Democracy Facing Threats!

Is Indian democracy at risk? This question naturally surfaces following several disturbing incidents having taken place recently. Prior to elaborating on these, it would be pertinent to refer briefly to what is understood by democracy. Constitutionally, democracy implies equality of all citizens, irrespective of their caste, class, religion and so forth. Also, considering that the Indian government and citizens are expected to abide by what is laid out in the country’s Constitution, they have no right or freedom to decide on life, freedom, property and/or rights of other citizens. Even if a minor section of the population chooses to abuse Indian Constitution by misusing their democratic rights, it can spread havoc for the country as a whole.  

It may be recalled that the so-called followers of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh wasted little time in indulging in violent and destructive behaviour following a judicial verdict holding their chief guilty. Whatever be their perception about the verdict, legally there are means and avenues for them to try and prove their chief as innocent of the charges levied against him. But, rather than pay immediate attention to their legal options, they chose to misuse their freedom and indulge in aggressive behaviour. Yes, questions can also be raised about the failure of the concerned authorities to exercise their duty in taking immediate action to control the destructive behaviour. Who should be held responsible for this?

Certainly, if a few brave ladies had not chosen to use the judicial route, the alleged criminal activities of Ram Rahim would have probably remained unnoticed till now. And this raises questions regarding the manner in which persons of this nature manage to raise a cult of followers, with literally no attention being paid to criminal activities being indulged in by them. The same may be said about money raised and used by them to promote and build their own almost castle-like property and so much more. Why was no attention paid to these issues by concerned authorities?

Against this backdrop, credit must be paid to the judicial authorities for at least not allowing such a racket to continue. But, equal note must be taken note of several discrepancies in the political and administrative set-up, because of which of late, incidents of these nature seem to be on the rise. What else can be said about forcible closure of reportedly more than 500 meat shops in Gurgaon by certain extremist elements? They claimed to have taken this action owing to the start of a nine-day fasting period for Hindus, called Navratri. They also demanded closure of several non-vegetarian food outlets. However, a similar action was not taken against restaurants like KFC, which also serve non-vegetarian food, as it is not served openly. The extremist elements, who took this action, reportedly Shiv Sainiks, are politically based in Maharashtra. It is indeed they and not any local group of Haryana indulged in such behaviour.

Besides, in the context of due respect needed to be given to the religious sentiments of Hindus, there are other means available for taking appropriate action. It may be noted, in areas where majority of meat consumers happen to be Hindus, meat-sellers (primarily Muslims) choose to close their shops on their own during Navratri period as they know that the number of meat-buyers are likely to be extremely low. This also indicates that there is no need of forcible closure of meat shops where the number of fasting Hindus is likely to be high. But forcible closure of meat shops may also be viewed a sign of extremist elements deciding that people living in these areas must not eat meat, irrespective of whether they are fasting Hindus or not. And this can hardly be viewed as a democratic practice from several angles, that is forcing closure of shops and also deciding on whether meat should be consumed or not in certain areas.

Democracy has been put at yet a greater risk by murder of several journalists. The latest was the murder of Santanu Bhowmick (28). He worked for a local television channel. He was killed in West Tripura while covering the agitation of Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT). Assembly elections are scheduled in Tripura next year. IPFT is likely to fight elections alone. The other key regional party, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) is planning an alliance with BJP. Bhowmick has apparently fallen victim to political rivalry in Tripura. He was only doing his job. His democratic right was slain without any fault of his. If anyone had any objection to whatever he was covering, there were other means available to question him on that. A case could have been filed against him, articles written countering his reports and so forth. But when theroute of murdering any journalist is adopted to silence his/her voice, Indian democracy is targeted. Before, it is too late, it is hoped that adequate action is taken against extremist elements periodically indulging in abuse of Indian democracy!             

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