Myth and Reality of Democratic Equality

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Every society moves through what may be called politics of recognition. Political powers have exploited the quest for recognition to build vote banks based on castes difference and religious majoritarianism. Often, this need for recognition remains unfulfilled as the political powers thrive on this craving of our people to build their support base. Within this desire for recognition, it is important to scrutinize the myth and reality of equality offered by our constitution. This issue is vital for us because we are a democratic republic that promises equality over all. How can diverse citizens be represented as equal? Which are the criteria that put every citizen of India on the common ground of equality? These are legitimate questions that may arise in our society. We need to answer these questions otherwise we might be in danger of putting up a farcical democracy in our country. Crony capitalism with its concealed corporatization of our democratic system has opened the question that we have posed above sharply. These are questions of recognition. Who enjoys more recognition before the democratic state in India? Is it the ordinary citizens or the Cronies of the corporate institutions? The responses to these questions seem to be painfully negative. Hence, a troubling question refuses to die… Is democracy letting its citizenry down in our country? Certainly our constitution bestows upon us equal rights and duties. But does this common heritage of equal rights and duties render us all truly equal? Can this so-called level playing field before the law and the state bring about equality in our society? The fact that several hierarchies and divisions are continually constructed and old ones are revitalized seem to show that the struggle for recognition of the dignity of being an Indian citizen will have to continue for a long time.

‘I am a Neta. Get off my way’ seems to have become the culture of our political leaders. The ‘lal barti’ culture a residue of the colonial era, is still alive and kicking. But a sense of being a ‘Saheb’ is still controlling our psyche everywhere. Recent controversies of Montris treating the national carrier as their private taxi demonstrate how this ‘Sabeh’ virus has hit several among our political class. The public institutions of health and education being left behind by the privatization of education and health care also leave out access to several among us to the so-called premiere institutes of health and education. Hence, our democratic institutions in alliance with an unbridled capitalist system are manufacturing new unequal hierarchies and divisions straight in front of our eyes. We seem to be de-democratized within our democracy. Unfortunately, some of us have become steady signatories to some campaigns that aim to withdraw ‘primary goods’ or social security to the poor while raising no eyebrows when the Government offers tax holidays to their corporate masters. Besides, a crass communalism of the majority community which de facto de-nationalizes the minorities, tribal and women passes off as authentic nationalism. Our moral acumen seems to have become anaesthetized and numbed and we seem to have become silent bystanders as our democracy is weakened with every passing day.

We in Goa also feel the hit of de-democratization. Our quest for a special status still remains a distant dream. The Mopa airport, the Tiracol land grab and several other issues demonstrate that the will of Goan people do not seem to matter. Both the national parties seem to be bending forward to let the scant the land resources that we have to dirty rich Babus from Delhi, Punjabi, Mumbai Chennai etc. Recent denial of the educational platform for the poor of Goa also adds to the long list of deprivations that are dumped on the weak and the poor of a country that ironically promises equality to all. Hence, what are the choices before us? Goans and rest of our countrymen are legitimately dragged into a brewing politics of recognition in our country. There is a growing disillusionment with the reigning power centres, particularly the two national parties. But does this mean that India and Goa is turning to the regionally powerful Satraps? This struggle for recognition might tilt to political movements that offer sense recognition to everyone. We need to understand that communalism is politics of recognition. The communal politics appeared to recognize the majority community. But the fact that both the communalist and pseudo-communalist used politics of recognition to climb the ladder of power is evident. Now with the Mask of nationalism falling down from the face of Pseudo-nationalist forces, will the people feeling the crippling sense of being de-recognized have to make a leap of consciousness, lest they are victimized by another mirage of being recognized by old or new political power centres? It is time that we as citizens understand how our need of recognition is milked for notes and votes. Ironically the political power centres are also seeking recognition of their prospective voters. We are all caught in a complex web of politics of recognition. This brings us to another question. Does our democracy in India runs on wheels of politics of recognition? The answer seems to be affirmative. Hence, we need to be on our guard against the abuse of our quest for recognition.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao