Special Reports

Muslim Minority and Legitimacy of Government of India’s Federal Democracy

New Delhi: The Institute of Objective Studies organised a lecture on the “Muslim Minority and Legitimacy of Government of India’s Federal Democracy” here on 10 October.

Delivering the lecture, Dr Arshi Khan of the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University, said that democracy is not only the name of the elected and contested institutions, but it is directly connected with the legitimacy and the performance of the government. In plural societies, like India, the role of democracy differed from being the agency of administration and control, because the governing institutions were expected to provide security, rights and equal participation to the excluded minority communities as a major part of constitutional obligations. He noted that the purpose of democracy in India is concerned with the performance of the government vis-à-vis the Muslim minority and other excluded groups.

Dr. Khan observed that democracy secured participation of diversities in the polity and the enforcement agencies and federalism recognised the principles of constitutional devolution of powers and ensured autonomy to the regions and communities. It was federal democracy which harmonised the interests of the French and Italians with the German majority groups in Switzerland, he said. He maintained that India was known as the largest democracy in the world with the attributes of federalism and its Constitution ensures  Fundamental Rights to all citizens. The political structures and principles of democratic governance were endorsed by the Constituent Assembly of India in 1949 for accelerating the nation-building process. It was expected by leading members of the Assembly that political parties would produce concurrent majorities for the adequate participation of Muslims who were, before 1947, entitled to reserved seats and weightage vote in the regions where Muslims were not in large numbers. He lamented that despite sixteen general elections so far and many more assembly elections, India’s democratic institutions could not accommodate the values and concerns of the Muslim community of the country as political values of the governing structures.

Dr. Khan pointed out that protection, rights and the participation of the Muslim community in India constituted the master-key for securing the legitimacy of the government in the eyes of the largest minority community. Sangh Parivar becoming the guardian of the country, that too without the vote of the Muslim community, raised the issue of the legitimacy of the government, he said. The BJP formed the government at the Centre in 2014 while a majority of the Muslims voted for other parties which were not against Muslims in their thoughts and actions. The existing method of election of first-past-the-pole failed to provide percentage of seats according to the percentage of the votes polled, he said. This has largely affected the political culture of the country making Muslims vulnerable. He said that the statements, nominations, appointments, policies and actions with extreme prejudice against Muslims certainly raise the question of the legitimacy of the government in the eyes of the Muslim minority.

Emphasising that in a heterogeneous society, the task before democracy became more challenging with greater responsibility. Dr Arshi Khan said that political exclusion of a social group would be a retrograde step. In a country like India, diversity of religion, caste, tradition, region, etc, should not be identifie with a particular party flouting all established rules. The state being a resource centre, efforts must be made to put in place a mechanism for taking care of the excluded communities. Government is a national body without being identified with Hindus or Muslims. In a democracy, legitimacy is linked to the universality of action.

Questioning the legitimacy of the institution called State, he questioned if the diversity guaranteed sharing of power. He concluded by saying that the system has failed and government was not working.   

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2015 on page no. 13

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at sales@milligazette.com

blog comments powered by Disqus