Inching Towards Majoritarian Democracy
- subhash gatade
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
James Baldwin, 1962.
These are times when the state of democracy is a cause of worry everywhere. With the emergence of populists, demagogues of various hues as custodians of the future of their countries, growing fascination for illiberal ideologies among masses in different parts of the world, the concern is not misplaced and it is apt that we are having this brainstorming where our focus would be on India itself.
‘Working Group on Alternative Strategies’ – which comprises of some of the finest public intellectuals and activists of our times – need to be thanked that they have been organising such seminars since last thirteen years and in this way commemorating the life and works of Prof Madhu Dandavate, a great Parliamentarian and Socialist ideologue.
It has been more than four and half years that Narendra Damodardas Modi – who had started his social political life as a Pracharak of RSS, an exclusivist organisation of Hindu men – arrived on the national scene as a prime mover. To paraphrase an old cliché, much water has flown down all the rivers of the country and elsewhere.
Everybody can recall how he had paid his respects before the parliament on his first visit there and had famously declared that Parliament is the “temple of democracy” and from now onwards Constitution would be ‘the most sacred book for him.’ Despite the highly debatable/controversial record of the RSS – as regards Constitution – which had not only opposed its making and had even proposed that Manusmriti be made into independent India’s constitution, ((https://www.newsclick.in/fascinating-manu)) a section of liberals had also looked at this statement with a sense of hope, as a signal that he intends to break from his past and supposedly wants to make a new beginning.
As his regime winds to a close it would be interesting/revealing to see whether he ( and the regime led by him) could remain true to his promise especially about the Constitution. Whether he could uphold, defend, strengthen the Constitution, ensure what Dr Ambedkar had prophesised at the time of its dedication to the nation, to move from political democracy – one individual, one vote regime – to social democracy – one individual having one value or it turned out to be just another jumla for the masses. 1 Or for him it was like all the holy and sacred books of yore, who are known to defend the status quo based on inequity and exclusion, ask its adherents to stick to it, want them that they obediently discharge the duties ordained to them all their lives and wait for the fulfilment of the promise that in their afterlife they would enjoy heaven.
Remeber the use of the metaphor of a holy book for the Constitution was not only a one off affair. PM Modi repeated it many a times further as well. May it be his address in the Lok Sabha as part of the commemoration of the Constitution to mark the 125th birth anniversary year of the chairman of its drafting committee Dr. B.R. Ambedkar 2 or his address to a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. 3
Perhaps it slipped from people’s minds to question this basic premise of equating Constitution, a wo/man made document – which even discusses process of amending it if needed- to a sacred/holy book which is considered by its adherents as ‘divinely inspired statement of its faith, history, and practices’ 4
A Constitution, as everybody can see – which is made by its people – which is open to criticism, claims to be imperfect and strives for dynamism and if needed can be changed. It’s comparison with a Sacred/Holy book, which by default claims superiority and infallibility would be like comparing apples and oranges.
Students of philosophy describe such a comparison as a category mistake, a semantic or ontological error5 wherein things belonging to a particular category are presented as if they belong to a different category or ‘a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property.’
History bears witness to the fact that it can take hundreds of years just to reform some minor aspect of a sacred book e.g. It took exactly 359 years for the Roman Catholic Church to change its stand vis-a-vis Galileo Galilei which had once forced this one of the founders of modern science to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun, in an inquisition held in 1633. It ultimately declared that Galileo was right in the year 1992.On the other hand we have before us our constitution which has been amended about 100 times in the last 66 years.
Perhaps the best way to look at the specific situation would be look at the trajectory of the promise itself. It would be to see how democracy – under his watch, – has unfolded itself especially for the dis-priviledged /disadvantaged/marginalised – especially the dalits and the adivasis and the other marginalised.
Whether the use of the term – like all sacred books of yore – which had denied any humanity to the wider populace, the outcastes, the marginalised and condemned them to a lesser than human existence has finally triumphed in this case as well or result has been different.
Whether the spirit of the constitution – enshrined in its historic Preamble which had promised on behalf of people of India to secure to all its citizens, ‘JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all ; FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; – stands enhanced or further diminished.
Before coming to the details it would be opportune to share a general outline of the situation which is obtained today.
It has been more than 68 years of the promulgation of the Constitution and its solemn declaration about abolition of discriminations on the basis of caste, religion, sex, ethnicity etc still itched in people’s minds.
As we approach towards its 69 th year celebrations few things are noticeable:
For the first time we have a parliament here where the ruling dispensation at the centre does not have a single member from the biggest minority community of the country. It is a parliament where we have lowest representation of them in the august house. Anyone who can look back at the list of candidates fielded by the ruling party would see for her/himself that this absence is not inadvertent but rather deliberate/planned.
The gradual marginalisation of the religious minorities from the august house is rather a symptom of the larger churning within the society, where they find themselves becoming slowly redundant. They are being increasingly told to adapt to ‘Indian’ (read Hindu) way of life and it is being argued whether their places of worship (mosques) are integral to their religious identity or not. 6 Attempts are on to ‘cultivate a far more durable system of normalised oppression’ where minorities are ‘compelled to become permanent participants in their own subordination.’ 7
No doubt it is a democracy but not built on shared ideals, shared goals rather shared hatreds, shared exclusions.
Perhaps a stark example of continuation of age old discrimination is that as per the goverment’s own admission the system of manual scavenging still continues and despite making two laws – one in 1993 and one again in 2013 – situation on the ground remains qualitatively the same. According to rough estimates we still have around 8 lakh people who are engaged in this ‘profession’ and 95 per cent of them are women. Or for that matter there are more than eight thousand ‘dowry deaths’ in India or perhaps a women is killed per hour in India for not fulfilling the demands of the in-laws.
Even as the ruling dispensation denies the rising chorus against “intolerance”, vigilante violence and lynching in the country as politically-motivated, communal incidents in India are on the rise, further bringing to the fore fact that religion based exclusions and violations of rights continue unabated. The vigilante violence where state acts either as a mute spectator or is in connivance with the perpetrators, severely impinges on the rule of law, the unfolding situation further makes the lives of the dis-priviledged, exploited more vulnerable and further emboldens the dominant classes.
The way the biggest democracy in the world seems to tolerate ‘mass crimes’ or crimes against humanity against excluded of various kinds and where the perpetrators of such crimes go unpunished is unbelievable. Forget getting punished masterminds of such crimes against humanity are suitably rewarded politically. The mass psyche is such that their appeal gets further enhanced. And the targets of such mass crimes are – mainly the religious minorities or people on the lowest rung of social matrix or the toiling masses of the country.
Would anyone believe that the ‘first’ massacre of fourty two Dalits -mainly women and children – in independent India at Kizzhevanamani (Tamilnadu, 1969) by the local upper caste landlords went unpunished with a specious argument on part of the judiciary that ‘ these are upper caste people and it is impossible to believe that they would have gone walking to the dalit hamlet’.
India is slowly metamorphosing into most inquitous societies in the world where its ‘1 per centers – its super-rich – have been getting richer faster or its top 1% holds close to half of the country’s total wealth.’ and the policies adopted by the present government benefitting the rich and detrimental to the poor are further aggravating the situation.
There could be very many issues which need to be unpacked and looked at critically, perhaps then only we can move towards a meaningful conversation.
Democracy which is in action here, at least formally under the guiding principles of the Constitution, is variously defined as say “..a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, religious, cultural, ethnic and racial equality, justice, and liberty” or “as a system of running organisations, businesses and groups in which each member is entitled to vote and participate in decisions..” or as a system whose important characteristics are “legal equality, freedom and rule of law”.
Definitions apart how someone part of the broad populace ‘experience’ democracy?
Well, the popular imagery which s/he bears in her/his mind basically pertains to one of the personnel of the coercive machinery of the state – the police, the revenue department, the bank, the civic authorities – which have a regular presence or one should say intervention in her/his life.
To simplify the discussion, one can think of the way s/he ‘feels’ democracy and the very first step in this direction is the idea of voting. The right to choose your representative without ‘fear or malice’ towards none. And the second one is the possibility of contesting election at least at the grassroots level.
India can rightly claim to be such a democracy where right to vote was granted to every adult – without any condition attached – at the time of independence only. A perusal of the archives tell us how India embarked on the preparation of the first draft electoral roll on the basis of Universal adult franchise within few months of gaining independence ( Nov 1947) which was perceived as the greatest experiment in democratic human history. Very few people would know how it was “[I]ndia’s stark act of decolonisation ” which was “no legacy of colonial rule” and fulfilment of its commitment made during national movement since the Nehru Report of 1928
Indians imagined the universal franchise for themselves, acted on this imaginary, and made it their political reality. By late 1949 India pushed through the frontiers of the world’s democratic imagination, and gave birth to its largest democracy. (‘How India Became Democratic’ , Penguin, Random House)
It is a different matter that with passage of time attempt seems to be on to restrict its spread in subtle or not so subtle manner.
