Needed: Real Democracy

Obaidur Rahman Nadwi


India is a democratic country. Here parliamentary form of the government is based on democratic principles. It is the largest democracy in the world. The term democracy is derived from the two Greek words “demos” and “kratia”. These two together mean “authority of the people”. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the USA, has precisely defined democracy. He held democracy as “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

Being citizens of a democratic country our role becomes highly crucial. Moreover, we have a pluralistic society: people of different caste, creed, religion, language and culture live together as one nation. A vast country, India’s main plank is its national integration: all initiatives in the country should, therefore, the focus should on this reality, irrespective of any parochial consideration.

In the wake of a rash of provocative remarks after the lynching of a man in Dadri over rumours of beef consumption, President Pranab Mukherjee underlined that diversity, tolerance and plurality are core values that have kept India together and must never wither away. “We should not allow the core values of our civilisation to wither away. Over the years, our civilisation has celebrated diversity, plurality and promoted and advocated tolerance. These values have kept us together over the centuries...Many ancient civilisations have collapsed but the Indian civilisation has survived because of its core civilisational values and adherence to them. If we keep them in mind, nothing can prevent our nation from forging ahead. Indian democracy is a marvel and we must celebrate, preserve and promote its strength.”

He further said: “The real dirt of India lies not in our streets but in our minds and in our unwillingness to let go of views that divide society into ‘them’ and ‘us’, ‘pure’ and ‘impure’. We must make a success of the laudable and welcome Swachh Bharat Mission. However, this also must be seen as just the beginning of a much larger and intense effort to cleanse minds and fulfil Gandhiji’s vision in all its aspects”  Given the current debate over intolerance in India, Mukherjee cited Gandhiji’s vision of India as “an inclusive nation where every section of our population lives in equality and enjoy equal opportunity” and “the essence of being human is our trust of each other”.

In his book India’s Foreign Policy, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India writes: “The Preamble of our constitution states: we, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens: Justice, social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, equality of status and opportunity… assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation”.

Despite this minorities are confronted with a host of difficulties regarding their religious affairs. In a democratic country, if people’s feelings are hurt and they are deprived of their fundamental rights and basic amenities of life, it is nothing but a travesty of democracy.

Being Indians, it is imperative for us to maintain its unity, integrity, and democratic values and norms by fostering national integration and propagating the message of humanity throughout India. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad has rightly said: “I am proud of being an Indian. I am part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. I am indispensable to this noble edifice and without me this splendid structure of India is incomplete. I am an essential element which has gone to build India. I never surrender this claim” (Presidential Address, Indian National Congress. Fiftythird Session, Ramgarh, March 1940). He further said: “If an angel were to descend from the high heavens and proclaim from the heights of the Qutub Minar, “Discard Hindu-Muslim unity and within 24 hours Swaraj is yours”, I will refuse the proffered Swaraj but will not budge an inch from my stand, the refusal of Swaraj will affect only India while the end of our unity will be the loss of the entire human world”.

M.K. Gandhi says: “My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. That can never happen except through non-violence”. (Harijan, 18-5-1940).

He further says: “True democracy cannot be worked by twenty men sitting at the centre. It has to be worked from below by the people of every village”. (Harijan, 18-1-1948).

Needless to add that members of Parliament are expected to play a leading role in bringing about democratic values in the country. They are representatives of their respective constituencies. They should be honest, straightforward, candid and bold.

Interestingly, politicians try to surpass each other to reach the spot of incident to gain political mileage. Instead attention should be paid by them to combating terroristic and disruptive forces which threaten the country’s unity and integrity and try to rip the social fabric of the country to shreds. Every party strives to strengthen its own vote bank instead of taking interest in national issues.

It should be kept in mind that India has lagged due to corruption, scam and other unfair  and unscrupulous acts economically and financially. We know well who are responsible for it.

The most unfortunate part is that political parties exhibit disloyalty and dishonesty and show negligence and lethargy in pursuing the country’s progress and prosperity. Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, has precisely stated: ‘Time has come to question representative democracy and move towards direct or participatory democracy in some measure on critical issues. An MP should consult the people of his constituency through gram sabhas and mohallah. He should present the voice of his people in parliament and not his high command’s wishes. People should be able to recall him if he did not do that. On many occasions, there is a serious conflict between the desires of the people and the wishes of the party high command. Today, it is the wishes of the party high command that prevail. In true democracy, it is the wishes of the people of India that would prevail”.

No doubt, to a great extent the future of the country depends on our legislators and politicians. If they mend their ways and perform their duties with integrity , the country will make progress. No development will occur in the country without their integrity and honesty.

We may recall here late Rafi Ahmad Kidwai. M.H. Kidwai writes: “Till the first general election of 1952 the country was facing the worst food problems. There was acute shortage of food-grains. The food portfolio was the most difficult one and had proved to be the graveyard of reputation of many stalwarts in the past. Rafi Ahmad was given this portfolio in May 1952 and he performed the miracle within a short time. Instead of shortage there was a plenty and abundance of food-grains, prices began to fall and control was withdrawn and the whole situation was miraculously changed. The solving of the food problem of the country was the greatest achievement of Rafi” (Muslims and India’s Freedom Movement, p.160).

Let us recall the prayer of noted poet Rabindranath Tagore for building up India as a true nation.

Where the mind is without fear

And the head is held high

Where the world has not been broken up

By narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth.

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection.

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action

Into that heaven of freedom my Father

Let my country awake.

It is unfortunate that India’s democratic values and norms are fading day by day. Regionalism, casteisms, favouritism and groupism are raising their ugly heads to distort the social fabric of our beloved mother land. No doubt, these are negative tendencies that cause conflicts, clashes and communal riots in the country. Besides they diminish national feelings and damage our cherished national desires. In short, we can not achieve all this, until we work together to make India a democratic country in true sense.

The author teaches in Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow