V-DEM institute’s Democracy report, 2022 reported India is turning into an autocracy with a drive given by an anti-pluralist party. The report elucidates tendencies of an anti-pluralist party and leaders as “Anti-pluralist parties and their leaders lack the commitment to the democratic process, disrespect fundamental minority rights, encourage demonization of political opponents and accept political violence. These ruling parties tend to be nationalist reactionary and have used government power to push forward autocratic agendas.”
Analyzing several administrative actions of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government such as the process of trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, and abrogation of article 370 to fulfill the party’s goal and ideology, mirrors its lack of commitment to the democratic process and usage of government’s power to push forward the party’s own agendas. The BJP administration has a long track record of disrespecting fundamental minority rights.
The recent harassment of Muslim women in BJP governed state of Karnataka where the arbitrary hijab ban is implemented by the Government college administration without consultation with the concerned minorities is disrespectful to the fundamental minority rights of Muslims and Muslim women, who are also a vulnerable section of the population, hence the report pointed out that the autocratic administration lacks a range of consultation and engagements within society.
The anti-pluralist party such as BJP formed the government through the electoral process, this is the reason the report specifically describes India as an ‘Electoral Autocracy’ because the electoral autocracy exists with the consent of the people. This is very much evident from the results of recent elections in several states such as Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand, and Manipur.
Pew Research survey, 2021 on Religions in India pointed out that 64% of Hindus tend to see their religious identity and Indian national identity are interlinked, 59% of Hindus considered speaking in Hindi is also included in their national identity. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, 60% of Hindu voters who thought it is very important to be Hindu and to speak Hindi had voted for the BJP. It is this vocal reactionary section of the population that allows the BJP to form a government and become an electoral autocracy.
BJP government’s goal of protecting this vote bank by keeping up the emotions of this section of the population tends BJP to instigate and support the views and political violence such as Gujarat and Delhi violence on Muslims which was done by this section of the population. The survey categorized this section of the population as ‘Hindu Nationalists’. According to this survey, 46% of this Hindu nationalist section of the population did not want Muslims to be their neighbors. BJP uses the consent and voices of this Hindu nationalist reactionary section of the population to suppress student activists, political critiques, and dissidents by labeling them as anti-Indians.
When people from the Hindu Nationalist section of the population become personnel in administration and other pillars of democracy, there will be a lack of commitment to the democratic process and undermining of constitutional values which this personnel is an obligation to serve. It is this kind of administration that will go on to suppress voices like Rana Ayyub, Sharjeel Imam, and other political dissidents using its administrative apparatuses and filing cases for drawing graffiti ‘Hijab is our dignity.
At the same time turn blind eyes toward Islamophobic speeches echoed at Dharam Sansad rallies, violence against women for eating non-vegetarian food, and public rape threats on Muslim women by Hindu nationalists in the name of freedom of speech. When this Hindu Nationalist personnel form the workforce in state institutions, they’ll legitimize their value system as institutional values, their rights will become institutional rights, and they will make institutional rights supersede individual minority rights through arbitrary administrative actions.
Citizens who are the members of the civil society from the basis and precondition for the political state to exist, these citizens are recognized by the state by providing them fundamental rights. BJP’s government by allowing violence against Muslims from the start, arbitrary administrative actions, and institutional rights to supersede fundamental rights, appropriates the Hindu nationalists’ views and empowers their actions as their rights allowed by the state to keep up their ego and antagonism towards vulnerable minorities, and their thoughts away from reality such as poverty, unemployment, inflation and other lack of human development.
This appropriation makes the Muslim citizens of India persecuted minorities and second-class citizens. The Democratic institutions which are created to protect the citizens belonging to minority sections of the state are being used by BJP and Hindu nationalists to persecute the minorities and push their party’s anti-pluralist and fascist agenda.
In a democratic state which has governors and governed, it’s the opinion of the majority of governed that gives consent to the actions of governors. BJP understood that the greatest defense for democracy is the opinion of a strong and independent civil society that can mobilize people against the government. So, BJP efficiently managed to socially engineer the latent anti-Muslim opinion of the majority of governed through a series of Islamophobic actions, altering history and reviving ancient religious mythological stories to match their party’s polarizing and fascist rhetoric to gain consent for the party being anti-pluralist and their governance being autocratic.
On considering these reasons only, the report classified India as an ‘electoral autocracy’ governed by an anti-pluralist party like the BJP which tirelessly works to undermine the basic human dignity and self-respect of minorities especially Muslims for the start. If the opinion of the governed stays in the polarizing course and dominant discourses remains ‘Us vs. Them’, there’s a greater chance for India becoming an absolute autocracy because the existence of anti-pluralist party like the BJP in an electoral democracy shows the existence of anti-pluralism in the opinions of electors who is the people.
- Vanessa A. Boese, Nazifa Alizada, Martin Lundstedt, Kelly Morisson, Natalia Natsika, Yuko Sato, Hugo Tai, and Staffan I. Lindberg. 2022. Autocratization Changing Nature? Democracy Report 2022. Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-DEM). March 2022. https://v-dem.net/media/publications/dr_2022.pdf
- Pew Research Center, June 29, 2021, “Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation”. https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2021/06/29/religion-in-india-tolerance-and-segregation/
- Marx, K. 1844. On Jewish Question. Blurb. 2019.
About the Author: A student pursuing a master’s in public administration at the University of Madras, Chennai
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