The very idea of citizenship and its attendant proofs to validate it before authorities, is increasingly coming under scanner – where your being ‘belonging’ to ‘other’ religion has the possibility of disenfranchising you. We have also before us the need to ‘prove’ one’s ‘belonging’ to a particular landmass getting laced with many formalities. And its non-fulfilment may lead to one’s name getting deleted from the electoral roll itself being not an impossibility, one can be easily ‘robbed’ of this basic experience.
For example, it is suspected that a highly
“[c]ontroversial programme to link AADHAAR to Voter IDs by the Election Commission in 2015 with the stated purpose of “purification” of Electoral Rolls may have disenfranchised millions of citizens.” 8
and apart from this “In this process, the data of millions of citizens was shared in a manner that violated their fundamental right to privacy.” ( -do-) According to rough estimates Telangana alone which was one of the states that served as a template for the wider, national roll-out, election officials have themselves admitted that more than 2 million voters were struck off the electoral rolls.
Anyone having any doubt over the multifarious manner in which your citizenship could be put at risk can verify it from a look at north-east or to be specific Assam, where the process of NRC – which can be extended to other states also – and the issue of Citizenship Amendment Bill have stirred up a hornet’s nest.9
With the proposed amendment to the citizenship act 1955 which in the garb of humanitarianism an attempt is being made to “upturn the Constitution of India by slyly trying to introduce religious right-to-return.” As an aside we need to remember that “Unlike Israel, Korea (both South and North), and few other countries, Indian law and the Constitution till today doesn’t recognise any notion of ‘Right to return.’10
Apart from crafting a problematic definition of citizenship – which has a direct bearing on the democracy in action – and chorus to repeat similar exercise(s) in other parts of India, one is also witnessing that barriers of various kinds are being raised before people even to deprive them of the ‘experience’ of contesting election. And the much celebrated Panchayati Raj institutions seem to be the first target to implement it.
Apart from barring people to contest who have more kids or who have not installed toilets at their homes, two BJP ruled states have ( one of which is going to polls shortly) have introduced education as a criterion to be eligible to fight elections.
First Rajasthan followed by Haryana, now you need a minimum qualification to contest election, which means in Haryana 70 to 84 per cent of the village populace (according to report by Economic Times) is unfit to contest. If one tries to have a break-up of these figures one will find that the percentage would be more among Scheduled Castes/tribes.
With this we are moving towards a democracy – what should it be called a ‘managed’ democracy, a ‘guided democracy’, ‘elite democracy’- where for elections at the grassroot level education would be a criterion, a villager planning to contest elections to a Panchayat which handles a meagre sum of few lakhs rupees will have to be ‘educated”’.
Question arises can the deprived people be themselves ‘blamed’ for their remaining uneducated/illiterate/less educated ? Or onus should be on the state which had not made arrangements to educate them. What is disturbing that people are being penalised for the follies of the state itself could not become an issue. Irony was that even the judiciary had ratified this ‘externment’ of people from the electoral process.
A look at the situation as it exists today despite a decade old Right of Children to Education Act, can prove an eye-opener in this regard. A PIL filed by a teachers organisation before the highest courts had stated how
..[c]hildren are suffering as government schools are shutting down and around 9.5 lakh posts of teachers are vacant in these schools and sought implementation of the right to education of children aged between six to 14 years. ..The petition had also said that according to data, there were 14,45,807 government and registered private schools imparting elementary education in the country and as on 2015-16, there were approximately 3.68 crore children who were not in school. 11
Anybody can see that this idea to make education a criterion at the Panchayat level can easily catch up and other states – with due prodding from the dominant castes/classes there – can move on similar lines, making Panchayat institutions further exclusive and later it could be easily extended to other tiers of democratic institutions – say legislature and parliament.
Interestingly, erecting educational qualification as a barrier is not the only way of silencing a significant section, it can be done through consensus also. The plan of Panchayats based on Consensus has been discovered to be another ‘innovative’ way to impinge on the idea of decentralisation of power.
Remember village Ralegan Siddhi which was supposed to be ‘tranformed by Anna Hazare’.
The role played by a retired army personnel Anna Hazare in this transformation has already been well documented. Around two decades back it even became a unique case of consensual politics where all elections to local bodies are held with consensus.
