Democracy by its definition is ‘Majoritarianism‘. India is a democracy, and none of us Indians should have any problem with the majority deciding what is right and what is wrong for them. The majority gets to chose who will be the leader and who will be the follower. A democracy does gives adequate and some might say even total constitutional power to a majority community on the future of a state.
What is wrong in a majoritarianism? Nothing. It is the bedrock of democracy and it should be honoured. The majority must always decide what they want.
What does the minority have in the current constitutional scheme? It surely doesn’t have much of a say in formation of governments. All that it has are fundamental human rights of equality before law and the right to exercise the functions of their life under this umbrella.
Congress party however for the past twenty years, since the Italian Mama has been ruling, has been following just the reverse. It has been following ‘Minoritarianism‘. A small minority thought has held sway over a major minority demand. This can be termed also as ‘minority appeasement’, where a legitimate demand of the majority is denied to please a small minority, just so that the minority vote is consolidated behind a political thought. The Congress tried to give them an inordinate say in matters by manner of appeasement through pilgrimage subsidies, unequal civic laws, encouraging one-sided proselytisation amongst other such ideas. Any attempt to bring a Uniform Civil Code was brutally suppressed through a Minoritarianism strategy. Minoritarianism as followed by Congress Party and like-minded pseudo-secular parties is a curse of the times we have passed. It is time that Minoritarianism is buried. Here, I digress for a moment to distinctly differentiate between the policies of Pre-Sonia Congress and Post-Sonia Congress. Nationalism wasn’t a bad idea in Congress till Sonia arrived on the scene; Rajiv Gandhi in fact went full ballast with his ‘Mera Bharat Mahan’ slogan. During the time of Nehru, the Puranic symbols and thoughts like Satyameva Jayate were given due importance and space in public mind, Vande Mataram was played every day on All India Radio as the starting music, major projects and army regimental slogans were named after Ancient Indian thoughts. Nationalism and pride in liberal Ancient Indian thought was the sign of Independent India in the early years of Indian Independence and it is perhaps these thoughts that make India a reasonably liberal country today.
The question arises though as to why does the majority suffer a siege mentality now? Why does the majority need to assert its power, when it already holds all the power? The answer perhaps lies in the sad legacy of minority appeasement followed by successive governments. Symbols of Hindu faith are dismissed as myths, while those of others are seen as legitimate ideas. Ancient Indian treatises with their immense wisdom have been buried under a morass of superstition. Different yard-sticks are applied; while Owaisis or Badals are seen as legitimate, the majority’s representatives are shunned aside as political pariahs; a legitimate demand for building a temple is rejected by questioning the very existence of Lord Rama; pandits are pushed out of Kashmir yet not a whimper in the then establishment; normal crimes against Muslims are labelled as communal while communal incidents against Hindus are labelled as normal; symbols of subjugation like Aurangzeb are feted by naming roads on them; so on and on, so many other instances. By the end of this process of appeasement, we are now at a stage where ultra-liberal thought of India has deteriorated to the extent that it feels a sense of pride in supporting people seeking a communal division of India in Kashmir. Intellectuals of India are so intellectually bankrupt that they support communal movements in the name of secularism. A rogue like Kanhaiya is feted as a messiah even as he obfuscates his support for separatists in semantics. All such attacks at the majority ought to create frustrations.
Hindus do have legitimate grievances of frustration; and so the resurgence is not totally out of place. The problem is that there is no attempt at a middle ground; the resurgence is going to the extreme side.
The majority is in unrest as it goes ballast, as if making up for 900 years of foreign rule. The minority is in unrest because it feels threatened by this resurgence.
And the churning is spewing potential problems. The problem is the looming large threat of a ‘Tyranny of the Majority’. ‘Tyranny of the majority’ (or tyranny of the masses) refers to an inherent weakness of direct democracy and majority rule in which the majority of an electorate can place its own interests above, and at the expense of, those in the minority. This results in oppression of minority groups comparable to that of a tyrant or despot. This is the risk. A real risk. The impact of unfettered Minoritarianism is swinging to the other side, with liberal thought swinging to tunnelisation of the ethos. This risk is real and can never be under-estimated.
