- A nation is a community which considers itself one. It is held together by many ties. One of its ties is that of territory; they live on the same land Another tie is language; sometimes nations have single language. The people of Bangladesh for instance, speak Bengali. Sometimes a nation may have more than one language. Yet it may have a feeling of unity and can be called a nation. Nation has a common tradition or history and a common consciousness of right and wrong. They also have a common heritage of memories of glory or of sacrifice and suffering.
- In a nation people have feelings which are unique and valuable to group. They have a right to enjoy means in order to realize certain communally cherished goals. This feeling is called nationalism. Though such feeling might be present earlier, it was during the British rule that the nationalism arose prominently. It was the common feeling of all Indians that they were one and that British rule was unjust It was unjust because people should rule themselves and have their own state. They must have independence or self rule. So one of the major aspects of Indian nationalism was its claim that India should not be a colony of Britain. It should be an independenent state. But nationalism is not just a negative feeling. It was not just the feeling that the British should go back and leave the government to Indians. They thought of this also because they felt that all Indians were one nation, one people.This feeling of commonness and of unity is called nationalism.
- But nationalism in India grew slowly. It did not appear all of a sudden. The story of how India became a nation is linked with our history. From early Indian civilization, one set of stories, epics, symbols flowed down into different areas.
- Sometimes this tradition blended itself with religious and local customs. The epics were the epics of the whole country, not only of one group or one section. The rulers who set up empires in India in the medieval period belonged to different religions including Islam. The cultural traditions that Muslim rulers brought with them from Central Asia slowly mixed the then existing patterns of India fusion happened in many fields and not only in the field of art In north India, the language of Urdu developed out of a mixture of Hindi, Arabic and Persian. The musical forms that are known as Hindustani classical music today were created by both Hindus and Muslims. These two cultures mixed so completely that they formed a new Indian culture. A modern India feels instinctively proud of the temples of Konark, the cave painting of Ajanta and the Taj MahaL But these are cultural objects of three different religions – Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.They are magnificent pieces of India culture.
- This is how culture helped shape the Indian nation. Of course, when these monuments were built and paintings were done, no one thought of nationalism. But these symbols of a shared past give Indians a sense of belonging together. The British rule helped the growth of nationalism in two ways.
- As we saw politically, India became one for the first time under the British. India gradually came under one system of law, one type of administration and a uniform type of educational system.
- Our national movement provided a number of directions to our country. For more than fifty years, the national movement was the most significant unifying factor in Indian politics. It created a national feeling
- First it was a movement for national freedom.The movement wanted to make India free and independent of the British. It nurtured the urge for freedom – the feeling that a country should be governed by its own people, not by foreigners.
- But it united Indians in another way too. People of different areas, different religious, different languages made a united attempt to bring freedom to India. It created a sense of belonging to the nation.
- The national movement was spread over the whole country. Consider first its leadership. When we think of Surendranath Banerjee, Gopal Krishna Gokhle, Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Sarojini Naidu, Maulana Azad, we think of them as leaders of our national movement They were not leaders of particular communities or religious. They came from various parts of the country, spoke different languages and wore different dresses. But that did not hinder them from working for our Indian nationalism. Surendranath Banerjee was a Bengali; Tilak came from Maharashtra, Gandhi from Gujrat and Rajagopalachari from Tamil Nadu.
- But the national movement was successful because the Indians identified with India as a whole and not with its particular parts. Culture had heightened our feeling of unity all along. The national movement fostered it consciously. Since people really felt united Indian culture grew more and more unified during the twentieth century. Poems written by poets from different parts became symbols of nationalism. ‘Sare Jahan Se Achcha’ was written by Iqbal in Urdu and ‘Jana Gan Mana’ by Tagore in Bengali. But all Indians accepted them and expressed their national feeling through them.So the national movement united Indians not only in politics but also in culture. Nationalism is not a feeling that is needed only in the struggle for freedom against foreign colonialists. For a nation to develop, the feeling of nationalism is necessary.In independent India too, citizens must feel that they are one nation. The process of creating and strengthening this feeling of national unity is called national integration.
