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Unmasking The Autocratic Nature Of Indian Democracy – OpEd

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India claims to be the biggest democracy in the world. But looking at the recent trends one wonders, whether this claim holds any substance. Since its independence India concocted an image of secular democratic republic as stated in its constitution. But it could not hide the reality from the world for too long. Over the years, the atrocities against the minorities and the oppression against dissent contradicts the Indian claims of democracy and exposed its real face for what it truly is; ‘electoral autocracy’.

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Democracy pertains to the basic principles of equality, freedom of speech, inclusiveness, and participation of public in decision making in a nation. The death of democracy in India entered into its final stage as the BJP, champion of Hindutva ideology, came in power in 2014. Hindutva, as a matter of ideology considers Hindus superior to other religious communities; considers them as true Indian as opposed to members of other faiths. The basic democratic principles were slammed in India, and a religio-nationalist and fascist movement has taken a national stage. The key target of hate and violence since then have been the Muslims of India which constitute 14% of the population. Not only Muslims but other religious minorities in India were also mistreated and targeted by Hindutva aligned groups since BJP came into power. 

India’s democracy has eroded over the years as extremist elements have ingressed in highest echelons of power corridor. The situation has deteriorated to the point where ‘Freedom House’ has downgraded India’s position as a democracy to ‘Partly Free’. Sweden Varieties of Democracy Institute not only classified India as an ‘Electoral Autocracy”, it also made to the list of top 10 autocracies. The Economist List also downgraded India’s position in democratic countries ranking from No.35 to No.53. The condition is worsening day by day as the fascist Hindu ideology is on rise. 

Since 2014, BJP government supported harassment, unwarranted arrests, and prosecution of activists, journalists, students, academics, and others critics of the government or its policies.

As soon as Modi’s reign began, dozens of murderous attacks on Muslims by Hindu mob were reported in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP government sided with the murderers in the name of religion while the judiciary stood idly toeing government’s policy of appeasement towards Hindu extremists. It shows the reality of secular veil of India where only Hinduism is considered the Holy religion. 

Muslims were attacked openly and the authorities accepted this culture as normal. Muslim majority areas were targeted. Even the special constitutional status of IIOJK was revoked in August 2019 as Modi government unilaterally nullified the constitutionally granted semi-autonomy to erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir. 

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Citizen Amendment Bill allows migrants from adjacent countries to apply for Indian citizenship if they don’t follow Islam, implying that citizenship in apparently secular India is based on religious identity. Muslims have also been the victims of communal rioting and mob lynching on several occasions. Modi’s government and its allies’ constant anti-muslim rhetoric, along with the authorities’ lack of condemnation, has fueled the idea that such illegal and unconstitutional violence is tacitly supported.

The government’s treatment towards political opponents is the major predictor of democratic deterioration in India. Indian state has consistently shown contempt for dissent under Modi, attempting to portray critics of the administration as “anti-national.” Academics, activists, and journalists who criticize the powers that be, have been targeted by the central government. Authorities recently detained a young student climate activist, Disha Ravi on allegations of sedition for sharing toolkit to create and spread awareness about the farmers’ protest.

Several alarming political tendencies in the Indian nation have been identified, including the development of a Hindu-majority political brand. The executive’s overwhelming concentration of authority, as well as the government’s crackdown on political dissent and the media. Much of the shift is linked with the prime minister’s image, whose electoral appeal is based on his self-acclaimed desire to disrupt politics as usual. Despite multiple scandals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys enormous popularity. His hold on the popular imagination has not lessened, and its repercussions for Indian democracy are immense. Today, India is no less than a scam in the name of democracy where there is no freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of religion and basic rights. 

*The author is an economist & independent researcher. She is a graduate of NUST & Quaid-i-Azam University. She served at the Ministry of Planning Development & Special Initiative as Young Development Fellow. She can be reached at [email protected]

12 thoughts on “Unmasking The Autocratic Nature Of Indian Democracy – OpEd

  • January 22, 2022 at 7:23 am
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    Sania zeb need not worry about India. She should worry about her country first. Everyone knows what is happening in Pakistan.

