>How much democracy do we have?


As someone with good appetite for entertainment, the buildup to the 60th anniversary of my nation’s freedom has been quite extraordinary. I have always felt that we Indians do not have a healthy positive attitude, a feeling of happiness of what we have achieved even though there are some failures. One of the main culprits, in my view, is the Indian media. With most of the country’s news media in the hands of political parties, an unbiased joyful celebration from all quarters never seemed possible. But for this glorious Wednesday, most of the news media came around from their usual doldrums to bring forth the various achievements India has made. Especially CNNibn has provided one of the best tribute and analysis package for the Indian history. From ‘the 10 most defining moments’ to ‘special state of the nation’ from “sportsperson of the country’ to ‘path to future’, the news channel has certainly topped my expectations.

One question that has been put in the fore, in all the forums, is ‘whether India is free?’ or ‘Does democracy in India actually exists?’. Most of the political experts and historians seem to agree that India has achieved laudable democracy and freedom but there is lot of grounds yet to be covered. And for once I take their word. But to my disappointment, and great surprise, a majority of the participants (mostly young audience) do not seem to agree. They all seem to converge that India is not free, not even for a coupon.

As I spend the next few hours in reading all their statements and definitions on democracy, freedom, free will and free society, the only emotion I can sense is depression and to an extent anger and nothing remotely close to happy. There were titles like ‘…democracy-the great farce or … freedom, are you joking?’. I furiously wrote some comments but still I cannot assuage myself. Even my brother sitting in his own bedroom chatting through his pc claims he does not have freedom (the one word answer he gave was “NO”, both caps). They all seem to have found the social ills that they think have somehow slipped everybody else’s radars. In their haste to stand unique, they have all bought the same shirt.

The issues that our society faces today are more visible than what any of these i-see-bad-things citizens think. Problems such as gaping rich-poor division, struggling rural development and of course the ever-present religious conflicts, to name a few, are pretty visible for a casual eye. Most of the population understands these problems and they acknowledge it too. But whining about the symptoms never helped a doctor.

Very rarely did someone take time to actually see the complexities and uniqueness in the issues facing our nation. It is pointless to compare our country with another for hardly few nations have so much diversity in just about everything as ours. Linguistic divisions with deep roots, religious conflicts fueled by often misdirected but strong sentiments and of course the mostly crippling minority appeasements. These issues did not just come out of the blues, but have strong hold in our history and they just cannot be expected to wither way in a wink. With 3 times the population as the United States and only a third of its land size, it requires more than our old, rusty and semi-working government mill.

But look at the brighter side, the side these educated citizens will only acknowledge and not appreciate. Although it is our democratic responsibility to point the wrongs in the system, we also owe to the nation to appreciate her accomplishments. The success record of ISRO, global gallop of IT industries, steadfast progress in nuclear sector and few more are certainly something we should be proud of. In everyday aspects, the improved life style and associated luxuries of the general public is very much visible and that is something that even someone like me who came from a simple township can attest to.
I surfed through the internet and found some interesting predictions.

John Strachey had said “there was no Indian nation or country in the past: nor would there be one in the future“.

Winston Churchill had decried India’s ability for self-governance and Robert Dahl among the doomsayers had said “that India can sustain democratic institutions seems on the face of it highly improbable“.

Writing in the 1970’s, journalist and old-India hand James Cameron had claimed “prominent women in Indian public life all came from the upper class, English-speaking backgrounds… there was not and never will be a working-class woman with a function in Indian politics“.

Sixty years into self-governance, seems like Mother India prevailed after all.

Yes there are many problems that leech our nation, but they all fade away to nothing when she basks in her glorious 6oth birthday and everyone is invited.

And yes, She is free, whether you appreciate it or not.