- When the British rulers had gone, the task for Indians was to stay together as a nation and work for a better life. How has India performed this task?
- The national movement set some ideals before the Indian people. After freedom came, the Indian people initiated efforts to turn these ideals into reality. These ideals, at least the most important political ideals among them, are set out in our Constitution. The Constitution clearly shows that the task after independence was not only to stay together as an independent nation but also to set up a society which was secular, democratic and socialist Let us try first to see democratic and socialist mean-what kind of society would it be.
Understanding Relation Between Nation/State and Society Nation
The term refers to a group of people who have developed solidarity on the basis of common identity of culture, region, language and state etc. The national identity of any group, which defines itself as such, may be based on any number of criteria, such as, the place of residence, ethnic origin, culture, religion, language.
The state is a political association which is characterized by :
- Territorial jurisdiction
- A more or less non-voluntary membership
- A set of rules which define the rights and duties of its members by way of a constitution
- Claims to legitimacy of power over its members.
The member of a state is usually referred to as a citizen. More often than not, the state is coterminous with national.
- It is the broadest category of social organization which includes a large number of social institutions like kinship, family, economy and polity. In this sense, the term society refers to social relationships which are interlinked In interacting with each other people from social relationships. Repeated and regularized patterns of social relationships become institutionalized and hence as a relational concept society includes the study of social institutions.
- On the other hand as a substantial concept the term society is a general term which may encompass the state or the nation. It can also be coterminous with either or both of them. For example, the Germanic Society may include the German speaking people of East Germany, West Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland etc. Take another example, Hindu society may include the citizens of Nepal India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
- The state may similarly include a number of societies. For example, the Indian state includes diverse societies based on region, religion or language. The tribal societies, such as the Bhil the Gond or the Naga, from an integral part of the Indian State.
what is a nation state?
A nation state refers to a state organized for governing a nation, or perhaps two or more closely related nations.The territory of such a nation is determined by national boundaries and its law is determined at least in part, by national customs and expectations. In this sense, India can also be discussed as a nation state and to discuss the nature of its national politics, we must first look at the way in which the Indian nation state emerged.
Emergence of Indian nation
- Indian national politics is influenced by the historical experience of nation -building. This experience is marked by efforts to bring together a large number of social groups in a common national identity. The nature of national politics in the post-independence period can be easily grasped if we outline a brief sketch of the historical experience.
- Before the advent of the British rule in India and establishment of sovereign rule of the British crown in 1858, India was characterized by a large number of small and large political units. These units waged a constant struggle to maintain their authority over the dominions and protected themselves from the attacks by other political units. Although there were some large scale empires such as the Maurya, the Gupta, the Chola and the Pandya, the entire country that we know of as India was never united politically under any rule. As such, we had no Indian State to speak of until the British imposed their hegemony on India.
- However this does not mean that we had no Indian national identity, even without a politically unified territory, many factors combined and gave the country an identity of oneness. As stated by Kothari although people live all their lives in villages, there villages were not as self-contained isolated islands as was made by some Western scholars. People moved for marriage; for pity image and for trade. The religious beliefs, practices and institutions provided the people unifying force. One example of the unity can be seen in the setting of four seats of religious authority in four corners of India by Adi Sankaracharya.
- We may thus see the awareness of commonality, however nebulous it may be.This awareness grew out of one’s participation in the world which existed beyond one’s immediate geographical area. This consciousness did not, however, get translated into the political domain and we had therefore, no national identity as a nation and not as a political identity as a nation.
- The establishment of the British rule, although it enslaved us, paradoxically also started a process of our liberation. It made us think of ourselves as not only a cultural unity but also as a political unity The growth of nationalism can be seen in the efforts made by Indians for removing the British rule from this country.
- Although we were always divided in numerous ways in terms of language, religion, ethnic composition, the two factors facilitated the emergence of Indian nationalism.
- One was the presence of common enemy, i.e., the British rule, and
- The other was the existence of a common cultural identity that preceded the unification of India as one state.
