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Democracy Under Strain: Time to contemplate

This year we’re observing International Day of Democracy in the middle of a pandemic. Celebrating this day amidst so many unconstitutional decisions raises a question mark about, whether we should really celebrate the day or not.

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The International Day of Democracy has been observed around the world on the 15th of September since 2007 to promote and uphold democratic principles. The theme for this year’s International Day of democracy is “Democracy Under strain:  solution for a changing world”

This year we’re observing this day in the middle of a pandemic. Celebrating democracy day amidst so many unconstitutional decisions raises a question mark whether we should really celebrate the day or not. Be it the unplanned nation-wide lockdown, UAPA and NSA charges on student activists, targeting Muslims and minorities,  biased media coverage, etc shows a position of the current leading party and their stance on the democracy which is hard to ignore.

Picture Credits: The Wire

These are some of the undemocratic instances that happened in the past few months which made you question the word “Democracy” and if it holds the same value as mentioned in the constitution.

1. CAA/NRC-
An anti-minority bill was passed in parliament leading to nation-wide protest in the country. CAA-NRC is against the spirit of the constitution . It is not only a gross human-rights violation but also religious prosecution.

2. Unlawful arrest of students and activist-

When the young lot of India who some years before BJP came in power are considered to be the future of the nation , are behind bars you automatically start to lose faith in democracy. The students of Jamia, JNU, and Aligarh Muslim University who remained at the forefront of these peaceful protests that were held across the nation against the removal of legal and social safeguards for Muslims are forcefully taken to jail. Many innocent students have been slapped with stringent laws like UAPA and NSA. Meeran Haider, Sagoofa Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid are some of the prominent figures of the anti-CAA protest who are unlawfully arrested. It’s hard to count on the number of students, activists being falsely implicated and jailed.

3. Haryana Kisan Protest:

Protesting farmers were lathi-charged. Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’s slogan turns out to be  a mere joke in times like these when police took brutal action against protesting farmers. Why was such excessive force used on farmers? With the advent of BJP’s rule in India in 2014, democracy took a back seat. It became an authoritative form of government.

No laws followed, no rules on the table, and only one man’s giant portrayal. One-person show, with the cabinet, the bureaucracy, and the nation itself held hostage to the whimsical decisions of a single individual.

Image Credits: Kunal Kamra

4. Prashant Bhushan Case:

Court had asked advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan to pay Rupee 1  in the contempt case which shows there is no space for dissent or disagreement in the country. Keeping India’s record under the current fascist regime one must remember that Re 1 sentence may look ridiculous and lenient but the whole proceedings were an assault on fundamental rights.

5. Authoritarian biased Media:

Some intellectuals are considering this regime with malign intentions to that of India
under British rule. In reality, it’s even worst. In the world’s largest democracy today, we have one of the world’s lowest employment, lowest GDPs, mob lynchings in broad daylight, students being arrested, minorities living in fear, and government backing all of it strongly. India, once known for its democratic model with secular principles, pluralism, and rule of law is on its way to being called an authoritarian and majoritarian country globally. The rule of BJP will be remembered as a dark phase of Indian democracy.

6. No conversation on the rape cases which are constantly rising every day:

The mum of government on rising cases of rape and the absence of stringent laws are surprising as well as heartbreaking. Instances of rape that has surfaced from various part of the country is yet another failure of a democratic nation.

7. No heed to health, unemployment, and education :

No other country except India has seen the death of the poor at this scale due to starvation or lack of resources in the fight against COVID-19. Except for a few states, like Kerala, the data suggests that large parts of the country are now in a worse position than they were at the beginning of the lockdown. This implies that the country has squandered the possible epidemiological benefits of the lockdown while paying its terrible social costs. The lockdown has destroyed the livelihood and economic security of millions of people.

The government’s apathy towards students also became a point of criticism from all quarters.  PM Modi’s ‘ Man ki Baat’ video recorded dislikes on his YouTube video after failure to postpone NEET and JEE. The government ignored the voices of students. Amid pandemic parents and students suffered equally while reaching the test centres . Many students fainted because of hunger and the parents faced a lot of difficulties because of the lack of facilities.

8. Canceling the Question Hour :
Scrapping question hour out of the Parliamentary proceedings only added to the unconstitutional practices by the ruling government. Curtailing Zero Hour or canceling the
Question Hour has anything to do with the containment of COVID-19.

9. Demonetization :

Demonetization and a carelessly implemented GST were rushed through by the Prime Minister. So was the harsh lockdown in the pandemic. Domain experts in these fields had warned against these moves. Where in the world any did democracy witness such an unethical undertaking?

10. No healthcare System:

As the number of infections surges in India, patients are finding it difficult to get admitted to coronavirus-designated hospitals. The poor poor health care system for the masses proved the government did not use lockdown time efficiently for preparation to deal with coronavirus. Amid the chaos and the rising human toll, healthcare services are undergoing decentralization and fragmentation.

11. No data on migrants’ death:

The GOI is so unaffected by the deaths of migrants that it did not care to have proper data of deaths. The unsympathetic nature of the Modi government is quite visible. When the world saw the deaths and Modi government was uninformed. An authoritarian government where people’s right to practice fundamental rights went for a toss . The GOI also does not have any data on job losses.

Girl with a banner during a protest

Under the facade of a public health emergency, subjugation of students, activists, scholars, Muslim leaders, politicians. Unfortunately, since the invasion of power by BJP, we have witnessed democracy taking a backseat around the country as the government has restricted human rights and fundamental freedoms and more focused on the repression of voices and dissent. Control of media restricted access to public platforms and increase the surveillance of the pillars of democracy became priority if the government. A government that jailed likes of Sharjeel Imam, Khalid Shafi have nothing to do with Komal Pandey, Kapil Mishra.

The IDEA’s Global State of Democracy Index 2019 covering 158 countries since 1975 noted that India, along with 7 other democracies, including the US, had ‘seen the most widespread democratic erosion’ in the past five years. On the occasion of international democracy day, it is an opportunity to ponder where are we leading India to? The citizens of the country must stand up against this most atrocious campaign that independent India is witnessing against its best minds. If we fail now, we may lose India forever.

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