Sunday, October 26, 2008

The World’s Largest Democracy

Since ancient times, the land of Indus has been envy for the entire world. People have always been at awe of this nation diverse not only geographically, but also culturally and racially. Alexander the great, used to dream of walking on this golden land which would have been the crowning jewel in his short life. Chinese traveler Fa Hein was in awe at the richness in the culture of this nation. But, in modern times, it is not the culture and the heterogeneity that should draw attention. The survival of Indian democracy in the past 61 years is something one should be in awe off.

Many might ask why it is something so startling. American democracy has survived for over 2 centuries. It is nothing out of the ordinary.

Well, for one, the very structure and history of Indian social system is so complex that the decisions of the fathers of our nation to make it a democratic nation might have fallen flat on its face.  The heterogeneous society, which has become an abode for people belonging to almost a dozen religions. The caste system is almost as complex as the compound present in the web of a spider. And to top it all, there are scores of languages which had made it very difficult to choose our national language.

The political scenarios weren’t all honey and milk either. Unlike the Americans, Indians have a multi-party system. And when I say multi-party, ‘multi’ stands for a thousand. There is a party for every language, religion, caste, region, race, political philosophy and so on and so forth. This definitely leads to much more instability in the legislature.

And yes, Indian legislature has faced its times of trial. Over the last 2 decades, no party has ever had clear majority, but yet, somehow, the records show, that it is over this same period of time, India has made the most advances, in almost all the fields. That in more ways than one, shows the power of the Indian democracy.

Back in the 1970’s, the Indian system was in turmoil. A certain Indira Gandhi had single handedly shaken the entire nation.  Using her brilliant manipulative skills, she had managed to acquire almost all the powers of the state. But, unlike Hitler’s Germany, the Indian voters rejected her. In the next national elections her party was removed, hence again proving the power of the masses.

Earlier this century, Gujarat, one of the richest states of India, was burning. 

Thousands of Muslims were slaughtered and left homeless. Such genocide in modern days is probably matched only by the conditions in Darfur in Sudan. And during this massacre, the government in power, BJP, sat back and enjoyed a front row seat to the performance.  Despite the extremities of the entire event, Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, also belonging to BJP, was hailed as a hero by the government.

Now, BJP had been in power for almost 3 years. Under their reign, the progression of the Indian economy had scaled great heights.  Even internationally, the world was taking notice to the growing power. But the Gujarat riots turned out to be one of the black spots in their tenure. The Indian voters didn’t appreciate the divisive methods used by BJP and Modi. They weighed the work of the government, and realized that inaction during the riots resulted in scales tipping to the disapproval of the people.

And against all odds, BJP lost the elections, adding another feather in the hat of democracy.

With the examples stated above I am not trying to show the perfection Indian political system because it is far from it. But the importance of these events shows the triumph of Democracy. Despite its slow processes, it remains as one of the post powerful tools of the modern political system. In the long run, it is beneficial for all masses. And let’s face it; the masses are the ones who make the nation.

History has proved the failure of other political systems. Fascism is a strict no-no for all, except for the power hungry and corrupt politicians. But again, Fascism occurs in extreme cases like the combined efforts of World War I and the Great Depression leading to the rise of the dictatorships during the 1920s and 30s.

Communism too saw it reaching its peak one stage, but with the fall of the Soviet Union, and the liberalization of China, it once again proved that Democracy was prevailing as the most popular tool of politics.

Barring a few smalls states, even monarchy has diluted over the past century. Most royal heirs remain as titular heads and a target for the paparazzi, more than anything else.  

There is a rapid increase in mediums through which people can express their opinions, not only through words but also through films. Gone are the days when only a handful of news channels were aired on TV. Now any person, with a camera and a computer can have his own News portal on the internet. Public Opinion remains one of the essential tools for a successful democratic system. And when these tools are in the hands of the same people who are supposed to vote, it adds another strong brick to the sturdy wall of Democracy.

We live in a world where geographical boundaries are fast dissolving with the rapid advances in technology. Wyndham Lewis’ theory of Global Village is fast becoming a reality. The young generation is open to cultural exchange, thereby deleting many afore held prejudices. Anyone who has an access to internet has become a global citizen. In fact, I would even state that the world’s largest Democracy is no longer India, but the world itself.

If any Democracy can survive and have successes in a diverse country

 like India, it is definitely can be a major tool in international politics as well. With proper awareness and outreach, the dominance of one super power can be nullified.  Though the hostilities and tensions won’t go away, Democracy can bring in a sense of equality. In the words of Abe Lincoln, one of the stalwarts of politics: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”

It may not be the perfect system. There are a lot of loop holes. But still, at the end of it, the ultimate power will always remain in the hands of the people.  End of the day, the people in power, will always be accountable to the people. Though it is far from perfection, the system allows room for improvement. Democracy has stood the test of time. Democracy is here to stay.