- The various struggles-violent, non-violent, constitutional, extra-constitutional-against the British further unified the diverse groups in India.Thus, Nehru’s well-known phrase ‘unity in diversity’ was not merely a cliche buta factual description of the Indian experience.
- The process of nation-building was not complete on attaining independence. It is, in fact, a continuing process and is reflected in the nature of politics.We can also say that it is a process of translating cultural identity into a political national identity.
Nation building continued after independence.
The major task for the independence movement was not merely to attain political independence from the British rule but also to develop a modern nation state. We can say that some definite steps in this direction were taken at the political level while others were at the economic level. We can discuss both types of strategies followed in India for nation-building.
Strategy at the Political Level :
The political organization, which was carrying out the activity of nation-buikling in India, was mainly the Congress Party. This political party consisted of diverse sections of population and activists, in some cases, with diametrically opposite political ideology. The members of the Congress Party belonged to different strata of society from the so-called untouchables, on the one hand and to the Brahmin and Thakur, on the other. There were those who swore by Marxism and some others who wanted ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and yet others who wanted to promote Islamic nationalism. Such diversity was not accidental. The leaders of the party were drawn from the urban professional classes. They were convinced that nation-buikling was as important as political independence. Hence the major thrust of their political activity was to bring together as many diverse groups as possible. The same theme is also visible in the politics after the independence of India.
- The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, was the first attempt at nation-building. We have a written Constitution which is a comprehensive document. It provides the foundation or the design of the government.
- India has a federal government A federal government in India implies that authority is divided between the centre and the states.
- The Constitution has established a parliamentary system of government, at both the centre and the states.The word ‘Parliament’ has different connotations, the important ones being that it is an assembly of representatives of the people and it is a body of persons gathered for discussion. In our context, Parliament refers to the legislative organ of the government The President is the constitutional head of the country and the council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister.The Prime Minister is the head of the executive which is responsible to the LokSabha. The Parliament consists of the President and the two Houses, namely the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the people (Lok Sabha).
- In the states, the council of ministers is headed by the ‘Chief Minister’ who is responsible to the Legislative Assembly. Every state has a legislature. Some states have one House while others have two. Where there is one House it is known as the Legislative Assembly or Vidhan Sabha and where there are two Houses, one is called the Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad) and the other is known as Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha).
- India is a parliamentary democracy and this means that the government is derived from public opinion. It requires parties, rule by the majority and a responsible government through discussion.
- By way of building up a united nation state the Constitution of India also lays down, among other things, some “Fundamental Duties” of Indian citizens. Some of them are- to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions-the National Flag and the National Anthem, to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people of India, to protect natural environment, to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform, to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture and so on.
- Our Constitution not only provides fundamental rights to citizens but also gives directives to the state to provide the necessary economic, social and political benefits to the citizens. It goes to the credit of the leaders of the early phase of independent India who were sensitive to the potential disruption of the Indian polity. Our national leaders believed that the Constitution of India will help to integrate the people into a united nation.
- The adoption of socialist pattern of society in order to reduce inequalities in society constituted another attempt of the Indian polity toward nation-building. This tool helped to contain divisive tendencies. The inclusion of as many segments of the population as possible was achieved by granting special privileges to the scheduled caste, the tribals, the backward classes and the religious minorities.
One of the remarkable features of the early phase was that despite the struggle for political power, political parties had no major dissension regarding the thrust of politics. The thrust was to keep together diverse elements of the population and to include the hitherto excluded categories into the mainstream of national politics.
The process of nation-building is not yet complete.This is one reason why we cannot and should not say anything much with finality about this process. Instead we should now turn to the process of nation building at the economic level.
Strategy at the Economic level :
The second major step taken by the political leadership was the economic resurgence of the country. Any political regime gains legitimacy when it can satisfy the needs of the people.The satisfaction of the people in turn depends upon the availability of goods to be distributed Hence the first task for the Indian state was to build the economy.This was more so in the light of the bad shape of Indian economy at that time. The colonial policies of the British were largely based on exploitation of the raw materials available in India at cheapest possible rates, to be used by industry in Britain. India was used as market place for their finished goods. The result of the policy was that industry did not develop in the country. The little industrialization that took place during the British rule was due to its importance in international politics. This did not at all help the economic development of the country. Thus, it was inevitable that after the independence, definite steps were taken to revise the economy. Formulation of Five Year Plans for regulating the economic activity was one such step. For this purpose the Government of India established the Planning Commission.
