India and democracy- seems like a love story that people fought hard to achieve but very carelessly maintained. When we adopted democracy, we promised inclusivity, respect and development to our people because India saw what it’s like to be divided. We pride ourselves in unity in diversity, the one that claims us that reputed spot in the global picture. When we got divided, we were won over. But when we came together and united as one, we made the world witness the power and strength there is in unity. And this is the sole reason why patriotism was always in the picture, but nationalism? Not so much.
The worlds apart distinction between these 2 words started becoming prominent with the advent of Modi-led NDA government in 2014, who entered with claims of ‘acche din’ and global positioning in the forefront and the flag of Hindu nationalism in the back. The 7 years of Modi government has witnessed a lot of things, with the fall of democracy topping the list. India’s position in the annual global democracy index published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranked at 27th in the list of 167 countries. Modi government’s reign has witnessed the fall of our democracy so terribly that we’ve come straight down by almost twice the position in 2014, i.e. on the 53rd spot as per the ranking issued for 2021. As terrible as it may sound, I don’t think it is much of a shock to see a position in the category of ‘flawed democracy’ after all that the nationalist ideology of the government has made us experience.
In the recent report that was published, the Economist Intelligence Unit stated the reason for the 2 spots fall in India’s position from last year as, “ democratic backsliding authorities and crackdowns on civil liberties has led to a further decline in India’s ranking.” It further expressed how the growing religious intolerance and hurt individual sovereignty under the current regime has constantly been the reason for India’s downfall in the index, saying “With mounting pressure on India’s democratic norms, India’s score fell from a peak of 7.92 in 2014 to 6.61 in 2020 and its global ranking slipped from 27th (in 2014) to 53rd as a result of democratic backsliding under the current regime.” It further alleged that the Narendra Modi-led government has “introduced a religious element to the conceptualisation of Indian citizenship, a step that many critics see as undermining the secular basis of the Indian state”. “The authorities’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic led to a further erosion of civil liberties in 2020,” the report said.
The ideologies of the Modi government that brought along religious intolerance and xenophobia in the country have been imbibed by the government, in the people, so carefully that the people today see the Prime Minister as the country. Again, patriotism is when you love your country and do all you can to ensure righting the wrong. Nationalism, on the other hand, means loving your country such that you refuse to see anything wrong with it. And that, my friend, is the very way a democracy fails. Patriotism is with the country, with its people and with what is stands for. When the need to feel patriotism towards the Prime Minister takes over, make sure realise you’ve set foot on the right path because no deal of individual interest can be put over the country’s interests, not even the Prime Minister, which Narendra Modi has time and again proved to be true.
A country where people’s grumbling, even online, is restricted and activists who raise voice against the government are put behind bars hurts the fundamental right of freedom of speech. A country who’s media displays half facts and misrepresents situations to favour the government, thereby fooling its very own people hurt the right to truthful information. A country who’s people are retained from using networks and are brutalised by police for representing their concerns despite continuous efforts to make the government listen hurt the people’s right to peaceful protests. A country where content showing left wing arguments and real sides of the stories of covered propagandas are banned and restricted violate the freedom of expression. A country who’s government isn’t held accountable for its action and can push anything under the big carpet of propaganda isn’t democratically functioning. A country that undertakes any of this isn’t democratic. So it’s time we question ourselves, the way Modi government led India is going, are we truly walking the path of democracy? Are we really standing on what our forefathers had in mind for this country and each of its citizens? I guess we know the answer to it already, even if we don’t accept it.
But, guess what- The world sees it. We see it and so many fellow Indians see it. But we decide to turn a blind eye to it and get back to our day like it’s normal. When did we normalise chanting religious slogans in political matters and undermining other religions during rallies and elections? When did we start normalising straight up violation of basic human rights in the face of democracy? When did we normalise running errands to burden the already marginalised and created this absurd feeling of exclusivity? Or when did we normalise imposition of section 144 and cutting down access to networks? Well, be my guest in this guilt trip because we did normalise these things by not speaking up when the time was right and not standing up for the people who needed it because we were too busy ignoring our privilege.
Politics, laws, governments- all this can be a topic of difference of opinions. But basic human rights and their violation? They can’t be. No life is greater than the other and no life is inferior. If the world sees it and you still don’t, it’s time you take cover off your eyes because everything is not a propaganda, no matter how desperately the government wants to make you believe. There’s still hope in humanity.