Day in and day out, the ruling party leaders, the vote-oriented opposition and the quarters of the establishment cry hoarse about India being an epitome of democracy. But the myriads of Indians crushed under the grinding machine of ruthless capitalist exploitation with every passing hour know from their life’s experience what kind of democracy is in operation! Keeping a facade of parliamentary democracy, what is clamping its grip on the country is fascist autocracy.
Now a couple of reports brought in the public domain by US-based ‘Freedom House’ and Sweden’s V-Dem Institute have held that democracy in India has virtually become a caricature.
According to the latest annual report on global political rights and civil liberties, titled as “Freedom in the World 2021 – Democracy under Siege” covering the events of 2020 published by ‘Freedom House’ that conducts research on political freedom and human rights around the world, India has lost its status as a democracy and free society. So the report downgraded India from ‘free country’ to ‘partly free’. The report has commented that under the rule of Modi-led BJP government, Hindu nationalist interests are being elevated disregarding its founding democratic values of inclusion and equal rights for all. The report mentions that since PM Narendra Modi led BJP came to power in 2014, increased pressure on human rights organizations, intimidation of journalists and activists, and a spate of attacks, especially against the critics of the government and the religious minority – the Muslims –had led to a deterioration of political and civil liberties in the country, and freedom of expression is under threat in India. The report further says that this decline of democratic standard has accelerated after Modi-BJP government assumed central power for the second term in 2019, as the Modi government and its mentor, RSS-Sangh Parivar, had spearheaded discriminatory policies and increased violence affecting the Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis who remain economically and socially marginalized. The report reveals that the capitalist countries across the world, especially the imperialist powers, more emphatically USA, the leader of world capitalism-imperialism, and India, its closest capitalist-imperialist ally and an emerging super power, bother least for democratic values that has been causing serious erosion of democratic institutions the world over, resulting in rampant attacks on people’s human rights and civil liberties, including freedom of expression and choice.
“In September, 32 individuals charged with orchestrating the illegal 1992 demolition of a prominent mosque in the state of Uttar Pradesh were acquitted by a special court, despite substantial evidence of their culpability. Among those exonerated were several high-profile members of the BJP. Modi had laid the foundation stone for a new Hindu temple on the site a month earlier, after a long-awaited 2019 Supreme Court judgment had permitted the construction of a temple there. The mosque had stood on the site for centuries prior to its unlawful destruction,” the Freedom House Report said on the Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya. It also talked about the “ham-fisted” nationwide lockdown imposed to control the spread of coronavirus. Under this lockdown, many labourers were forced to walk hundreds of miles on foot since they did not have access to basic supplies and services in the cities.
Revelations by V-Dem Institute
Not long before the Freedom House Report, Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute in its finding of an analytical research project commented that India has turned into an “electoral autocracy” and the ruling BJP now closely resembles a “typical governing party in an autocracy”. But according to the research organization, after Narendra Modi became the prime minister, censorship efforts have become routine and are no longer related to only government matters. It also claimed that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, amended in 2019, was being used to “harass, intimidate, and imprison political opponents” as well as against people protesting against the government’s policies. “The UAPA has been used also to silence dissent in academia,” it said. “Universities and authorities have also punished students and activists in universities engaging in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.” “These developments are among the instances contributing to the descent into electoral authoritarianism in what used to be the world’s largest democracy”, the report mentioned. The report also added that sedition cases have risen exponentially since 2014. The Modi government had resorted to crackdown on dissent or misuse of enforcement agencies. The Report mentioned, inter alia, that two factors are creating even more apathy towards democracy. First, when populist nationalism reigns supreme and rulers shower sops and freebies at election time, who really cares about democracy and holding leaders accountable? Also, when public life is intensely polarised, it is almost impossible to build a consensus on what constitutes a danger to freedom. The report also alluded to the ‘love jihad law’ fundamentally curtailing personal freedom in love and marriage. While international bodies are lashing out at the Modi government’s authoritarian ways, the BJP government for obvious reason is fulminating against such reports. Not surprisingly, above-mentioned reports not only showed that in matters of freedom of expression, etc., especially concerning rule of law, India’s record is far worse than USA even. (as witnessed recently how frantic efforts by former President Trump to bend the rule of law according to his whims met with failure).
Such misdeeds not rebuffed in elections
But the V-Dem report wondered how such systematic decimation of democracy is not impacting electoral results and the BJP has been returned to power a second time? This is where they have not been able to get into the truth. When democracy is being slaughtered so much so as to become an ‘electoral autocracy’, how can elections be held freely and fairly? Or they are manipulated by the power that be with money-muscle-media and administrative power at its command? Rigging in election has become a worldwide phenomenon in capitalist countries. Even there are allegations of cybercrime in tampering election results through remote control and hacking even installing monitored programmes. India has been no exception to that. In fact, over the years, the common Indians have become accustomed to imperious displays of such coercive powers by the parties of the establishment during the elections and are also familiar with efforts to rig people’s mandate through manipulating Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). They are also seeing how the Election Commission, a statutory body, is being virtually reduced to a talking parrot of the ruling party and acting according to its behest. Since they find no remedy to such farce of election and also regrettably lack necessary political consciousness to understand the reason behind such degeneration of the electoral process and its conductors, they have to a great extent become indifferent to election. Rather, the misery and penury-stricken people think that as such they are not going to get anything other than deprivation, denial and discrimination. So, when the bell tolls for election and the bourgeois parliamentary parties offer raw cash, one or two square meals, sops and freebies against vote, they grab those giveaways and blindly rally behind such parties being oblivious of the fact that this is highest order of deception, if not a veritable crime of bribing, on the part of the vote-birds to corner pelf and power riding on their plight, wretchedness and haplessness.
Erosion of bourgeois democracy is inexorable
The oppressed working class, peasants and other sections of the toiling masses need to imbibe the truth that with world capitalism plunged into ever deepening insolvable crisis bred by the laws of operation of the exploitative capitalist system, the parliamentary democracy, as political superstructure of capitalism, is bound to degenerate. Harbouring illusion about the putrid bourgeois democracy would be a height of folly. The ruling capitalist class, in order to provide extra lease of life to its decadent moribund rule would continue to strip parliamentary democracy of all its essence, deny all democratic rights to the people and trample underfoot all democratic norms, values and practices. Both the “Freedom-House” as well as V-Dem reports have only attested to this reality. But what they did not do is to focus on the definite cause behind such erosion of democracy. They cannot, we know. Because they cannot think beyond capitalism. But the oppressed people round the world, including India, must realize that this tumbling democracy cannot be restored by any magic wand within the frame of capitalism.. Their emancipation from the yoke of exploitative capitalism lies in revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system and establishing socialism free from exploitation of man by man by traversing the historically-determined path and fulfilling all necessary conditions for this desired qualitative change.
(Sources: freedomhouse.org 03-03-2021,Outlook 04-03-21 2021, BBC 04-03-21,Bloomberg-04-03-21,washingtonpost 24-01-20, 24/1/2020, Vox News-03-03-21, The Wire 04-03-21, Business Today 04-03-21, scroll.in 10-03-21, Times of India 21-03-21)