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    • January 22, 2022 at 9:35 pm
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      You should be able to answer such things on point instead of gaslighting. India has its issues, and we need to accept them and work on them.
      Also please write articles about Pakistan so that we get to know what is happening there as I do not know about it as you speak. I will be happy to read.

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  • January 22, 2022 at 2:42 pm
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    It is not the question of claiming that India is the biggest democracy in the world. It is a fact which has to be realized and the world at large recognizes this truth.Indian elections are the true mirror of the democracy of its free and fare conduct. True, Democracy pertains to the basic principles of equality and freedom of speech. In India freedom of speech crosses all barries which no other country in the world may tolerate.The author may like to compare this truth with other Muslim and communist nations to get the answer. 

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  • January 22, 2022 at 6:16 pm
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    The author is absolutely spot on in calling India an electoral autocracy. Democracy is not just about conducting elections but accepting and practicing democratic norms and principles. The freedom of speech in India is highly selective. This government holds no tolerance for dissent and criticism. Whether it charging young climate change activist with the anti-terrorism act or unleashing brutal force against peaceful protest in New Dehli. It allows the leaders of a particular community (Hindu Dharam Sansad) to call for Muslim genocide with impunity while people like Dr. Kafeel Khan go to prison for highlighting government negligence resulting in the death of infant children in children’s hospital. One needs to objectively analyze the dangerous majoritarian trends which are eroding the fundamental rights of citizens of India.

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  • January 25, 2022 at 10:21 am
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    An insightful article revealing the contradictory approach of Indian leaders; plight of minorities in world’s so called largest democracy is a point to ponder at, for common Indians

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  • January 25, 2022 at 11:11 am
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    This article is not wrong to suggest the deteriorating democratic trend and situation in India. It is necessary for India to remain peaceful so the broader region can achieve peace. No one can deny that minorities are increasingly marginalized and the Modi government is creating a legal framework for the systematic oppression of minorities.

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  • January 25, 2022 at 11:15 am
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    spot on. Modi led Hindutva government in India is under the grip of hyper nationalists whose sole aim is to make India a Hindustan, INDIA FOR HINDUS ONLY
    Ramachandra Guha, a historian who wrote a biography of Gandhi, said it was unsurprising that, as the BJP pushed forward its Hindu nationalist agenda, including a citizenship law seen to directly discriminate against Muslims, Godse’s legacy was being revived in India.
    This has become reality of today’s India where only hatred will be promoted.
    Anyone who takes violent action against Muslims become hero for Hindutva mob.
    Modi had no way to rule India with his incompetence so only way to along was to promote Hindutva to Hindus and turn their ideologies to hatred.

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  • January 25, 2022 at 11:56 am
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    India’s policies based on Hindutva ideology have threatened peace and stability of the entire region.

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  • January 25, 2022 at 3:01 pm
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    Absolutely spot on! Indian mask of secularism is slipping off with each event happening against its Minorities. We saw how in Delhi riots, Muslims were targetted. Stripped off their citizenship. Thousands of cases where Muslims are kids brutally on fake accounts of beef. UN human rights experts repeatedly raised concerns over misuse of counterterrorism laws to bring criminal charges against human rights defenders. In September 2021 only, the National Crime Records Bureau reported that 50,291 cases of crimes against Dalits were reported in 2020, an increase of 9.4 percent over the previous year. Crimes against tribal communities also increased by 9.3 percent, at 8,272 cases. India should be made accountable of these atrocities against Minorities.

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  • January 25, 2022 at 3:05 pm
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    The (BJP) government adopted laws and policies that discriminated against religious minorities, especially Muslims. On violence against minorities, In HRW Report 2022, it said, “This, coupled with the vilification of Muslims by some BJP leaders and police failure to take action against BJP supporters who commit violence, emboldened Hindu nationalist groups to attack Muslims and government critics with impunity.”

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  • January 25, 2022 at 3:08 pm
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    Policies of BJP have shown the world that it is not just Kashmir that is facing the brutality of state but the whole India has been turned into “Kashmir” for Indian minorities.

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  • January 25, 2022 at 8:59 pm
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    India is a dangerous place for minorities, the India is hindus only!!

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