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Is India a (Majoritarian) Democracy? – A Socio-Legal Analysis

Democracy

Majoritarian Democracy refers to the democracy that is based upon the majority of society’s citizens. It is the traditional form of democracy that is used as a political system in many countries. In ‘majoritarianism’, a majority of the people are entitled to a certain degree of primacy in society. They have the right to make decisions that affect society.

In 2019, the majoritarianism that had spread in politics got written into law. They will ensure that their interests are protected even at the expense of the rest. The main missing link is ‘trust’ which is often lost as is evident in the most ‘stable democracies’ within the world practicing representative democracy during a form that has given rise to at least one community that is wielding absolute power over another.

Is India a Tyrannical Majoritarian Democracy?

India has shown the world that democracy does not work in poor and third-world countries. The declaration for countries with racial and or cultural diversity is true. India is not different from the religious Islamic countries it so dearly despises. Some laws in India clearly show that the country has tyrannical, majoritarian policies.  

  • Internet Shutdowns – As we know, India has the highest number of shutdowns. In 2020, it topped the list of 29 countries that have disrupted internet access for people. It is ironic for a country that takes pride in being a democracy. Pakistan, a military dictatorship, has lower incidents of internet shutdowns than India. The collective actions of the country are contrary to nature. 
  • Ban of Beef in India – India boasts about freedom and progression and calls itself a secular democracy. But it does the exact opposite by banning beef because it hurts the sensitive religious sentiments of the people. A secular and non-tyrannical democracy does not seek government mediation to support one religion. Neither helps its convictions become the law of land and restrict the dietary choices of minorities.
  • Censorship – During the second wave of COVID-19 cases, many Indians took to social media to report a shortage of life-saving resources. They were in a desperate search for beds, oxygen cylinders, and the vaccine. The Indian Government ordered Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to take down posts, alleging they contained “inflammatory” content. Despite calling itself a democracy where people are free, it restrains the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation by censoring content which it deems explicit according to its regressive, orthodox outlook.
  • Judiciary and Police – India is a democracy where the judiciary might not be truly independent. State police forces follow the rules of their masters, who are always the ruling party members of the state. The journalists and the non-ruling party members can be arrested on the commands of non-ruling party members. The detainees are denied bail for the bailable offense charges that they face.
  • Absence of Checks and Balances – Appropriate checks for each branch of government are non-existent in India. Whereas in the US a presidential system of governance checks every branch of the government. Indian state governors and presidents are usually supposed to keep them in check. In contradiction, India always appoints incumbent presidents and state governors to power and handle all of this. A Prime minister cannot be indicted because they enjoy a majority in the parliament.

Key Challenges to Democracy

The most damaging effect of majoritarianism on India’s Democracy which is being seen is the undermining of the rule of law. In India, law enforcement has always been biased against the poor and minority communities. Since the 1960s, each episode of mass violence (for example in Gujarat 2002, Odisha 2007-08), the inadequacies and arbitrariness of ad hoc commissions. Central and state human rights bodies to respond to the crisis and contain majoritarian nationalism which became endemic. Furthermore, the legal institutionalization of state impunity in ‘disturbed’ areas, such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that is in force in Kashmir and the Northeast has created exceptional situations. The ruling party uses the police and other state agencies for powerfully partisan ends. It allows majority vigilante violence against minorities to thrive across the country.  

The main feature of India’s majoritarian state is that the state does not need to bring off any threats, and actually, it has abdicated its monopoly on silence. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its allies have weaponized civil society. That is where the threat of unaccountable violence comes from. The effect sends three clear messages that are those opposing the government cannot expect to be protected by the law and are susceptible to attacks by ubiquitous vigilantes, internet trolls, etc.; and only those with political clout, and a mass following, can expect some measure of protection may be even justice.

The Hindu vigilantism signals that there is a ‘right’ and ‘signified’ way to be a Hindu, that every Hindu has to be a nationalist and that the life of a Hindu is more valuable than that of a non-Hindu; and, that no one can kill Hindus with impunity. All of this encourages more rogue violence and unaccountable. The promotion of public violence and undermining of the rule of law as an authorized instrument of politics is the biggest threat to Indian democracy and the social and political freedoms are also a major threat that so many people in India have come to cherish.

Secularism endangered by Majoritarianism

Secularism

The law premises citizenship based on faith and endangers the idea of a secular state which means an ideology that provides people with the right to follow any religion or not follow any. It has nothing to do with giving refuge to the communities it claims concern for. The Bharatiya Janta Party government has made differences between non-Muslim “refugees” and Muslim “infiltrators”. They have made repeated references to Partition and suggest that this law is the proper and logical conclusion of the two-nation theory that drove the upheaval of 1947, and ignoring that secular India rejected that logic.

The government welcomes only non-Muslim migrants to India’s own minority and signals them about who they want who they don’t want. For a long period of time, it assured voters that the citizenship act, which naturalized non-Muslim refugees, would be followed up by the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which would screen the “infiltrators” from genuine citizens. A similar situation happened in Assam where over 19 lakh people were excluded who must now prove their citizenship before arbitrary quasi-judicial bodies. The new citizenship law and therefore the proposed nationwide NRC have raised the specter of statelessness for Indian Muslims. 

As usual, the government pushed through its majoritarian agenda, other institutional checks and balances stopped working. The petitioners sought redress from the Supreme Court after the government’s move on Article 370, and the actual legislation may have involved debating complex Constitutional questions, the court did not even care to uphold liberties of the people and basic civil rights in lockdown. In the Ayodhya judgment, the court recognized that the demolition of the Babri Masjid was illegal but they agreed and paved the way for the Ram Temple on that very site – the demand of the vandals of 1992.

How has Citizenship Amendment Bill played a role in promoting Majoritarian Democracy?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill was first introduced in 2016 in Lok Sabha by amending the Citizenship Act of 1955. This bill was reintroduced on 9th December 2019 by the Minister of home affairs Amit Shah in the 17th Lok Sabha. But was passed on 10th December 2019. The bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on 11th December.

The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed to provide Indian citizenship to the illegal migrants who entered India on or before 31st December 2014. Many legal arguments have been made for and against the Citizenship Amendment Act. We the citizens of India are concerned with India’s new CAA, 2019 which is fundamentally discriminatory in nature. The act was passed by the Government of India to grant citizenship for religious minorities specifically only Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who have entered India till 31st December 2014. But it does not provide the same protection to Muslims, including minority sects. 

This act violates Articles 14, 15, 21, and 25 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees equality before the law. Religion cannot become a basis of giving someone or not giving citizenship. The idea behind the act is to divide the nation into religious and sectarian lines. It creates fear among the Muslim community. It may compel them to leave their community and adopt some other religion to save their citizenship. This is not justified and is a completely divisive and unconstitutional act.

If the NRC and CAA are implemented together, then the people belonging to Hindu communities will be declared refugees and will be given citizenship, even if they are unable to produce the documents. This means that the real burden will only be on Muslims to prove their citizenship. This causes hardships and statelessness on Muslims, living in India for centuries and many are the original inhabitants of India. It is clear partial treatment to the people which proves India is a majoritarian democracy.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, we can conclude that the principle of majoritarianism is against human values. It seeks to impose the values of the majority on everybody in society. It goes against the principle of equality of every individual. All of this has led to many fights among the communities because of the differences. Majoritarian democracy is not universally accepted and was famously criticized as having the inherent danger of becoming a tyranny of the majority. Better laws and amendments should be made. same for all the people in the country to end majoritarianism. This will bring harmony and peace to the country.


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