Where do we stand now? Today as a society we are pendulating between Minoritarianism and Tyranny of the Majority; and it is converting to a Majoritarian Theocracy called the Hindu Rashtra.
And now comes the question, we as a nation must now ask ourselves again the question that has been debated heavily in the Constituent Assembly; what is the problem with having a Majoritarian Theocracy?
‘Theocracy’ is a system of government where the power flows from the hands of religious leaders and day to day functioning of the government is governed from ancient scriptures of religions. We have Christian Theocracies and Islamic Theocracies; but we dont yet have a Hindu Theocracy in the world. An attempt is being made to create a Hindu Theocracy now in India; with India being officially declared a Hindu Rashtra.
Practically, India already is a Hindu Rashtra, even though it has a secular constitution; or should I say it is a secular country by virtue of being a Hindu Rashtra. Either way it is correct and it is correct because Hinduism is inherently liberal if taken in its true roots. We are governed by a secular Constitution that was derived out of the Constituent Assembly’s wide discussions amongst elected representatives of all religions and classes, the majority of them being Hindus. Under the current constitution, democratic majoritarianism ensures rights of minorities yet it does ensure that the majority gets to chose the governments that rule us in India; Hindus being a big majority of India by a big margin.
Still the current, officially secular, system gives the minorities a sense of peace and pride in India because the ethos of the country till now rests on Ancient Indian thought, which is essentially liberal; it had place for all streams of thought including: atheism, anti-religionism, monotheism, polytheism, idolatry, non-idolatory, spiritualism, bhajan, even materialism. It adopts all, rejects none.
Alas, a narrow tunnel vision of Ancient Hindu thought is winning over the liberal ethos now; rather than attacking the ills of casteism and class divisions, we are attacking the liberalism of India. A straitjacket version of Hinduism deriving out of 15th century readings of Hinduism is being understood as true Hinduism. One forgets that 15th century interpretations of Hinduism were the need of the times under Islamic suppression, but it is better now that Hinduism reverts back to its original philosophies; philosophies where a person writing on love was considered a rishi, where caste boundaries were porous and a downtrodden Valmiki could become a sage, philosophies where Charvak could make fun of God as a shaastra, where the body was celebrated in naked glory and wasnt covered in fake modesty, where the dharm was never in danger, it only evolved into something better with each iteration.
One would be fine with resurgence of Hindu thought if the resurgence was in line with ancient ‘shastrarth’; the problems happen because the people who claim to be hindus don’t know hinduism ;they have never read a Veda and dont know the difference between an Upanishad, Puran or a Smriti; where ill-read illiterates interpret the ancient treatises and imagine that their religion is under danger even if a girl drinks a peg of alcohol; where celebration of love is seen as a western ideology, where arranged marriages are seen as ‘Sanskar’ forgetting the ancient Indian wisdom of Swayamvar, where narrow dogmas created over thousands of years of foreign rule are not being pushed aside, rather they are being re-inforced under a narrow understanding of Hinduism.
The 1400 years of rule, if you analyse, was because of internal caste divisions of India which ensured that only a miniscule percentage of Kshatriyas thought it their duty to defend the nation. India lost because it was divided and ruled; each region or caste identity played as an enemy of the other; India lost because a section of Indian always acquiesced to the attacker’s whims due to motives of profit and made deals on the sidelines; every fort worth its name was captured because one of the guards took money and opened a side gate; most wars were lost because a section sided with the attackers.
