Come national holidays and my mind is choked with thoughts about freedom. October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanti, was no different. We celebrated 144th birthday of our beloved Gandhi Bapu (Yes! It’s been that long!). We take pride in calling ourselves the biggest democracy among all other nations. Our representatives at various international and national platforms showcase India as a liberal and free nation where the citizens have freedom of speech and several other rights protecting the nation’s sovereignty. But is this- liberal front of democracy- a stamp or a check mark instilled in our minds, just to exterminate future protests? Bapu and other freedom fighters faced intolerable levels of hardships for Hindustan to breathe the air of freedom. Is it now being suffocated and choked within beautifully painted walls of democracy?
There is an uprising in the Middle East and North African regions popularly known as ARAB SPRING among the international community. Nations within these regions have seen protests from the population against any form of aristocracy or regimes, in the wake of accepting democracy as their political identity. This string of revolutionary protest was triggered from a desperate act of a 26-year old street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in December 2010, in Tunisia. It baffles my mind that it took the luminosity of a burning man than years of darkness spent under aristocratic regimes and monarchies, for people to realize the importance of freedom. But the real war is not protesting and fighting against the tyranny, it will be the period of post revolution where the status-quo stands disturbed. And during the eleventh-hour, the only “liberal” alternative left for such countries- under pressure of the world community- is to adopt democracy.
The most general notion of people towards democracy is that it allows population to elect their own leader. But, what after that? Instead of having a lineage of leaders we choose people to lead us. Is our duty just limited to the election of leaders? Do we have a say after everything is said and done? Freedom of speech is one of the key factors of a democratic system- a point that is highlighted and most talked about. But true democracy can only be established when both positive talks and negative criticisms coexist.
Dr Mohammed Abdel-Haq is one of the key thinkers and researchers of the Arab uprising. He is also on the Advisory Board of Conservative Middle East Council (CMEC). In one of his reports, he made a very compelling argument about democracy that immediately captured my attention. He argued,
“Human rights abuses, corruption and intimidation all flourish in countries where dissent (negative opinion) is suppressed. A system that not only tolerates but institutionalizes dissent is a system that understands the true value of democracy”.
Even though he was specifically talking about Arab uprising, one cannot fail to recognize how the last line resonates with almost all the prevailing democracies of the world, including India.
Speaking from observations, when a person suppresses his/her emotions (love, hate, anger) he starts to carry an emotional baggage and when this baggage becomes heavy, there is an emotional breakdown. Similarly, in a nation where dissent of the population is suppressed, the suppression leads to a ‘revolution’, in a forlorn attempt to bring change. Revolution is not particularly something to be proud of; it has a negative connotation too. Its purpose is to bring change for good but in a struggle to achieve that goal there is often an economic, social and cultural loss suffered by the society. All of this can be avoided if the leaders (government, monarchs, military heads) pay heed to the dissent of the public.
There is a rat race going on in Indian politics right now. It is commonplace, now, to read in newspapers, politicians’ toxic talks against opposition. But in this race, politicians miss out the common denomination of a democratic system- the public. They use public platforms to attack each other rather than listening to the people’s distress. Even when we have rights, their utility is nil, as these rights are manipulated at whims of our politicians and elites. I feel that these rights are nominal and are there just to assure the public that they run everything. In contrast, it is our politicians and elites running the show from backstage.
I read this quote while surfing the Net.
“Money can’t buy happiness is a lie we tell poor people to keep ’em from rioting.”
Can this same quote be applied to democracy? Is democracy a lie that politicians and elites tell us to keep us from rioting? The only solution to this problem is, to speak. But the speaking should not be by a single person. Instead, it should be by the whole nation and if the politicians and government really care about our well-being, they will work upon the negative criticisms. Otherwise, this chain of suppression and revolution will continue forever. Our nation is gasping for air right now. Either we give in or fight back, the choice is ours.
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