- The planning process is not merely an economic activity. It is also a political activity. The Planning Commission not only decides about which sector has to produce how much, it also allocates projects to various states. This is where political decisions have to be made. Let us take a concrete example. Suppose the government decides to establish a steel plant. It is not only in terms of the economic viability of location of a steel plant that a decision is made. The Commission takes into account the costs and benefits in economic terms and it also considers the decisions in terms of possible offsetting regional imbalance in location of industries.
- Similarly, the balance has to be maintained between the various interest groups which have emerged around different sectors of the economy. For this purpose, take the simple example of the use of electric power. How much electricity should be made available to industry as against agriculture is a political decision. In the economic sphere, as in the social and political spheres, national politics has followed the policy of reconciling different interests and thereby avoiding conflicts to surface.
- The Indian nation state not only concentrated on making available goods for distribution, but is also decided to follow the path of distributive justice. Distributive justice refers to achieving a fair and equal distribution of goods and services and all people. The intentions for distributive justice are clear in India’s adoption of a socialist pattern of society.
- A socialist pattern of society denotes that people have equal opportunities and equal rights.The state as an administrative device guarantees individuals their rights. It distributes goods and services equally and fairly for the welfare of the people.
- It also strives for elimination of rigid systems of control. For example, private property is permissible in India, but only in so far as it does not amount to a system of control of the owner over another who does not own it We can also find instance of distributive justice in much social legislation, such as the Industrial Disputes Act, which protects the rights of the industrial workers, or the Untouchability Offences Act, which protects the untouchable castes from discrimination or the Hindu Marriage Act, which grants rights to Hindu women.Thus our nation-building efforts involve not only goals of development but also equality and social justice.
- Now let us look at the factors which have challenged our efforts for nation-building.
Forces which Challenge Nation-building Efforts
A host of inter-related factors have disrupted efforts to achieve goals of equality and social justice as well as building a nation state. We can see at least three main forces,
- The diversity of groups which constitute Indian society,
- Regional and cultural identities, and
Diversity of Constituents
- India is a heterogeneous society. It is made of a number of diverse groups. The first potential threat to the Indian nation state lies in this plurality The Indian society was and is divided in terms of religion, caste, language and ethnic origin.
- The British were able to somewhat control the diverse groups by following the policy of pitting one group against the other. But the divisive tendencies were sharply manifested even during the nationalist movement when different groups apparently united to remove the British rule from India.
- One of the more serious challenges that Indian national leaders in India face even now is how to integrate the interests of the divergent groups. Each of them has its own distinctive aspirations, history, and way of life. Attempts to minimize confrontation between conflicting groups do not always succeed As we have already seen, the adoption of an egalitarian model of society is one important strategy to contain the divisive tendencies. It is, of course, necessary that these divisions are not allowed to threaten the nation state.
Regional and Cultural Identities
- The task of nation-building has also faced a threat from regionalism. We find that national politics in our country is still marked by emergence of regional nationalities. This is quite evident in the formation of states on linguistic basis. It is also evident in demands by some regional identities such as the Gorklia for Gorkha land or demand for separate Telangana state.
- This does not mean that the regional identities should not be emphasized Some may like to argue that regionalism does not augur well; it harbingers political disintegration of the country. But as the nation has faced such problems earlier, the process of reconciliation has given its polity the ability to accommodate regionalism within its orbit The politics of reconciliation harmonises the diverse interests of various groups in a national framework.
- Despite the early gains of consolidation of the nation state, diverse cultural identities asserted themselves. One example of this is the opposition in the southern states to Hindi as the national language.Another example is the demand for reorganization of state.Yet another example is the assertion by religious minorities of their right to regulate the lives of their members.
