Democracy as Majoritarianism
“We can never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal,’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, but I am sure that if I lived in Germany during that time I would have comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal… we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
— Martin Luther King, Jr
What is the signature of democracy?
It is the understanding that minority voices will be allowed to flourish and they will not be bulldozed.
At the apparent level majoritarianism – rule by majority – sounds very similar to democracy but it essentially stands democracy on its head. For real democracy to thrive, it is essential that ideas and principles of secularism are at its core. The idea that there will be a clear separation between state and religion and there won’t be any discrimination on the basis of religion has to be its guiding principle.
Majoritarianism clearly defeats democracy in idea as well as practice.
While democracy’s metamorphosis into majoritarianism is a real danger, under rule of capital – especially its present phase of neoliberalism – another lurking danger is its evolution into what can be called as plutocracy – government by the rich.
As India enters the race for elections to the 17 th Lok Sabha, these are the two broad questions which are staring in everyone’s mind, whether the same dynamic – which has made the last five years as unique in Independent India’s history – will continue or we will witness a rupture.
It is a disturbing scenario when the biggest democracy in the world seems to have taken a ‘[Q]uantum Jump In Wrong Direction Since 2014’ (Amartya Sen) – prompting even the normally reticient community of scientists to ask people to reject the politics which ‘.[d]ivides us, creates fears, and marginalises a large fraction of our society’ and remind them that “[D]iversity is our democracy’s greatest strength; discrimination and non-inclusivity strike at its very foundation.’
Whether there would be further normalisation of majoritianism or ordinary people’s desire to live a more inclusive, egalitarian life and in a less toxic world would ultimately triumph the designs of the hatemongers and secondly, whether free run being given to the crony capitalists and moneybags would be over and ideas of redistribution would make a comeback with vengeance.
What has added a new dimension to this dynamic is the existence of a ‘self proclaimed cultural organisation’ called RSS – whose principles, ideology and activities contravene the very basis of Constitution – which is de facto
ruling the country. It is an organisation whose principles “[d]epicting Indian nationalism in terms of the faith of the religious majority – have serious negative social and political implications for sections of the citizen-body and are in violation of the Constitution.” ( http://caravandaily.com/rss-principles-are-in-violation-of-constitution-detrimental-to-india-hamid-ansari/
It was exactly 42 years back that Indian people defeated the attempts to throttle the democratic experiment by their united struggle, whether they would be we able to have an encore when more secretive, sinister and communal forces are on ascent who are also popular among a significant section of people.
The central concern of the collection of essays (some of them published earlier and revised for this collection) presented here is this normalisation of majoritarianism which is taking place here. A situation where representation of the biggest religious minority in the outgoing Parliament had been at its lowest since independence and where it is being slowly invisiblised even from public discourse.
Section I tries to situate these developments in India in South Asian context and search for any commonality in the experiences of people and also looks at the societal roots for this fascination of hate filled ideologies and leaders.
Section II deals with the ‘pioneers of the Hindutva Supremacist movement and the new icons they want to present for a ‘New India’ which is supposedly taking shape under their wings. Section III tries to offer tentative suggestions to fight the menace which is trying to overwhelm the Indian republic.
The book is dedicated to the memory of the legendary Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Tur (February 20, 1925 – April 30, 2006) who survived persecution, imprisonment and censorship, whose writings have inspired generations of Indonesian People,
What was remarkable that Pramoedya, a leftist, was jailed not only during the anti-colonial struggle but had to undergo a long phase of detention which started in mid-sixties when Indonesia witnessed a CIA sponsored military coup – which witnessed killings of lakhs of people. He was released from imprisonment in 1979, but remained under house arrest in Jakarta until 1992.
His tetralogy of novels – for which he is best known – ‘Buru Quartet’ was written during the tormenting period of detention only. “Is it possible,” Pramoedya asked later, “to take from a man his right to speak to himself?”
Glory to his memory !
Media House, 2019
1. India: The Road Less Travelled by
2. Time to Militarise Hindus, Hinduise the Nation
3. South Asia: Forward March of Majoritarianism
4. Dear Hitler
5. Veer of a different Kind
6. Can the Real Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Ever Stand Up?
7. Godse: In Love with the Assasin
8. Deendayal Upadhyay: BJP’s “Gandhi”
9. Many Silences of Mr Mohan Bhagwat
10. Hindutva’s Second Coming
Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism
About the author
Subhash Gatade ( born 1957) is a left activist, writer and translator.
He has done M Tech ( Mech Engg 1981) from BHU-IT, Varanasi.
He has authored few books including Modinama : On Caste, Cows and the Manusmriti ( Leftword, in press), Charvak ke Vaaris ( Authors Pride, Hindi, 2018), Ambedkar ani Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( Sugava, Marathi, 2016), Beesavi Sadi Mein Ambedkar ka Sawal ( Dakhal, Hindi, 2014), Godse ki Aulad ( Pharos, Urdu, 2013) , Godse’s Children – Hindutva Terror in India (Pharos, 2011), The Saffron Condition ( Three Essays, 2011)
He also occasionally writes for children. Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi ( NCERT, Hindi, 2010)