In our part of the world, democracy is a matter of pride. The transition to the notion of having a Government based on regular elections makes us feel ‘elated’. This ‘fancy’ notion of rule by people is seen as “progressive”. So we had the Bhutanese King himself introducing democracy on his land.
In South Asian, India comes closest to being what is called a ‘democracy’. We are the World’s largest democracy, a matter of pride which is often re-iterated but more often in not so ‘proudest’ of the moments. This road of democracy has not been a smooth one. There have been major ruptures like the emergency of 1975 and many minor ruptures.
Infact, the concept of “fractured democracy” has more buyers today. Rule of the ‘people’ is one myth rejected by everyone on this land of mythical stories. Today, people ask rule of which people? In the people’s rule, people have no faith in their political representatives. The very idea of joining politics is seen as a forbidden sin by many. Politics is ‘dirty’, they argue.
Democracy has led to the propagation of communal ideas. It has lead to communal clashes. Casteism and politics of ethnicity has also managed a space in the World’s largest ‘democracy’. Ofcourse, it has to be noted that these ideas of identity politics are not alien to people’s mindsets.
There have also been contradictions in this democracy. So, on one hand, we have a bunch who propagate all kinds of myths which promised to unleash hell and on the other, there have been people like Irom Sharmila, whose voice has been suppressed for 11 years now. On one hand, the voices which have challenged the very base of the democracy, the constitution have been allowed but on the other, this woman’s voice has been suppressed even though she is only demanding the revival of the constitution to save the World’s largest ‘democracy’.
So it is quite clear that democracy in India has faced as well led to major challenges. But does this call for a search for an alternative system? Some moderate voices have asked for a modified democracy with a bi-party system, instead of a multi-party system or a federal system. While these are still within the sphere of a democracy, there have also been voices to do away with democracy and settle for an army rule.
However much fractured our democracy may be but the voices for an army rule gives me Goosebumps. So what does democracy means to me?
Democracy for me is a hope. The contemporary emperors, popularly known as politicians, may not be representing me. They may be the cause for corruption, poverty and communal and ethnic clashes but democracy is still the reason why I can still hope to breath. I can live under the illusion that things will change if the ‘right’ people get selected. And I can also imagine that illusion turning into a reality.
Democracy allows for a room for ‘change’ by holding regular elections. It paints an illusion. Democracy may be autocratic in reality, but it can promise an unautocratic and fair rule.
There may be thousands of instances to be disillusioned but the election time does manage to re-enchant us. Democracy does create, to an extent, fear amongst the politicians and keeps a check on them. The power to ‘change’ does, to an extent, haunt them and forces them to do atleast one good deed with their thousand bad deeds.
Democracy may allow proliferation of dangerous ideas but what is to be noted, is this freedom to proliferate all kinds of ‘nonsense’. Democracy gives us the hope of having different voices. Like Irom Sharmila, our voice may be suppressed. But because this is a democracy, the Government’s negligent attitude towards her is now being challenged. A more popular example is the online uproar against the attempts by the Government to moderate our virtual lives. The netizens had unanimously protested against this attack on our ‘democracy’.
It is democracy which allows us to dissent. It allows us the mechanism to raise our voice in protest. No other system can vouch for this. In pre-French revolution France, you would have been guillotined. In Taliban regime, you would be stoned to death.
There have been voices which have suggested the adoption a bi-party system, instead of a multi-party system. But the opponents have argued that a multi-party system allows more democratic voices. A multi-party system accommodates diverse voices. It makes the democracy stronger.
The notion of democracy is something which comes almost naturally to us now. We use it to guard our personal and sometimes conservative beliefs. It is hard, atleast for me, to even imagine an alternative order where there will be no dissent.
Democracy is a power, though unrealised to a great extent, in the hands of the people. So while democracy has amounted to a lot of hardships, I feel that it still remains to be the only ship to sail across and reach the island of ‘liberation’.