- As a matter of fact, the national level politics has recognized the existence of regional and cultural identities and the central government has been provided legal sanctions. It allows each state to carry out its administration in the regional language. It does not interfere in the religious, social and political activities of the minorities. To some people this may appear to be catering to the minorities. The number of people holding this view is not very small. But then there are others who consider protection of the rights of minorities as a major gain for the nation. This keeps the nation state together and forges a political unity
- The issue of casteism in national politics has been discussed again and again by a number of people, public men, scholars and laymen alike. Caste is one of the more distinguishing institutions of Indian society. Its role in the political sphere is of recent origin. It is widely observed that caste has become the major basis for political articulation. This is so mainly because caste provides the mechanisms for bringing people together. This is also the requirement for a successful democratic state. By politicizing the institution of caste, political process in India has assumed a unique character. Political parties in India are formed on the basis of caste alliances and voting behaviour of the Indian electorate can be described in terms of caste identity.
- As casteism is considered a social evil and caste ideology does not go well with the egalitarian model of a socialist society, role of caste in national politics is viewed as a necessary eviL It is seen a factor which poses a challenge to the task of nation-building. All the same in the absence of an alternative basis for people to come together, caste continues to play a decisive role in Indian national politics.
- From the above discussion, it is obvious that the task of building a nation state is not an easy exercise. A growing realization is that national integration is the key to achieving a political identity.
Nation Building Through National Integration :
National integration is a process of developing the different parts of the national social system into an
integrated whole. In an integrated society, social institutions and values associated with them have a high degree of social acceptance. However; linguism, communalism, social inequalities and regional disparities are some of the factors which threaten the ideal of national integration in India.
India is a multi-linguistic nation. Language has become, specially since Independence, a powerful source of political articulation. For instance, in the South, particularly in Tamil Nadu, language sentiments have been prorogated among the people for getting power within state politics. The language problem has two aspects, namely
- Medium of instruction at the level of school, college and public service examination, and
- Meeting the demands of non-Hindi and Hindi-speaking radicals.
- Responding to the first aspect, the Government of India decided to implement a three-language formula. This consists of teaching the regional language, or mother-tongue when the later is different from the regional language, Hindi or another Indian language in the Hindi speaking area, and English or another modern European language.
- Today for the Union Public Service Commission in India, examinations can be written in Hindi or English or in any regional language of the country.
Regarding the second aspect of the language problem, namely, demands of Hindi and non-Hindi speaking radicals, the Government of India passed the Official language (Amendment) Act, 1967. This act decided that English will continue to be the official language of the Indian union for all the non-Hindi speaking states until these states themselves would opt for Hindi. Thus, Hindi is today only one of the official languages of the Indian union. The provision made under the above mentioned act and the three-language formula have helped to reduce the possibility of conflict on the basis of language.
- Broadly defined communalism refers to the tendency of any socio-religious group to maximize its economic, political and social strength at the cost of other groups.This tendency runs counter to the notion of the secular nation state that India purports to be.Secularism in the Indian context is defined as the peaceful co-existence of all religions without state patronage to any of them.The state is to treat all of them equally. Yet, in a secular state like India, we, very often hear, see and read about communal conflicts.While making conscious efforts towards the goals of democracy and socialism, the Indian nation state has not been free of communal clashes (Kishor).
Social Inequalities :
- In every society, there is a system of social stratification. Social stratification refers to inequality in society based on unequal distribution of goods, services, wealth, power, prestige, duties, rights, obligations and privileges. Take for example, the social inequalities-created by the caste system. Being a hereditary and endogamous system, the scope for social mobility is very little.Social privileges and financial and educational benefits are by and large accessible to only upper caste groups.
- Processes of change, such as democratization, westernization and modernization, have helped to broaden the accessibility to privileges to a wide range of people. Today, caste and politics are also very closely associated Various commissions for backward castes have been formed for reserving seats for their members in educational and occupational sphere. This is a reflection of the politicization of caste affiliations. While measures to uplift the hitherto exploited and suppressed section of the population are necessary, overemphasis on caste identities has a disintegrative effect on the process of nation-building.
