Is India a Democracy?

A commenter asks me to read a news article today quoting neoliberal corporatist shill Barack Obama saying that India is a “thriving democracy.” I suppose compared to places like the Arab World, Iran, most of Africa, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Indonesia, Brazil and Paraguay, it’s a relatively democratic place, considering the nightmarish conditions of your average Third World shithole country, an assemblage that India is a part of. First of all, I would like to commend the commenter for his interest in democracy, provided it is sincere. Is it? Do high caste Hindus really want a democracy in India? When in human history have upper class elites ever supported democracy? Leaving that aside, the notion that Indian democracy should safeguard what it has and build on it is a noble one. India’s handling of the language question was a superb showcase of democracy, especially compared to the utter failure of neighbors like Myanmar, Pakistan and Nepal on the language question. India’s handling of the language issue, after a false start, was a par exemplar for the Third World. Let us give credit where it is due! I acknowledge that India is a relatively democratic place. But let’s face it, at the rural level, India is not very democratic and never has been, possibly ever in its entire blighted history. Rural India is a horrid dictatorship of high caste thugs and their private armies. They have the state, cops and courts on their side, and peaceful protest is useless. This is after all why the Maoists took up guns in the first place, after decades of futile peaceful protest. Almost all of the Congressmen in India are known criminals – thieves who have stolen typically millions of dollars. My understanding is that peaceful demos are regularly attacked by police. Is this true or not? And there is some pretty nasty stuff going on Kashmir. Young men being abducted off the street, tortured and murdered, then dropped on the side of the road. Their crime? Throwing rocks I guess. Hindu nationalist gangs regularly run rampant through India’s cities and rural areas, threatening, beating and even murdering Christians and Muslims, burning down their property and even their villages. They have the full support of the local Hindu police and state in these actions. How is this democracy? Here in the US, rural America is not ruled by a dictatorship of upper class thugs. The vast majority of Congress are not obvious thieves and criminals. The bribery that goes on 100 million times a day in India is a crime in the US. In Indian state hospitals, you either bribe the doctors to take care of your sick relative, or they will leave them to die. What’s so “democratic” about that? What good is my marching off to vote once every few years if I have to bribe state doctors not to kill my relative? Good Lord. At Indian universities, Dalits have their own gangs of thugs. Professors are threatened to pass on Dalit students with good grades. If they do not comply, they are beaten or worse. Hence, India’s education system is largely a joke, its degrees watered down with threats, fake marks and mass bribery. In the wonderful Indian democracy, we have recently heard that most large Indian newspapers are charging politicians for favorable coverage. No bribes to journalists, and you get negative stories. Pay off the Fourth Estate and expect plenty of nice fat puff pieces.We have not even descended that far here in the US yet, and we’ve sunk pretty low. This is democratic? How is it democratic that “supporters” of the Maoists are regularly beaten, tortured, raped and murdered? Exactly what crime have they committed? Can you cite the crime that says it is illegal to be a “supporter” of the Maoists? What does it mean to be a “supporter?” Can you spell it out for me please? If it’s illegal to be a Maoist supporter, why can’t you just arrest them and put them on trial? If it’s a crime deserving of death to be a Maoist “supporter” (Define please), why should the Maoists not have a right to kill ever government “supporter,” whatever that means? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, no? My understanding is that journalists who merely report on Maoist rebels are now being accused of violating Emergency Laws. For instance, Arundhati Roy is being threatened with arrest by the high caste criminal gangsters who run Chattisargh. Please tell me exactly what crimes Mrs. Roy has committed in writing in her articles. Specify the precise laws she violated, how and why. Say I want to go to India as a journalist. Explain to me, if I plan to write about Maoists, how it is I can do so without violating the law. Explain what the laws are and how we journalists can somehow not run afoul of them. Thanks! Meantime, I will have to think over that “Indian democracy” bit just a little.

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14 thoughts on “Is India a Democracy?”

  1. Bob, India has always been corrupt – it’s in their genes, duplicity, lying and cheating are second nature to a subcon.It’s hardwired in their genes, possibly because of millenia of Darwinian selection in favor of duplicity, you see India has always been am overpopulated place in which there has been a tooth and claw struggle for very limited rsources.
    Only the biggest cheats, bullies and nastiest bastards actually survived to pass on their genes.

  2. Dear Robert
    I think that you are right. Democracy is more than mere electocracy. What does it matter if people can vote every 4 years if policies do not reflect majority interests and preferences and if policies that are designed to serve the masses are hollowed out by corruption?
    Some corruption is fairly harmless but often corruption means that people with the fattest wallet will get their way at the expense of the poor. It creates a symbiosis between kleptocratic rulers and a plutocratic minority.
    Imagine that a country creates a system of public education in order to insure that every child can be educated but then parents have to pay teachers if their child is to pass. That would completely nullify the intent of the policy.
    Don’t emigrate to India. James

  3. Hi,
    I stumbled upon this post. Let me ask this question though. Do you guys who points out these flaws have a strong solution? You think if Maoists ultimately overthrows Indian Government, India will be more democratic?
    I am an Indian with voting rights. I exercise it with pride. We should compare today’s India with 1947 India, not with United States. In 1947, USA was a world power and the Indian nation was just born.
    I do agree that some rural villages are still ruled by thugs where money is the only rule of the game. I agree media might have been corrupt! But, there is always a space for activism in Indian democracy. Mrs Roy can speak up and people can give anti-governmental speeches.
    I look at India with hope for democracy, I think democracy succeeded to make India, today’s India. Still long way to go, yes. How many years did it take to get women;s voting rights in the US? How many years it took to get a black President for the US? so yes it takes time. Some things are deep rooted in the system.