It is a different matter that studies have appeared showing how this ‘consensual politics’ ultimately help silence the voices of the women and the other marginalised. 12
Interestingly Ralegan Siddhi is no exception today. With the introduction of Samaras Gram Panchayat called as ‘governance through consensus’ in early nineties asking people to unanimously elect entire Panchayat, with an incentive that it would get additional funds for development, this move has now new takers. (seems to be having new takers.). Popularised by a BJP led government such attempts are also glorified as “unique custom of Arya culture” which supposedly intend to preserve the ‘originality’, the ‘customs’ etc of the village (https://panchayat.gujarat.gov.in/panchayatvibhag/english/schemes/samras-yojna.htm).
Do not forget that this “unique Arya culture” is nothing but varna based caste system.
Apart from handing over the reins of village panchayats to the local dominant classes via ‘consensus’ we are also witness to the multiple ways in which corporates are exercising control over their functioning. A classic case was reported from Kerala.
The elections to a village Kizhakkambalam in Ernakulam district of Kerala reached headlines because here a team fielded by a Corporate house Anna Kitex won the elections.13 Idea behind fielding a team and investing in the village was not lost on people as the Corporate group wanted “smooth operation of their company” and earlier Panchayat had denied licence to them. 14
One sees a replication of this model in ‘conflict zones’ in a different manner, here the brute machinery of the state comes forward to throttle rights granted to Panchayats if they seem ready to resist takeover of their lands by corporates.
The whole ambience which celebrates silencing of voices or where democracy effectively metamorphoses into majoritiarianism has also its reflection at the grassroot level as well. One can relook at the Chattisgarh experience itself where there were reports how Hindu majority Panchayats passed resolution to stop the Christian villagers from building Church.
This happens to be the silver jubilee year of the Panchayati Raj experiment – which was envisaged as a unique model of decentralisation of power in whole of South Asia. With its more than 2.5 lakh Panchayats, 32 lakh representatives – which includes more than 12 lakh women – it has the potential of breaking new grounds in this direction.
It is a different matter that actual experience belies this expectations.
The second step/ or the other step to ‘experience’ democracy is concerned, is the way economic rights are ensured or at least an attempt is made in that direction, so that the last wo/man in the street also ‘feels’ that state cares about her/him.e.g. Consider few of the rights which were already in existence (granted by the previous regimes) and what has been the impact of a regime, which came to power with the claim of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.
Take the case of right to information (RTI) which had definitely helped widen transparency/accountability or right to work had taken steps to ensure right to work ( albiet for a limited period) or food security act or right to education.
There is no need to underline that such rights etc prove most beneficial to the most deprived. most marginalised namely the dalits and the tribals because they help it not only demand information from the government machinery but also make work available during days of scarcity of work etc. Definitely no deep research is needed to find out how all these rights are being gradually scuttled by various means : through legal fiat, not deploying enough human resources, not issuing funds or closing of institutions which facilitate such activities.
We know how the MNREGA was consciously diluted by the present regime because it was of the opinion that it is a ‘symbol of failure of Congress government’. Later some few thousand crores were allotted but it tried to hide the fact that a fourth of the amount alloted belonged to payment arrears from last year.
Similar things happened with food security act which was formed in 2013. Till 2016 it had not even started implementing it and extending its deadline thrice with executive orders – which was the job of the parliament itself. And this despite the fact that India Ranks 103rd Among 119 Countries In Global Hunger Index, Even Below Bangladesh & Ethiopia
What is worth emphasising that the same state Rajasthan which decided to have only ‘educated’ members in the Panchayat was also the first one which had closed thousands of schools under the name of ‘rationalisation’ 15a move which has caught up in rest of India as well. 16
States like Maharashtra have gone one step further. It has not only shut down more than 4,000 government schools – claiming that they had ten or fewer students – but have even cleared a bill in the assembly which now allows private companies to open schools in Maharashtra. 17
And everybody knows who studies in government schools – mainly the poor whose great majority comprises of the dalits and tribals only.
The third level / or say another level to ‘experience’ democracy is the way it endeavours to defend individual rights or comes forward to defend social-cultural rights of the people, or it how facilitates/helps enhance choices in very many ways or how the way in which it tries to usher in what Dr Ambedkar described as ‘constitutional morality’ and transcend what is called as social morality.
Apart from enacting laws/acts it also helps raise awareness via campaigns etc about such issues.
It does not need expert gyan to see how not only individual rights – right to food of one’s choice, right to wear particular clothes or right to marry according to one’s choice are under organised attack by the combined might of the state and the right-wing vigilante groups.
For example, take the issue of right to food itself.
