, were completely unaware of what had happened. The Emergency Proclamation had been signed by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed the night before. Soon after, newspaper presses across Delhi went dark, with no news being produced for the next two days due to a power outage. Hundreds of political leaders, activists, and trade unionists opposed to the Congress Party were arrested in the early hours of June 26. The purpose of the country's 21-month-long Emergency was to prevent "internal disturbance," for which constitutional rights were suspended and freedom of speech and the press were revoked. Indira Gandhi defended the severe move as being in the national interest for three reasons. First, she said that Jayaprakash Narayan's campaign was endangering India's security and democracy. Second, she believed that there was a pressing need for quick economic development and the upliftment of the poor. Third, she warned against foreign countries interfering in Indian affairs, which might destabilize and weaken the country.

Growing unemployment, widespread inflation, and food scarcity characterized the months leading up to the declaration of the Emergency. The poor state of the Indian economy was accompanied by riots and protests in several sections of the country. Surprisingly, the country's long-simmering borders were relatively quiet in the years leading up to the Emergency. "As if to compensate, there was suddenly unrest in the heartland, in regions of the country that had long felt themselves vital components of the Republic of India for reasons of history, politics, custom, and language," writes historian Ramachandra Guha in his book "India after Gandhi."

Navnirman Andolan in Gujarat

Students from Ahmedabad's L D College of Engineering went on strike in December 1973 to protest an increase in school fees. Students at Gujarat University erupted in protest a month later, asking that the state administration be dismissed. The movement was dubbed the 'Navnirman movement,' which means "regeneration movement." Gujarat was ruled by the Congress at the time, with Chimanbhai Patel as the chief minister. The government was known for its corruption, and its leader was known as chairman chor (thief).

                            The Narendra Modi government which has faced huge demonstrations mainly from the students of Jamila milia Islamia, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi recently during the protest against the Citizen Amendment Act and NRC, got a fascinating connection with the student protests as the Navnirman Movement was the first interaction of Modi with public protest. According to the Navnirman Movement page on Narendra Modi. "the Navnirman Movement was Narendra's first interaction with public protest and led to a substantial expansion of his viewpoint on social issues." "It also catapulted Narendra to his first political office, General Secretary of Gujarat's Lok Sangharsh Samiti, in 1975.

JP Movement and Aftermath

In 1974, Jayaprakash Narayan, armed with the virtues of India's saintly political tradition, led a mass campaign against Indira Gandhi's administration. He was imprisoned under the Emergency and the struggle, in the end, resulted in the defeat of the Congress party for the first time in 1977.

Despite the fact that he was the architect of the Janata government, JP, like Mahatma Gandhi, avoided power politics. He inspired a generation of young people to take part in huge satyagraha against corrupt governments in Gujarat and Bihar, to avoid the use of violence, and to fight against caste and class injustice. JP movement was the main opposition force during the Indira Gandhi government. The first non-congress government came into power as the “Janta government”, unfortunately, which didn’t survive to complete its five-year term in the power. Indira Gandhi again rose to the power with a massive victory after the collapse of the Janta government.

The next halt in the course of Indian democracy came in the form of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star which led to the entry of Indian armed forces in the golden temple of Amritsar which is regarded as one of the holiest places of the Sikh sect. The demand of Khalistan and the terrorism in Punjab led to military action which in turn angered the Sikhs and led them to avenge it with the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

The assassination was followed by the Sikh riots in Delhi which led to the killings of Sikhs in Delhi and other cities of the country. After the death of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi rose to power which further consolidated the power of the Nehru-Gandhi lineage. In May 1991,  Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber from the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam(LTTE). After the death of Rajiv Gandhi, the one-party rule or congress rule ended in India and a new era of coalition governments or unstable governments paved its way.

 Atal Bihari Vajpayee government formed in 1998 completed its five-year term as the first non-congress government in the office. TheCongress again formed a government with the alliance of several regional and national parties from 2004 to 2013 with Dr. Manmohan Singh as the leader of the government.

