(India is neither an authoritarian state nor a true democracy. Modi is not a tyrant in the mold of Stalin or Hitler and does not possess the virtues of a liberal democrat. various research organizations on India and their ranking in democracy are damning, seem exaggerated, misleading and distorted when ranked alongside Pakistan as partially free or below Libya in the happiness index. But to ignore them altogether would be fatal and detrimental to India’s interests and world position, as they contain elements of truth.)
India seems between and between – neither an authoritarian state nor a democracy, nor a developed economy nor a backward country. It has made great scientific progress, but many of its inhabitants and political leaders are also charmed by ancient myths of our past glory and are lost in centuries-old superstitions. It is neither a totalitarian Hindu state nor an enlightened democracy with secular credentials, neither ruled by a dictator nor ruled by a liberal democrat. India and the idea of ââIndia is neither entirely one thing nor properly the other. It has always been a puzzle.
With international reports degrading India on many parameters that determine a vibrant democracy, although this is not entirely accurate, the perception of India, a beacon so far for the rest of the world, risks becoming a declining democracy. Perceptions matter. Is Modi a tyrant comparable to the dictators of the past, a Stalin from the former USSR, a Hitler from Germany, who put millions of people to death? Or can he be compared to modern-day despots – Putin from Russia, Erdogan from Turkey, Mohammed Bin Salman, the current de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, or Xi Jinping from China – some of whom have not shied away from ruthlessly eliminate their opponents by blood-curdling methods or simply make them disappear overnight without leaving a trace? Such comparisons can be far-fetched. Its fiercest and most acerbic detractors – political leaders and intellectuals roam free, attack it at will and criticize it copiously. Can you imagine a Rahul Gandhi, or Mamata Bannerjee, a Pratap Bhanu Mehta or Ram Guha walking freely in China or Russia after criticizing these governments? But does that make Modi a liberal democrat? No one can give him that certificate. For every Ram Guha or PB Mehta, there are dozens of Sudha Bhardwaj and Taltumbes languishing in prison without a fair and prompt trial. His millions of fans who see him as a demigod would approve of many of his autocratic ways. The country was adrift, its predecessor was weak. A messiah was needed and Modi was sent.
Modi is deeply modern but also worships false gods – he pushes for solar power and vaccines and Rafael fighter jets but also summons cosmic energy to drive out the Covid virus by urging the public to beat the gongs and conch shells at auspicious times based on ancient numerology. He praises India as the world’s largest vaccine producer but doesn’t shoot his cabinet colleagues when they launch baba voodoo drugs to fight the coronavirus, a drug that has no evidence clinical trials and condemned by the Indian Medical Association. He’s sort of like countless Indians who embrace modernity without giving up their obscurantist superstitions.
Modi is not a bully to whom many Indian intellectuals compare him, but Modi’s followers may not be able to effectively ward off accusations in many of his overbearing ways. His fiery speech – whether on Ram Temple, the beef ban and sacred cow protection, his party’s narrow definition of nationalism, intolerance to criticism, the CAA and the status of migrants, his membership to a cheeky majority policy – perhaps encouraged self-defense justice. resulting in lynching killings of innocent people in minority communities. His silence at times and reluctance to subdue his overzealous officials and rabid elements in his party could have resulted in the incarceration of many dissident academics, critical journalists and student protesters and could have sparked violence between various sections of society. It is alleged that his penchant for reforms by passing them through decrees and ordinances without consultation, even if he was well intentioned, could have caused misfortune to his people.
However, is India an authoritarian state? Are its inhabitants happy? Are they free?
Sweden’s V-Dem Institute, which publishes its annual democracy report, described India as an electoral autocracy in its 2021 report. While it was true, that many of India’s formal institutions are in jeopardy, Including the electoral machinery and democracy totally undermined, and the media suppressed, Delhi would not have been ruled by Kejriwal, the Punjab by Amarinder, Andhra by Jagan Reddy who is a Christian and Telangana by K Chandra Shekhar Rao. Almost 70 percent of India is ruled by non-BJP states. In the municipal elections which have just ended in Andhra Pradesh, the congress of Jagan Reddy completely wiped out the BJP. Yet there are elements of truth in the report.
Washington’s Freedom House Index ranked India as partially free as a democracy and placed it in the same range as Pakistan. The United Nations Sustainable Development Report’s 2020 World Happiness Report places India 139th out of 149 countries featured – and ranked India below those countries – Libya, 80, Belarus 75, Venezuela 107th , Niger, 96th, Pakistan, 105th, Arabia 21st.
So when an international research organization places India well below Saudi Arabia, for example in the happiness index, where a dissident journalist, a Saudi national can be dismembered by a firing squad and disbanded in acids and where people are beheaded in public view for violating Islamic laws and an adulterous woman can be stoned to death, you don’t believe Indians are the least happy in the world and you would want to trash reports of research. Conclusions and generalizations from statistics can often distort reality. If a man held a bar of red iron in his left hand and ice in his right hand; it will be scalded on one side and frozen on the other. But a statistician would say his average body temperature is nice and warm.
But yet, it would be unwise to ignore these reports.
Many strong leaders easily fall into what Bertrand Russel called The Administrators Fallacy. He pointed out that they are likely to imagine that the state they administer is a tidy and neat and cohesive body. And they want to adapt men to systems rather than systems to men. Human beings and their communities are infinitely complex and diverse with their desires, traits and inclinations. Diversity, creativity, liberty and freedom are the necessary condition for progress and happiness and for the blossoming of democracy and civilization.
India is at a crossroads. Where should India go now? Should Modi be guided by his chauvinistic advisers who advocate a policy of isolation and displaced muscular nationalism and a political and governance practice that favors one community over another, and self-sufficiency folded into itself to the limit? pride? This path can lead India into a “climate of intellectual incest.” As Arthur Koestler put it and slow down its growth from “ever wider thought and action”, and leave a nation “fragmented by narrow interior walls”.
On the contrary, should it pursue the construction of a true democracy which will allow a healthy environment of economic, political, social and cultural worlds which encompasses and nourishes our rich diversity of languages, literature, music and arts which will lead to a happy and egalitarian society? We can remember a line from Rigveda – âLet noble thoughts come to us from all quarters. “
India can be a leader in the committee of nations by following this latter path and Modi, with his tenure and stature, is well positioned to lead India into this exalted position.
If he did, it could be his lasting legacy.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
END OF ARTICLE