In a country, where a significant section of population suffers from chronic hunger and which stands at 131 in Global Hunger Index rank, whether the government should dictate what one should eat or not. Perhaps it is a cruel question. It is a different matter that under the name of protection of majority’s faith, people are told what to eat and what not to eat, in fact, devouring their food is being criminalised.
Consider the whole issue of banning beef itself where Muslims and Dalits have faced violent attacks and reprisals. Apart from its direct impact on livelihood of people who have been made redundant, an important fallout of this move had been its negative impact on the intake of cheap proteins by a vast majority of people – dalits, adivasis, Muslims, Christians etc – for whom beef happens to be the cheapest source of protein as it costs nearly one-third of mutton or gosht and forms important part of traditional food habits of people.
What is atrocious is the same party which opposes beef consumption in general has no qualms in claiming in other states – where beef is not banned and is part of staple food – that if it comes to power it would offer its good quality ( Kerala) or it will ensure that the ban is not effected in their state (Goa) or representatives of the parent organisation going to North East saying ating beef cannot come in the way of becoming a member of the RSS.18
Denial of food is not limited to beef. It extends to all other non-vegetarian foods
One sees similar motives in closing of ‘illegal abbatoirs’ or the way the outgoing MP government led by Chauhan had denied distribution of eggs in mid day meal for similar reasons.
And this despite the fact that, perceptions apart, a majority of Indian population is non-vegetarian.
The most authoritative study is the People of India survey, a mammoth enterprise of the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) completed in 1993. The eight-year study was steered by its director-general Kumar Suresh Singh and covered every rite, custom and habit of every single community in the country. At the end of it, the army of ASI researchers found that of the 4,635 communities, nearly 88 per cent were meat-eaters. (https://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/meaty-tales-of-vegetarian-india-47830) A 2006 State of the Nation survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) for Hindu-CNN-IBN reinforces the ASI report that the overwhelming majority is non-vegetarian. It revealed that only 31 per cent of Indians are vegetarians. 19
One could have premonition of such things to come when the Gujarat government bowed to the demands of the Jain community, who wanted Palitana, near Bhavnagar, which is considered a sacred place by the Jains, be declared a purely ‘vegetarian area’ immediately after the ascent of Modi as Prime Minister. It not only resulted in banning of ritual slaughter of animals and closing of an estimated 260 butchers’ shops and closing of shops, restaurants engaged in selling of such items. 20
Or consider the way the government dealt with the issue of Prevention of Atrocities Act, first it did not argue the case properly, sent one of its weakest representative to the courts, let the two judge SC bench dilute it and took months to issue an ordinance and this despite the fact that even its own records tell that all these years the atrocities on dalit and adivasis have seen continual increase. Later it was compelled to justify the decision to amend SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act “to overturn Supreme Court verdict to introduce anticipatory bail provision, saying that people from SCs/STs communities continue to face atrocities and they need protection.”21
Denial of individuality – especially related to the dalits and tribals – also extends to even the way they should describe themselves.
We know how the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had on August 7 issued ( close on the heels of a high court order) a circular ‘advising’ the media to refrain from using the word “Dalit” while referring to those belonging to Scheduled Castes. It had directed that the Constitutional term ‘Scheduled Caste’ in English, and its translation in other national languages should alone be used for all official transaction, matters, dealings, certificates etc. for denoting the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes.
While the ‘arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable, discriminatory decision’ which goes against fundamental rights to equality (Article 14), non-discrimination (Article 15), various freedoms (Article 19) and life and liberty (Article 21) guaranteed under the Constitution have been challenged in the SC but it exhibited the mindset of the people in power who were even way of a ‘self-chosen name’ by the socially oppressed which has been for them a “positive self-identifier and as a political identity”.
Perhaps the majoritarian understanding of democracy which they approve has no space for such expressions.
The whole process reminds one of what Jayant Lele talks about the ‘three essential characteristics of Hindutva. According to him it is ‘hegemonic, homogenising and pedagogic, all at the same time and in complexly interrelated ways’. ( Hindutva, The Emergence of the Right)
It is not limited to what they should call themselves, it even extends to how they perceive their life experiences, how they look back at the religion which they supposedly belonged to and the way it treated them.
And it is not a coincidence that right from attempts at targetting ‘Joothan’ by Omprakash Valmiki or curbing Perumal Murugan’s or Sowendra Hansda Sekhar’s freedom of expression or to banning ‘Why I am not a Hindu’ and other books by by Kancha Illiah from University curriculum , people are increasingly being told how to even comprehend one’s life experiences.
A ‘sanitised’ Ambedkar is also being projected before us. A fictitious Ambedkar which was close to the Hindutva ideologues, who was a similar ‘Hindu Social Reformer’ like them is being peddled in a planned manner while every attempt is on to obliterate the real Ambedkar.
Remember how the Maharashtra Government demolished the Ambedkar Bhavan which was built by Ambedkar himself to make way for a 17-floor commercial building. “What made things suspicious was the demolition was carried out in the wee hours of Saturday. According to media reports, a rare collection of books, the office furniture plus the printing press went under the rubble. Some of the books were further damaged by water.22
One can similarly recall how the Gujarat government led by Anandiben Patel had destroyed lakhs of copies of Ambedkar’s biography which it itself had commissioned for government schools as the biographer had included Ambedkar’s 22 pledges which he and his followers had taken at the time of conversion to Buddhism.
Looking back, one can see the idea behind prescribing these oaths was that there should be complete severance of bond with Hinduism. In fact. the vows were such that they struck a blow at the roots of Hindu beliefs and practices. It was important to liberate the converts from superstitions, wasteful and meaningless rituals, which had resulted in the pauperisation of masses and enrichment of dominant castes. The vows talked of no faith in any Hindu god and declared not to worship them and avoid all its rituals.They also declared that no belief in the incarnation of God. Apart from declaring adherence to Buddhas teachings, they also declared belief in equality of man and making efforts to establish equality. 23
The ‘prescription of identity’ is not limited to dalits only.
It extends to tribals and other oppressed categories as well..
What should they call themselves ‘Vanvasis’ – forest dwellers or ‘Adivasis’ – original inhabitants and what is its import to Hindutva politics.
One can see how process of obliteration of their own identity is in full swing – laced with large scale introduction of Hanuman Statues or organising of new ‘festivals’ like Shabari Kumbh and how these newly Hinduised tribals are being pitted against their other brethren belonging to Christianity. The programmes around ‘Ghar Wapasi’ are also in full swing. In his thought provoking writeup ‘Adivasis in Fascist Regime’ activist author Goldy George mentions how a “sweeping pattern of Hinduisation of learning and education spaces has been on a rush.. All Adivasi and Dalit hostels are used for this purpose. Saraswati Pooja has been one of the initial entries which in fact moved to other regimes of life with a critical substitution of many of the Adivasi and Dalit gods and goddesses..” 24
Merely two years back reports had appeared in a section of the media about the decisions of the ( Hindu) tribal dominated Panchayats from Chhatisgarh which had denied permission to build Church in the village in a ‘democratic’ manner.
The organised attack on the religious congregations of such Christians by Hindutva lumpens – which includes many a tribals as well acting as their foot soldiers – with due connivance of the police is a regular affair in all such areas where tribals inhabit, making it obvious that the right to particular faith and even its propagation granted by the constitution is merely a slogan.
The manner in which democracy is unfolding in case of dalits and tribals and other marginalised and exploited cannot just be understood as consolidation of a class regime. The hegemonising, homogenising and pedagogic characteristic of Hindutva is in full swing here. And as of now the end is not in sight.
What is the way ahead for all of us in this situation?
One can refer back to Jayant Lele again where he says “The task of challenging and dismantling the homogenisations and hegemony.. must in the end rest in the hands of those whose lives are being either moulded or threatened against their wishes. Attempts to broaden the debate by situating today’s politics within the context of a global casino economy and by unmasking the pretensions about a Hindu history as a linear syncretic process, have the purpose of placing the necessary weapons of critique back in the hands of those from whom they have been violently stolen.” ( Hindutva, The Emergence of the Right)
Words which were written more than two decades back seem so relevant even now.
(Edited and Revised presentation made at a discussion on ‘State of Parliamentary Democracy in India”, 12 th Nov 2018)
- As an aside. although not relevant to the present discussion, the role played by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in its making be registered here. We know that the preamble to the Indian Constitution is its heart and soul. It’s Drafting Committee led by Dr Ambedkar has noted it is based on the ‘Resolution on the Aims and Objects of the Constitution’ (which came to be known as the ‘Objective Resolution’), which Nehru moved on 13 December 1946, and it was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 January 1947,https://www.bloombergquint.com/opinion/nehru-role-in-constitution-making-far-greater-than-ambedkar#gs.6UASG1Y
- Blackburn, Simon (1994). The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford University Press. p. 58.
- Page 117, Dismantling India, Edited by John Dayal, Leena Dabiru, Shabnam Hashmi