Is Ethnocracy Invading India’s Democracy?
As India approaches its Republic day, annual rituals of guns salute and unfurling of the national flag followed by republic day parade will be held at Delhi. We all Indian citizens will be made feel proud of our democracy. US President Joe Biden, at the recent Summit for Democracy, emphasised that democracy has to be renewed with each generation. Has India been able to do breathe life into its republic or was busy merely celebrating history? On the 75th Republic day, let’s not only commemorate but also contemplate.
Our constitution makers gave us a legacy of political democracy but at the same time entrusted us with the responsibility of demolishing the graded socieconomic inequality to establish the principle of one man one value. Perhaps, we failed them as well as ourselves. The resultant nation is picture of a blown-up democracy marching towards ethnocracy, a regime characterized by an ethnic core disguised by a fine democratic covering.
Coined by Sammy Smooha, an Israeli sociologist, ethnic democracy is a by-product of ethnic nationalism—the ideology of a group that considers itself bound by racial, linguistic, religious, or other cultural characteristics and derives from these bonds a strong sense of belonging. The mess is that this group has a sense of superiority associated with a feeling of rejection of the non-identical who are perceived as a threat to the survival and integrity of the ethnic nation.
He describes ethnocracy as a type of political structure in which the state apparatus is controlled by a dominant ethnic group to further its interests, power and resources leading to ethnicization of the territory and society. Ethnocracy develops when a dominant group is powerful enough to determine unilaterally the nature of the state. The current Modi-Shah diarchy has ensured that this dominance percolates down via all the limbs of democracy including the media.
Attributing to introduction of religious element to the conceptualization of Indian citizenship, India has been dubbed as a ‘flawed democracy’ by Economist Intelligence Unit. An ethnic nationcontrols the state via majority genus and uses it to further its national interests and to grant its members a favoured status while the minorities are placed under control and treated as second class citizens.
Recent hate-speeches at religious platforms and their indirect endorsement by the state give a clear indication about the direction in which India’s democracy is heading. India inherited class inequality along with oppressive forces like casteism, patriarchy, religious fanaticism, and region/language bias. This undemocratic legacy has made it easy for the present reign to execute its plan to establish majoritarian authoritarianism type of governance. Although PM Modi has asked for next 25 years to reclaim what our society has lost in hundreds of years of slavery, he is in fact demanding this period of time to push back India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. A Rashtra where there would be no place for the regional, racial, religious minorities. A Rashtra where in all probabilities, the lancet would not be directed where the blood is thickest but to the weakest and the meekest part of the population.
The planned breakdown of the federal structure is also a move towards ethnocracy. Under the British raj, London was constantly out to loot the various provincial governments, centralising funds and changing monetary policies to suit its ends. Even after a century, the modus operandi is the same but this time it is being done by Delhi and for the benefit of a few. No doubt, this has created a big dent on India’s economic democracy. World inequality data 2022 suggests that the poorest 50% of the Indians now earn the same as what the poorest 50% of Americans earned way back in 1932. A few, at the top 10% of the population own 67% of India’s wealth and control all institutions, guide public policies and dominate public discourse. They own media houses and decide what people shouldn’t know. They influence voting behaviour by manufacturing selective content and injecting it into the masses.
The steady dilution of transparent governance by chocking of laws like the RTI act clearly conveys to the world how facts are being obscured. India now lags behind even a totalitarian country like China in Inequality transparency Index. It is ironical that breathtaking advances in science and technology are being used to conceal official facts and figures whilst snooping upon personal data in order to serve political and economic interests of a few.
Democracy is not a mere ritual act of casting one’s vote once in a while. This pseudo notion has degraded our democracy index taking us towards an electoral autocracy. As we forgot to renew our democracy as per times, we have already in a stage of ethnic democracy and ethnocracy is knocking at our democratic doors.
This is in contrast to western countries that are slowly shifting towards multi-cultural democracies while ours is consolidating as an alternative form of democracy that serves as a means to end as a single ethnic nation.
Rather than celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahautsav, India demands freedom from tyranny and de-facto ethnocracy so that social, political and economic democracy could be established. The messiah will rise to the podium again at Rajpath to ensure the masses that he is working overtime and goodies would be delivered to them soon from his bag of tricks. Not unexpectedly, he has always excelled in oratory, widening the gap between word and practices thus leading to a drastic and deliberate drop in democratic quotient of the country.
Author Dr Jas Simran Kehal is an Orthopaedic surgeon at Nangal Dam, Punjab and a Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications.
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