Have we learnt? No, we are attacking our own citizens and labelling them as foreigners, reportedly calling them haram-zade because they are not ram-zade. Are we uniting our people or are we dividing? Why does the minority need to prove its patriotism while the majority takes its own patriotism for granted? Is it not a fact that Jaichand sided with Ghauri, that Kshatriya princes surrendered to British without fighting, that Scindias fought for British during 1857, why blame the minority alone? Is it not a fact that Shahnawaz Khan commanded a Division of the Indian National Army? Is it not a fact that Abdul Hameed died defending the Khemkaran sector? Is it not a fact that Abdul Kalam was the architect of India’s missile systems? Why does the minority have to prove its patriotism in random whatsapp messages spewing hatred for all? We have all the right to attack the orthodox strains of Islamic thought, Wahabism is a virulent ideology and we must question it threadbare. But do we know that most Muslims in India dont ascribe to it? Do we realise that by cursing them as a group, we are pushing the liberal Muslims into the arms of Wahabism? Yes, Pakistan was created as a product of two-nation theory. Do we realise that most of those who stayed back loved India as much as we do?
A wide majority of tribals in India dont ascribe to the vedic religions. Vanvaasis, Vanprastha people were not a part of ancient Indian society as we know it, these were people always on the margins and that they need a healing touch now. The systems in place needs to address their concerns. A homogenous vision of Hindutva can’t be pushed down their throat, else they will lose their roots in the bargain giving birth to un-ending conflict.
A homogenous vision of India is never the answer for a sub-continent like India We need to acknowledge our heterogeneity and recognise that we are a comity of nations tied in the idea of India. We need to ensure that none of the communities in our state feels threatened that their legacy is being trodden over. The narrow tunnel vision of North Indian Cow-Belt Hindutva can only antagonise the Dravidians and the North Eastern people or Punjab or Kerala or Karnataka or Tamilnadu; the communal or supremacist agenda of one can trigger the regional agendas of the other giving rise to a Civil conflict that may finish everything. So, while we do have a Constitutional Democratic Majoritarianism; we cannot have a Theocratic Majoritarianism; it will definitely result in social unrest and civic conflict; and if sustained for long can lead to civil wars or disintegration of the nation as we know it.
Middle path is the solution, a balance has to be struck where Democratic Majoritarianism is sanctioned in spirit; where Minoritarianism must be shunned too; the majority must be liberal but the minority must be flexible too. Past instances of historical conflicts must be addressed through truth and reconciliation sessions; historical wrongs must be righted without wronging the present. A liberal reading of Hinduism in its raw firm does not sanctify the caste divisions; we must revert back to ancient Hinduism as a society, if we want to build a better India. Ideally, Muslims must be glad to see a temple at the place of Ram’s birth; or to see the mosque voluntarily moving away from Krishna’s birthplace in Mathura; what can they lose by being understanding and loving! Ideally, Hindus must sit across with community leaders and negotiate support rather than shout loud. Ideally, we must be looking at our common Indian roots and love each other like products of the soil. Ideally, religion must remain within the boundaries of our homes and must not come out into the political zone, ideally India must have a Common Civil Code like all liberal democracies have, ideally the religion must get back into the houses.
Does India need a Hindu Rashtra? No, we already have one; just make it congruent to ancient Hindu thoughts and we will have secularism galore. Don’t tinker with the Constitution; it has been a beautiful journey for India till now; we have come up together and we will prosper together; don’t break something that is beautiful.
True Majoritarianism (or True Democracy) is an elusive equilibrium in the middle which we must seek. We seek the Majoritarianism that is benevolent to the minority. By virtue of a brutal majority, any majority community holds the responsibility to make the minorities feel at ease. For God’s sake, stop the hate; Ram ke liye, buss kar jao.
Post Script: A german friend of mine, who lives in Palestine visited India and was touring places of spiritual interest. During discussions, she said something very wonderful conveying that India is the only fountainhead (and she drew a fountain in air as she said it) of peace in a world full of strife “As long as mother India is there, the world will live”, implying that India is the only place in the world which had the inherent wisdom that could adopt the whole world’s races as its own. I was proud of that statement; but I wonder! Really! do we really deserve that trust of the world?