Can India exist without its Democracy?

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Following the death of his guru, Socrates, it is said that Plato asked a powerful question: ‘how are we to live?’  This question became central to all his writings after the cruel death of his master.  The trauma of the death of Socrates had pushed Plato out of the city walls and he gathered his disciples under the grove of the mythical hero Hacademus. The Hacademicians tried to follow the call of Socrates to live philosophically.  Socrates had gathered a few disciples before he accepted the death that was   unjustly inflicted on him by the Athenian democracy and taught that living philosophically entails living here and now on the basis of the world to come.  The clock seems to have come full circle in our country and we are challenged to face some people who appear to chase a platonic dream. They also gather outside the walls of democracy and raise the question ‘how are we to live in India?’ Like Plato they also exhibit a basic instinct of distrust of democracy and call everyone to live in the present in accordance with the future imagined by them. This future that they imagined is called the ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Some of them view the coming of the Hindu Rashtra as early as 2023. Several among them envision it as an era without democracy. Recently, we saw it being aggressively promulgated in a Hindu conclave in Goa. 

The desire to overcome democracy in India that is endorsed by the promoters of Hindu Rashtra cannot be simply brushed aside. In this context, the platonic question ‘how are we to live?’ becomes ‘how are we to live without democracy? What would be the structure of a Hindu Rashtra without democracy?  Although in Plato’s time, the life of philosophy that he pursued was perceived as threat to the state, there is no sign-of-threat perception about the coming of Hindu Rashtra without democracy in our country.  The abolition of democracy that is demanded by these elements is not merely a separation from democracy.  They seem to enjoy a separation from democracy at this stage as they somehow enjoy immunity from what might qualify to be hate crimes in other countries. Somehow their hate speech passes off as a patriotic outburst.  Some among us may close our ears to their discourse but we cannot close our eyes to their goals. Their goal is an India without democracy. Hence, ‘how are we to live in an India without its democracy’ becomes an important question. What would it be like? Do we have any model or blueprints to look at? How will it be different from Taliban or ISIS? Will an India without democracy become a ‘Hindu Pakistan’? How is the India without democracy different from the dream of the so called Maoists in our country? Hence, it is important to discern what will remain of India when this break from democracy is actualized

The break from democracy seems all set to break all Indians and divide them.  This break way from democracy is a double a process. It is inclusive and exclusive at the same time. Whom it is excluding is open. We can discern it from its aggressive discourse. But what is not so clear is how it will include the diversely plural Hindus into a homogenized crowd.  What will remain of Hinduism in the Hindu Rasthra? Maybe, the real threat to the very destruction of Hinduism lies in the dream of a Hindu Rasthra.   Will it be something like a body without organs? What will this edited version of Hinduism in a post-democratic Hindu Rashtra look like? Will this post-democratic era take us to Post-Hinduism? This dream of post-democratic era is challenging all types of democrats amidst us. Democracy is viewed as a residue of colonization and as such is seen as tainted and unfit for a Hindu Rashtra by several among them.   If democracy is a cover for exploitation as the proponent of this view wants us to believe, then we need answers to indicate how what we call Hindu Rashtra is free from providing cover for the exploiters? Maybe we have to ask: whose interest do these aggressive proponents of Hindu Rashtra really serve?  Maybe we have to still ask: what kind of future is guaranteed by the so called post-democratic Hindu Rashtra for all Indians? Will it sacrifice the other non-Hindu sons and daughters of Mother India on the altar of what is deemed as a Hindu Rashtra? What is the future of the tribals, dalits and women in such a scenario? 

The post-democratic India/ Hindu Rasthra has all the ingredients of becoming a disruptive event in our country. It is already weakening the ruling BJP.  It seems that the ruling dispensation is caught in a power paradox.  Recently,  Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a famous scholar attached to CSDS, New Delhi  in an article on Indian Express has explained what we call power paradox as a situation where political dominance can paradoxically reduce one’s actual power. In the context of BJP, he opines that it has grown in power but its Government is increasingly at the mercy of social and economic undercurrents that its finds hard to control. Some among us might go a step further and say that with Shah and Modi at the helm, what may be called as the Indirafication of BJP has been complete. These supreme leaders have supreme powers and everyone in their party have to dance to their tunes. Just like once upon a time, Congress was Indira and Indira was Congress, we may be facing a BJP that is Shah and Modi combined. That is why I am afraid, we might have already landed in a Post-democratic India. But this is a weakened democracy. We can still salvage it. But a state of abolition of democracy will be a time beyond democracy and poses more dangers to our country rather than a weak democracy that is afflicting us today.  Hence, the condition of life without democracy has to be critically addressed. Indeed, we need to come to a deep and heightened awareness that neither democracy nor Hinduism need us Indians, it is we Indians who are those who need them and hence have to save them both.  Unfortunately, Hindu Rashtra is threatening to destroy both our democracy and authentic Hinduism. Therefore, we are left with little or no option. Let’s stand up for India, its democracy and the tolerant traditions of Indian civilization.  

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao