DOOM: Indian democracy has become a game of numbers with no room for dissent or diversity of opinions
Indian democracy has got reduced to winning elections by hook or by crook. The goal of the Sangh Parivar is to achieve democracy-mukt India. Dr Ramachandra Guha is renowned historian, erudite scholar, biographer and reputed columnist. His speech at BITS Pilani makes a compelling plea for true democracy
By GO Staff
Dr Ramachandra Guha was in Goa to address the students of Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani as the chief guest on the occasion of the 80th and 81st Award Convocation 2017. He gave a rousing inspiring speech about democracy, patriotism and the importance of cherishing our diversity.
“Unfortunately in our country, both the major parties including Congress and the BJP and even the regional parties are in danger of reducing democracy to what I call ‘Elections Only Democracy’,” Guha said.r Ramachandra Guha was in Goa to address the students of Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani as the chief guest on the occasion of the 80th and 81st Award Convocation 2017. He gave a rousing inspiring speech about democracy, patriotism and the importance of cherishing our diversity.
“Elections are completely free and fair, as the EC proved only last week in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha case. The Election Commission is correctly regarded as the competent transparent and non-corrupt institution. But democracy should be above and more than elections,” he said, adding, “We are in danger of reducing democracy to have elections where somebody wins and then for the next five years that person or that government feels that they are immune to criticisms. This is happening not only at Central level but at the State level too. I feel that democracy has to be cherished; it has to be deepened and be married with diversity”.
Speaking about the difference between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi over economic policies in the country, Dr Guha said that both these leaders were united for their absolute commitment to religious and linguistic plurality. He said that as patriotism and nationalism indicate love towards one’s country and hatred towards another’s country, respectively, it therefore appears that people are living in a danger zone by confronting the truth and substituting true patriotism with vulgar nationalism.
He said that patriotism, like charity and democracy, begins at home and that it should be substantial, non-symbolic, compassionate, more humane and more dignified and should not be reduced to singing the national anthem.
“Patriotism should not be defined by singing the national anthem, followed by ‘Pakistan Murdabad’,” Guha said, adding that retaining India’s pluralism is vital for the growth of the country’s economy. He said that Sri Lanka imposing its Sinhala culture on the Tamils in the north of the country resulted in a war that stunted the island nation’s economic growth.
Speaking about Sri Lanka, Dr Guha also said that Sri Lanka has an impressive democratic record of dominance and also has much better human indications. Apart from Sri Lanka, India is the only country in the post-colonial world that has consistently held regular free and fair elections since Independence. While comparing the three neighbouring countries, Dr Guha said that India is much better off in terms of human and social indications with a lower infant mortality rate and better education for women.
Dr Guha said that India has created a world record every time during general elections wherein people have turned out in large numbers by voting freely and fairly, breaking the records of previous elections.
Dr Guha said that the greatness of India has emanated from our civilisation depth and the rich tradition of democracy. That sustenance of linguistic and religious pluralism is absolutely crucial not only for the survival of Indian democracy but also for the growth of Indian economy.
He recalled that in 1920, Mahatma Gandhi promised to have a linguistic state after independence and because of the same, India has now survived. He said that Pakistan was created on the basis of religion, but was divided on the basis of language.
He also said that Indian civilisation is deeply spiritual and contains philosophical, artistic and musical tradition.
Sharing his experience, Dr Guha said that in his younger days, he visited eight states of the country including Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Bengal in order to see the diversity. “I found surprises, struggle, education, enriches everywhere due to the special extraordinary feature of India which is unity in diversity due to the existence of all community people like Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains,” said Dr Guha. He said that religious and linguistic diversity in India is something extraordinary. Indian currency is written in 17 different languages and 17 different scripts. He also made references to ecological diversities which are of utmost importance to study the highest mountains, deserts, diverse coastlines. He also said that technological diversity is important, as BITS is connected to technology and science.
“India lives simultaneously in the 12th century and the 21st century and all the centuries in between,” said Dr Guha.