Narendra Modi Era

The Bhartiya Janta Party which got 2 seats in the 1984 elections crossed the 272 mark comfortably on its own in 2014, without allies winning 282 seats, a gain of 166. This mammoth victory of Bjp which they themselves did not anticipate became possible due to the face of Narendra Modi. The three-time chief minister of Gujarat earlier used to be an active member of  Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh the parent organisation of Bjp. With its successful campaign of putting the Gujarat Model as the true picture of his leadership, Modi came to the power with the promise of leading a nationalist government and fulfilling the promises such as a decrease in petrol prices, the issue of black money, and raising the nationalist sentiments high on issues of Pakistan and Kashmir. Modi came to Delhi after sidelining heavyweights and potential candidates for the post of prime minister from the BJP side like L.K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh. Modi portrayed his Gujarat model while the opposition portrayed Modi as a hardcore Hindu leader and alleged him as being Anti-Muslim.

                      However, there has been a lot of articles and discussion about the impending end of India’s democracy, particularly in the western media. The extreme left-wing in India and from the west compared Modi as being equivalent to Hitler. The reforms like demonetisation and GST which led to Modi's failure on the economic front also led to the criticism of the current Modi government. The recent controversy on CAA and NRC dented the image of the Modi government as being the oppressor of minorities. India’s rank in the various indexes like democratic indexes and human rights indexes slipped too. It is said that India is moving towards a one-party state. But do all these claims and commentary on the Indian democracy are justified or these are just rhetorics. In reality, the Indian democracy still remains very much vibrant and particularly in states, it is very much alive. The regular and successful conduct of elections in various states where the ruling Bjp government lost in big states like West Bengal after a long election campaign. It is alleged that India is turning intolerant and the government is projected as pro-Hindu against the sentiments of the minority. But does it really present the true picture of democracy in India and as it is claimed the minority is totally under stress and India is moving towards becoming a Hindu Rashtra! The answer is debatable as Indian democracy and the constitution are still very much alive. The second-largest religious group in the country claims to be the minority in the country. Isn’t it is ironic that people claim India as a democracy that suppresses its minority to a big extent while its so-called “minority” which is in actual its second-largest and ethnic group protests in large numbers on the roads of Mumbai on the statement given by French President Emmanuel Macron? The so-called “oppressive” democracy includes the same groups and organisations who protested at Azad Maidan in Mumbai in the support of Rohingya Muslims and destroyed public property. 

The constitution of the Indian republic which gives equal rights to every citizen of the land mentions in Article 44 about the Uniform Civil Code. The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) calls for the formulation of one law for India, which would be applicable to all religious communities in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption. The code comes under Article 44 of the Constitution, which lays down that the state shall endeavour to secure a Uniform Civil Code for the citizens throughout the territory of India. The statutory enactments have largely secularised and modernised Hindu personal laws. In 1956, the Hindu personal laws (which also apply to Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists) were defined by the Parliament. The Muslim personal laws, on the other hand, have mostly remained unchanged and traditional in content and manner. The personal affairs of all Indian Muslims in India are governed by the Shariat law of 1937. It expressly declares that the state will not intervene in personal disputes and that a religious leader will issue a pronouncement based on his interpretations of the Quran and Hadith. Apart from that, Christians and Jews have various personal laws to follow. Article 44 in the Directive Principles of the State Policy is still till-date not followed by various groups consisting of the religious group which forms the second largest majority of the country. It clearly indicates the collective failure and vote bank politics of all the governments that ruled the country after 75 years and even after the cases like the Shah Bano Case of 1987, the uniform civil code is still not implemented “uniformly”.

                        The secular politics in the country is not so secular if we look deep into the political discourse around the Hindu religion. The Hindu temple management system is clearly an example of this dichotomy.  The Hindu temples have been usurped by the very entity that is duty-bound to preserve religious freedom—the “Indian state,” argues Supreme Court advocate J. Sai Deepak. After the Supreme Court declared the Hindu Religion and Charitable Endowment (HRCE) Act "unconstitutional" in 1954, Hindu endowments were placed under state control by implementing a similar statute at the provincial level. The key justification was that it would prevent property misappropriation and misuse. However, history shows that it has only resulted in corruption, perpetrated by none other than the state apparatus itself, during the last half-century. There have been a plethora of examples in which politicians in authority and officials in charge of temple affairs have been accused of significant corruption, the most recent of which is the Tirupati episode. However, it is tantamount to "taxing" Hindus for practicing their faith in their own country. “For every hundred rupees a Hindu donates at a temple in Tamil Nadu, the government receives Rs 18.” So, in fact, even after Independence, Hindus are paying a Jaziya-style religious tax," says Deepak. 

                       The culture of violence in the name of a caste in the Hindu religion is also still very much alive. The recent examples are the rape cases of girls from the “Dalit” community in hathras in Uttar Pradesh. In the 21st century which is in a true sense a globalised and connected world, the discrimination in the name of caste is very much worrying as it causes the alienation of the people from the lower castes from their own fold. Also, various organisations in the northeast specially and various parts of India are at work with the same thinking and motive as same as “Macaulay’s Minute of Education” of 1835 which wanted to create a pool of Indians who would be “Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect”. Hindu religion from the colonial times has accepted reforms and gradually evolved with the help of work done by the great reformist like Raja Ram Mohan Roy who forced the Britishers to bring the legislation to ban the evil of Sati in 1829. The work done by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who championed the cause of the downtrodden and untouchables of the country is still among one of the difficult struggles of modern history led by an individual. Thus, the ruling government and people of the country really need to understand the urgent need for reforms and change in the mindset towards the people from the lower fold so that the spirit and the very being of the constitution must remain alive.

Conclusion

The Constitution is not a mere lawyers’ document, it is a vehicle of life, and its spirit is always the spirit of age- B.R. Ambedkar 

The modern form of parliamentary democracy as a form of government came to India through the Britishers who left a huge impact on the culture, cuisine, lifestyle, and mindset of the people. India is the most prized possession of the Britishers served its colonial masters for more than 200 years. The coming of modern parliamentary democracy was altogether a different and new experience for a country that was in the shackles of colonialism for years. The Britishers never had a written constitution as it evolved over the years from different charters like Magna Carta in 1215 and different interpretations of the court over the years. India being a vast land and being a heterogeneous society of so many different cultures, ethnicities, religions needed a supreme body according to which the legislature, executive, and judiciary will be doing their work with complete independence and without any interference from the other. It was the wisdom and farsightedness of the constitution-makers that they realised the need for a constitution which will be essential for successful and democratic functioning. The constitution-makers under the leadership of the chairman of drafting committee B.R. Ambedkar studied different constitutions and borrowed the best features and assimilated them into the Indian constitution. It was a tough task to prepare a common constitution and according to the wishes of the people from the Himalayas up in the north to the Nilgiris in the south. The constitution-makers done it very efficiently and India became a sovereign democratic republic on 26th January 1950. It was a difficult task to run the administration of such a vast land. The constitutional commentators and political experts all over the globe were pessimistic about the idea of India at that time. After 75 years of independence when we look back at the course of the Indian democracy, one realizes that how fascinating the idea of India was at the beginning and how optimistic our constitutional makers and the freedom fighters were for the independence and democracy for India. India is a rising economic power with a large population of youth still lagging behind in various sectors. Also with the coming of the digital age and with the slogans of digital India and shining India, the government must need to look at strengthening the weakest links of the chain and needs to think about the development of the people standing at the end of the row. India raised a large chunk of its people from poverty but a lot is still left to be done for the underprivileged community. It was the legacy of the colonial administration that we had rampant corruption in the government offices. The discrimination between the white race and the Indians brought the feeling of inferiority and gave birth to the division in the society. This division further intensified on the basis of caste, region, and religion after the independence. The ghost of communalism still haunts the country after so many years of independence. It’s time that the people of this country need to understand what our constitution-makers envisioned

while framing the constitution. It must be realised that Indian democracy is nascent as compared to the American or to the British democracy. Indian democracy adopted a lot of features from these two democracies and it needs to improve in its journey further. The course from being a colony of British to a sovereign democratic republic, Indian people adapted the democracy very well. The universal adult franchise enabled them to choose their representatives from a pool of candidates. It is the journey of the democracy which will decide the fate of this country and till now this country has successfully though with so many hiccups in its course moved further. It is in the womb of time that how this land which once covered a whole continent in itself will react to the experiment of democracy by the constitution-makers.

 

Abhishek Yadav

Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Science, University of Delhi,

 

 

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