Ethnonationalism in India
- In the beginning it was Indian nationalism an idea that took birth form the very forces in opposition to which it was mobalised the European powers, principally England that rapaciously colonized this land and their more progressive ideological aspect, European enlightenment, integral and causally liked to this colonial capacity and cruelty to which, when necessary, it also provided rationalizations.
- It is true that some ideologues of Indian nationalism maintain that the idea of an Indian nation, indeed the reality of a complexly structured and administered India state, goes back, back deep into history, to historical figures like mauryan king Ashoka, if not to pre-historic figure of myth and legend like Ramachandra of Ayodhya. Gandhiji evoked Ramarajya as the ideal state for which a freed India should aspire. Which such nationalist my theology led its used in the mobilization of the anti-colonial struggle, in independent India the nationalist discourse has followed a for more complex path, especially in Assam and other border lands in its nighbourhood
- For instance the very term “nation” which in much of the nest of the country, stands for the Indian nation state, the structure inherited from the British even if in a substantially curtailed form and zealoushy guarded by the post 1947 Indian State. It has rather different meaning and connotation in ports of India. In Assam where the expression, “Assamese nation” (Asomiya Jati), exists in an ambivalent relation with “Indian Nation” Jati in Assamese, stand for “nation while its cognate, jat, is used to denote caste (and in some contexts, ‘nationality’) though standard Assamese dictionaries define the two terms to mean both ‘nation’ and ‘cast’. The collection of several jatis, rapresenting the numerous nationalities of India, constitutes the mahajati, the greater Indian nation, that is merely a sum of its parts without which it would be less than nothing.
- Prof sanjib baruoh in his book, “India against itself”, terms Assamese national imagination correlation Assamese nationalisim’ and ‘Indian nationalisim’, whose bottom line is that are can not exist without the other. However, this idealized interdependent nuances, affirming or challenging the ‘Indian Identity at different point of time, reflecting the constant tensions, inevitable in the component parts that animate this relationship.
- These tension are not new, nor even unique to Assam and border lands of north east The assertion of distinct, ever unique, regional identities by a people that have a continous record of history and literature going further back in time to those of ‘Aryavarta’ was viewed in the early years of independence is not much different form separatism with the potential to become secessionist Regional assertions were seen as reflecting merely ‘fissiparous tendencies’, one of the greatest challenges facing the strong, centrolised unitary state that the early leaders of Independent India wanted to craft Only this explains the resistance to the popular and democratic demand for the linguistic reoganisation of Indian , despite the fact that the congress structured itself on a linguistic basis.
- The reorganization of states on a linguistic basis took the edge off strident regional assertions. However, regionalism has since taken other, more complicated forms-some deriving and in turn, contributing to other ideological and theoretical formulations. In Assam and its environs, regionalism as an idea almost inevitably evolved into demands for political autonomy and in course of time, more militant form of nationalist assertion.
- The reason for such evolution are rooted in both geography and history, Historical factors like late entry into British India through a prolonged incremental process involving both conquest and annexation (1826-95), and the realities of geo graphical isolation from the rest of India have influenced this trajectory. However this too is a pan-Indian phenomenon, subdued in some cases, strident in some others, of which the Dravidian movements are not the only instance.
- These sub national narratives evolved in due course as assertions of ‘ethnic identity’, the reclaimed history now serving a political end This is now being situated within frame work of ‘ethno-nationalism’ that is bound to evolve into ‘ethno-nationalist’ narratives.
- This terms have evolved or been created to explain the past and provide a theoretical framework for future action, that is to mobalise popular discontent and press political demands. The demands very greatly, from the modest and attainable through negotiations to these that are perhaps not even intendend to be attained but are nevertheless pressed to advance other objectives. The attainable objectives include greater autonomy, modification of the existing indentities of caste or tribe, protective discrimination, re-denomination of nomenclatures of historically re-cognised communities, creation of exclusive political spaces, extension of constitutional provisions like the sixth schedule applicable at present only to the tribal people inhabiting and indigenous to the two hill district of Assam, demands from some non-tribal communities for recognition of tribe one can go on. All such demand of varying degrees of autonomy, expansion of the existing territorial and political space, and reclassification of denomination and nomenclature can be, and in some cases are being, negotiated within the framework of the India state and the constitution.
