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Withering Democratic Values In The US And India: A Matter Of Concern – OpEd

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The United Nations General Assembly annual general debate, one of the most awaited meetings of the world is scheduled for the 21st of September. A gamut of World leaders will congregate to discuss the pressing issues the world faces. Last year the meeting was held online. The US President and the Indian Prime Minister will be in attendance at New York with their loft idealistic speeches.

The so called responsible democratic countries around the world should ponder about their roles if they want the world to be a better place to live with peace and human security to all peoples of the world.

At one stroke the US pulled out of Afghanistan and left the ordinary democracy and peace loving, non-fundamentalist populace of Afghanistan in lurch. The entire population of women in the country faces a grim brutal future. The country would be thrown into turmoil and violence against those who do not accept the dictates of the Taliban would be the order of the day. 

The US under its President, Mr. Joe Biden, a self-proclaimed champion of Democracy has shunned his responsibility of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan by signing a murky deal with one of the most dreaded ‘terror’ outfits of the world. On this count, the ruling Democrats and the erstwhile Republicans have escaped from the Afghan entanglement pushing the country into further impoverishment, citing ‘national interest’. 

The International vultures in the form of China and Pakistan have made their friendly moves with the Taliban and recognized them. India is still treading cautiously as they are caught between the devil and the deep sea. There is no alternative other than to accept the Taliban regime, recognize them and establish contacts to safeguard her own borders from the infiltrations of the terror groups sympathizing with the Kashmir issue and Pakistan. 

Now, the moral question is whether these two countries, the world’s oldest and largest democracies really care for the fostering of democracy across the globe or they use it for their own safeguards? The UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 speaks to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. 

Both US and India are in the forefront of realising these UN SDGs by 2030 and it may not be possible with a hostile terror regime like Taliban strategically located to the north of India. The US engagement with Sri Lanka too hit road blocks as the Trump regime withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council, shortly after receiving criticism about its border policy, as a result of which Sri Lanka after committing a heinous genocide on the Tamils in 2009 got scot-free. 

US was the main proposer of the UNHRC resolution 30/1 in 2015 and had earlier worked with India to oust the dreaded Mahinda Rajapakse regime. In 2019 after the withdrawal of the US from the UN resolution on Sri Lanka seeking accountability for the violent events in the country during its long civil war and the post war period, Gotabaya Rajapakse the younger brother of the war time President was elected as the President of Sri Lanka and both India and the US remained mute spectators. 

The Draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act continues unablated and on 12th September, 2021 the prison minister entered the Anuradhapura High Security prison and lined up the Tamil political prisoners, he made two of them to kneel before him and threatened to shoot them down. The UN was prompt to condemn the event but US and India preferred to be silent!

On the Eastern front of India, Myanmar witnessed the return of Military dictatorship. Though the whole world condemned the unfolding of events which has led to a severe crackdown on civil rights activists, journalists and protestors. The UN Secretary General reported that at least 883 civilians, including 40 in custody were killed by the armed forces and 5,202 people were languishing in prisons. 

In this case too, the US has imposed individual sanctions on 22 people and has condemned the military take over but there is a stark difference when compared to the pre 2010 sanctions and the present one which is comparatively lower and nowhere makes the military leadership to take it seriously. 

India, has very conveniently muted itself to this issue. In 1992, India had signed a UN resolution which had severely condemned the human rights violations by the military junta. This clearly proves that India is looking for a larger economic role in Myanmar and silent on human rights issue, completely deviating from the times of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. 

The Domestic Front

Democracy watchdog, Freedom House pushed USA behind by three points from 2020. In a report published in March 2021, has narrated the diminishing democracy over the past decade. The report titled, From Crisis to Reform: A Call to Strengthen America’s Battered Democracy, has identified three crippling problems undermining the US political system: Unequal treatment of the coloured people, the bloating influence of special interests in politics and the partisan polarisation which has distorted political and civic discourses, encouraged extremism leading to malfunctioning of the government. 

The weaknesses in the US electoral system too are a cause for the partisanship of the Americans who are desperate to unify themselves with a common national identity. 

India was pushed down by four points from 2020. India climbed down from being “free” to “partially free” country. To add insult to injury India was labelled as an “electoral autocracy”. The ranking too has nosedived from 27 in 2014 to 53 in 2021. The present regie seems to be least bothered about these ranking and seems to be unrattled as democracy continues to be crushed in Jammu and Kashmir, North East as well as the Freedom of Speech gets stifled further. 

The polarisation in the society continues as the religious minorities continue to be persecuted. The Citizenship Amendment Act, The Armed Forces Special Protection Act, the Draconian UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) which has targeted mostly civil rights activists, the Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Report has placed India 167th out of 183 countries. 

The Farmer’s protest is still continuing after a year with the government not bothering to start negotiations. During the pandemic, the migrants were forced to fend for themselves as the government was busy with its Ram mandir construction agenda. The price rise is so high that it is a luxury to use cooking gas and fuel. In the Indian parliament bills are passed in a jiffy without any major discussion. The opposition parties too are least bothered and are squabbling from within.

It is time for every democracy loving citizen of the world’s oldest and largest democracies to rethink if we are voting in the right pattern and if democracy can survive these crucial tests of the time? The world is in danger as the two big democracies have been using democracy for their short sighted gains forgetting that we inherit a world which we need to pass it on to the future generation to exist peacefully.

  1. https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/08/afghanistan-fate-bidens-doctrine-uncertain?gclid=CjwKCAjw-ZCKBhBkEiwAM4qfF4b41Xlz5OBicjwMmRPAr769vGr4hQqctYu6zpQqbZbTi-kCGW99whoC4BIQAvD_BwE
  2. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/peace-justice/
  3. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/american-journal-of-international-law/article/united-states-withdraws-from-the-un-human-rights-council-shortly-after-receiving-criticism-about-its-border-policy/62D716ED36F699ADD255D98940A14F99
  4. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sri-lanka-to-withdraw-from-co-sponsorship-of-un-rights-body-resolution-on-war-crimes/article30860788.ece
  5. https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/01/29/locked-without-evidence/abuses-under-sri-lankas-prevention-terrorism-act
  6. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50670393
  7. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26351073?seq=3#metadata_info_tab_contents
  8. https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/12/02/explained-why-is-uapa-a-draconian-law
  9. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/indian-democracy-freedom-of-speech-7509086/
  10. https://www.thequint.com/news/politics/ram-mandir-narendra-modi-ayodhya-temple-yogi-adityanath-up-elections

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Dr. Paul Newman

Dr. Paul Newman holds a Doctorate of Philosophy on ‘Internal Displacement and Human Rights situation in Northern Sri Lanka’ from Bangalore University. He was one of the four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on War Crimes against Sri Lanka. He also the Coauthor of ‘Unfettered Genocide in Tamil Eelam’, published by Karnataka State Open University, Mysore, India in November 2014. He is also a Member of the Forum Against Death Penalty, Chennai

One thought on “Withering Democratic Values In The US And India: A Matter Of Concern – OpEd

  • September 19, 2021 at 9:02 am
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    Great observation…May we have the courage to work for a strong democracy.

    Reply

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