By Mehak Sharma
One of the most famous concepts to be talked of these days is the concept of democracy and democratic space. The debate ranges, among other things, from providing free and equal democratic space to women in the work place to the issue of right to privacy. The fact is that the source of equal rights and freedom is considered to be the found in the concept of democracy, which is in sharp contrast to a dictatorship where there is no place for freedom of its citizen as such. The question that becomes important is, “ Why Democracy is the most celebrated concept?”. It is simply because of the fact that a well functioning democracy is the form of government that provides its citizens with the most freedom, the most opportunity, the greatest prosperity, and the “good” life. It is the reason that today every country wants to be fit in to the list of democratic countries whether practically it exists there or not.
What do we mean by democracy? If one goes back to the most popular definition of democracy, it is provided by Abraham Lincoln. According to Lincoln, “Democracy is the rule of the people, by the people and for the people”. It is often said that India is one of the most important democratic countries as Indian democracy today is as old as sixty-two years and it has survived despite the fact many countries have yielded to dictatorship and military rule. Secondly, there is a peaceful coexistence of different ideas and ideals. Then what is wrong with democracy in India?
It would be wrong to talk of India to be the most successful democratic countries if one goes by the classic definition of democracy i.e. “rule of the people, for the people and by the people”. Claiming that would mean to ignore the suppressed demands of the citizens of the Indian Nation, whether it’s the demand of the separate nation by Kashmir or the demand of the formation of a separate Bodoland nation. The use of AFSPA in order to keep these forces in check can’t be considered as the decision of a democratic nation because democracy does not mean holding on to the units of the nation through the use of force and threat. It is rule for the people and not on the people.
The use of force in order to curb the demands of the people, not only goes against the classic definition of democracy but it goes against all the underlying principles of which democracy is composed of. These are the equality, freedom and justice. No amount of justification can be given if it is at the cost of curbing the people’s voices and demands.
On the contrary, democracy gets its strength from the dissent only. It is something that helps democracy to grow. Throughout the history of world, dissent has been important to bring change. Without dissent and protest, people would still practice sati, people would still own other people as slaves, women would not have the vote. Democracy is a living form of government that provides the right to its citizens to protest against the decisions that they disagree with. According to Abbie Hoffman, “You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents and not the freedom its gives its assimilated conformists” Promoting a world view that doesn’t allow citizens to protest the actions of their government is to take on the philosophy of a despots and not democrats.
Aristotle was right in saying that if city-state is a whole then family is a part. Based on the same grounds, one can draw an analogy between the functioning of a family and a state. When a state tries to hold on to its unit by the use of force, it is similar to holding on to the members of the family through force by going against their wish which usually ends up into nothing but a disastrous collapse of its very structure.
—The author is pursuing her PhD in Political Science from the Jawaharlal University (JNU). She can be reached at: [email protected]