- However, such compromise seems impossible in instances of sovereignty assertion, based on the ‘inalienable right of a people for self determination’, which in practice exclude the ‘other’. No wonder, the three major sovereignty movement based in Nagaland Manipur and Assam are all split, some into several faction that they are split has, however, not in the least mitigated the passion for or virulence of the sovereignty assertion. The splits reflect the reality of division within the people. these structure claim to represent, the inherent flaws of such exclusionary nationalist assertions that by defination cannot be inclusive of all people in that tenitional space, as well as efforts of the state to control the virulence, canalize the passion.
- The dilemma facing these movements is that such exclusionary theories of sovereignty and self determination have never matched their practice. Rather, these are animated more by the fear and hatred of ‘other’ especially those that are part of the territorial and political space they claim as their own, than by any genuine democratic commitment to the theory and practice of self determination.In essence, these movements of ethno-nationalism are no different form Hindutva movement that too are animated by fear and hatred of the ‘other’. Hence, too, the phenomenon of ethnic cleaning that is as much an integral part of such ethno-nationalist assertion as of the Hindutva movement.
- However, while the murderous manifestations of Hindutva assertion are rightly condemned, corresponding manifestations of other exclusionary tribal or ‘ethnic’ nationalism do not evoke the same kind of sharp criticism.
Democracy and Indian nation
- Our system of government is a democratic one. Democracy means, above all equality of all citizens. It means the end of inequality. Before democracy came, most societies were based on unequal political inequality. In Europe, democracy evolved slowly from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. In India democratic government was set up after we got independence.
- Democracy is an excellent ideal. But it is not easy to achieve this. It is particularly difficult in a society like ours, in which there have been many kinds of traditional inequalities.The inequalities based on caste and class, and the conflicts between religious or language groups, make it difficult to run a democratic government So these are sometimes called challenges before Indian democracy. If Indian democracy is to become strong, we must overcome these challenges.
- Democratic government is built two very important ideas : freedom and equality. Democracy is a form of government which gives people freedom. Within limits they can do what they want They can think and say what they like. They have right which the government cannot take away. But all these are also related to the ideas of equality. Two people can be free together only if they are equal and if both of them have the right to freedom. So the ideas of freedom and equality are linked to each other. We talk of three types of equality-Political Social and Economic.
Political Equality :
Equality can mean many different things.First, of course, is political equality.This means that in a democratic country everybody has equal political rights.
Social Equality :
- Besides political equality, our Constitution places a lot of emphasis on social equality.This is because polities is not the only field in which people come in touch with each other. Besides, elections, campaigns, voting or entering into legislatures, people have other types of social contacts. At places of work in their everyday lives, citizens have to constantly interact in market for day-to-day activities with great inequality between people. The worst form of this inequality was the caste system, and particularly the inhuman practice of untouchability.
- This meant that people could not treat each other as equals.There were restrictions placed on marriage. People from different castes could not eat together. Most serious of course was that whatever the achievements of a person are, if she or he came from a lower caste, she or he would be treated as inferior by the upper caste people. Usually the different types of occupations were so divided that people from the lower castes were also the people with lower incomes. Quite obviously a society which practices this sort of social inequality cannot run a democratic system which requires that Therefore, of the ideals of the Constitution is to establish social equality in India.
- Democracy does not mean just political and social equality. Our Constitution says that the Indian state has several objectives. These objectives are-liberty or freedom, equality, secularism and socialism. All these objectives are related to each other and to the ideals of a democratic society. Let us see how they are related Political equality is equality in matters of government and enjoying rights. But today democracy has come to have a much wider meaning.
