Prof Zoya Hasan, Professor Emerita, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Distinguished Faculty, Council for Social Development, New Delhi, will be delivering the 16 th lecture in the Democracy Dialogues Series, organised by New Socialist Initiative, at 6 PM, (IST) Sunday, 27 th March, 2022.
She will be speaking on ‘Challenges to India’s Democracy‘
Prof Zoya Hasan has written and edited many books on state, political parties, ethnicity, gender and minorities in India and society in north India and has been a visiting Professor to the Universities of Zurich, Edinburgh and Maison des Sciences de L’Homme, Paris.
Her most recent publications include Forging Identities : Gender, Communities And The State In India ( edited) , Agitation to Legislation – Negotiating Equity and Justice in India , Congress after Indira: Policy, Power and Political Change (1984–2009), Politics of Inclusion: Castes, Minorities and Affirmative Action, (2009) and a collection of essays titled Democracy and the Crisis of Inequality
Challenges to India’s Democracy
The 75th anniversary of Indian Independence is a landmark event in the history of our democracy. It is for this reason a significant moment to assess the state of India’s democracy. As the largest democracy in the non-western world, India is a success story. Its success, however, has primarily been recognized as an electoral democracy, with regular free and fair elections registering high voter participation, and also peaceful transfer of power. Elections certainly are a climactic moment of the democratic process but by no means the only important one. Politics between elections is central for understanding the challenges facing Indian democracy, and it is important, therefore, to contextualize democracy.
Three years since the Bhartiya Janata Party government was re-elected has seen the consolidation of the process begun in 2014 – the establishment of a Hindu state. This process has been facilitated by the combination of majoritarianism and authoritarianism which has resulted in democracy becoming thinner, not accidentally, but deliberately. This does raise certain questions about the relationship between Hindu nationalism and democracy which seems to weaken the idea of democracy moderated by institutions.
This paper tries to make sense of these shifts through a thematic exploration of the trajectory of Indian democracy since 2014 focusing on three overlapping developments -the consolidation of a majoritarian brand of politics, the decline of independent institutions and the shrinking space for political dissent and protests -which has undermined democracy. Each of these issues distinct and significant in its own right when taken together constitutes a major risk to Indian democracy. However, public protests in the last few years have emerged as a major bulwark against authoritarian rule and the erosion of democratic dissent. For the Opposition it’s a moment of reckoning but there are signs of churning among the Opposition as well.