  4. About A Roy,
    Nobody arrested Mrs Roy, she still uses media to express what she wants , she still talks against the governmental policies. She will continue to, in India. That’s why it is a successful democracy.
    So you can travel to Maoists and report if you are passionate about that!

    1. First of all , change the religion. Any religion that divides people they way hinduism does should be removed.

      1. I couldn’t agree more. I know a Hindu guy who takes pride in his warrior cast “status” and is demeaning when talking about untouchables. Sickening.

      2. and how will that help democracy? Hindus have always been supportive of open discourses and dissenting viewpoints…Hinduism is not even a single religion but a framework that enables conflicting viewpoints from opposite ends of the spectrum to co-exist – there is a Hindu school of Atheism (Carvaka) and a Hindu school of poytheism…The founder of the Hindutva movement (Hindu equivalent of the Israeli Zionism), Veer Savarkar is a known Atheist. And it was the Hindus who accepted Muslim and Christian missionaries, with open arms, even before violent invasions that occurred later. Yet you blame it all on Hinduism. As much as you are disgusted by the Hindu caste system, I am disgusted by your Western ignorance. For heaven’s sake read a book.

        1. Caste and Karma are the 2 closest things we have to a doctrine in Hinduism. Caste is the only place where the Manusmriti, Bhagvad Gita and Ramayan converge. I’ve also pointed out the hypocrisy of Hindus when they invoke the diversity of their tradition to deflect criticism, but resort to homogenizing this tradition (Hindutva) when claiming credit for other civilizations.
          And Sarvakar was a fucktard. Hindutva is basically Brahminism masquerading as Hindu majoritarianism. The upper echelons of the RSS and BJP consist of Brahmins.

  5. I’m on coffee break here so I’ll be brief
    The root cause of most of India’s social problems stem from an inability to cope with Modernity. India never embraced modernity, modernity was thrust onto India (by the Brits). This has caused a friction between conflicting values which leads to social problems. Urbanization versus Rural life, Family/ ‘clan’ loyalties versus the common good ect… Indian society is not egalitarian and has never been so, however democracy inherently is. While educated Urban Indians like A. Roy, Shashi Tharoor and Amartya Sen lean towarsd a somewhat marxist approach when addressing India’s caste issues, such an approach is futile when people do not grasp the concept of equality. What good is democracy when over 60% of the population does not realize that the act of voting is supposed to be empowering? Every election you’ve got the same corrupt bastards who make empty promises to the peasant class while refusing to deliver. The farmers line up like sheep before the ballot, dip their thumbs in ink and then stick it on the paper. The act of voting does in no way make these people believe for even a nono second that they are equal in worth to other richer/upper class indians. A democracy is meaningless in a society whose values are 200 years behind everybody elses.

  6. As an American Indophile I can say that my own extensive research confirms the claims of the author that India is insanely corrupt, and that corruption goes back hundreds of years. The Mughal invasion only brought out more corruption, the British takeover yet more, as oppressive systems will trigger more people to step up to the plate (of corruption). And it is probably true that India is still ruled ultimatley by Aryan Brahmins from behind the scenes, but tying to prove that can be dangerous. However, many years of education are slowing changing the landscape, and a civil society is rising. India is incredibly complex and ancient and so quick changes are not possible. However everywhere there are success stories, for instance, there are dalit millionaires and one billionaire, although he made his money outside of India. Smaller success stories are common and successful entrepreneurs pop up everywhere, even in backwards places, almost always due to education. One of the biggest errors India made at Independence was adopting socialism which allowed the people to think they had positive rights (as opposed to negative). So the Indian people think the government must solve all problems. This leads to, for instance, the government basicly handing over the lands of tribals to industry, in order to create jobs, which has triggered the Maoist rebellion. If India had not declared itself a socialist nation and had instead enshrined only negative rights it would have been much more difficult for governments to sieze tribal lands. Industry would have sprung up in ways that caused much less friction under such a scenario. And, for instance, government hospitals and clinics would not be the sad joke that they are as the hospitals would have to compete on every medical basis, such as hygiene. The Maoists are not nice people and after decades have degenerated into bloodthirsty thugs who want to impose a kind of back-to-hand-farming rule over Eastern India, and all of India, a Pol Pot kind of world that Mao himself never recommended. I do observe that very gradually India is getting her act together, and PM Singh’s neo-conservatism has been very helpful in slowly getting the people of India to understand that the government is not going to solve all problems. The slow phase-out of petrol subsidies will force more efficiency into all sectors. As bad as India is, she is getting better, which will only add to global competition, so there is that to consider. But that is why so many American and companies are opening operations in India, something made possible by Singh’s leadership in allowing foreign operations to own 51% (controlling) of operations on Indian soil. As more Indians learn American (Western) business practices, including merit promotion, things will change even faster for the better. So I say that what we are witnessing in India today is Real Change, change away from socialism and communal thinking to Western business thinking.

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