- Some people would ask; why should democracy and equality be restricted only to the political sphere? Why not extend it to other spheres of life too? Politics after all is not the only important aspect of our lives. Our economic life, i.e., how much money we earn and what we can do with that is equally important Do we not need equality in that sphere too? Only having the right to vote is not enough. If some people are very rich, and others live in poverty, that kind of society is bad and should be improved Individuals should be equal not only in politics but also in economic life. They should have equal opportunities to enjoy various things which money can get It is called economic equality. Without it democracy cannot be complete.
Our Constitution mentions another goal called secularism. It has specific reference to our situation. Unlike some other countries, India has number of religious groups. People belonging to all the religious co-exist in this country. It is therefore, essential for the Indian state to be secular. For a democracy to work well it is very important that the government should treat all citizens equally, whatever their religions be.This is what is called the principal of secularism. Among Indians there are people of almost all important religions in the world We have Hindus, Muslims, Christians,Sikhs, Buddhists,Jains and Parsis. But their religions are matter of their private belief. In matters of politics, such distinctions are irrelevant A secular state means two things.
- Firstly, it means that all citizens are equal before law whatever their religions are. To put it differently religion should not be mixed with political life.
- Secondly, this also means that people of all religions have equal right to practice their religions.
Indian democracy has been moving ahead since independence. We feel satisfied with the functioning of our democratic system. We know that in many other countries democracy has failed As we have seen in previous chapters, the democratic system in India has been built upon the basic principles of equality, egalitarianism, socialism and secularism.The Constitution of India has made adequate provision to ensure that these principles are realized It has also tried to reflect the major concerns of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by United Nations in l948. When all these ideals are realized substantially the democratic system becomes sound successful But history teaches us that these are not realized easily. Our democracy also faces a number of difficulties.
Factors that hinder the successful functioning of Indian nation and democracy
- As we understand democracy means equality among citizens; all kinds of inequalities are detrimental to a democratic society. Unfortunately there are differant types of inequalities in our society. Democracy is not against variation between people. On the contrary, it implies that differences between people-in their habit, customs, beliefs and opinions-ought to be respected One group should not try to improve their way of life on others.
- There are lots of differences among Indians. Indians speak different languages; belong to different regions having distinct culture, follow different religions. But here we are mainly concerned with the inequalities-which are creating obstacles in the working of a democracy. There are various kinds of inequalities in our social life.
- There is inequality between the rich and the poor, inequality of income or of wealth. There are inequalities between the so called upper castes, the so called lower castes and those who are called the untouchables. There is inequality between man and woman, between literate and illiterate. Here it is important to note that people suffer from these inequalities because of no fault of theirs. It is the responsibility of a democratic society to ensure equal opportunities to all citizens, so that they do not suffer from these inequalities.
- The greatest danger to a democratic society comes from the tendency to place one’s community above others.There maybe communities based on religions, caste, language or region. But if one community is placed above the other communities, it will mean that the particular community will have more rights and opportunities than other communities. This is clearly against the principles of democracy. One great hindrance to Indian democracy is religious communalism. Communalism means placing one’s own community above others, even above the nation.
- During British rule, national freedom movement people belonging to all religions fought against the British for national freedom. Those who led the movement, those who fought for it on the streets, the martyrs who died for it, belonged to different religions. However, at the time of independence, the British split the country into two states-India and Pakistan.
- At the time of partition of the country, ghastly communal riots broke out, and thousands of innocent people were killed and many more were forced to leave their homes. Thousands of Hindus from Pakistan and Muslim from India had to leave their homes in which they lived for generations.They had to leave their jobs, their property and had to flee to an unknown area to live as refugees. This left a long trail of mutual hatred among the two religious communities.
- It was very unfortunate that independence had to come to us this way. But communal problems did not solved with the riots at the time of independence. Even Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, was assassinated by religious communalist.
- Some People want India to be a Hindu state, because they feel that Hindus are in a majority but this is a wrong idea. Because India is as much a country of the Hindus as of the Muslims, Christians and others who have born in culture Precisely because it is not the culture of any one community, but of many. Take two examples.
- First of all we are Proud of the beautiful architecture of our Past The whole world marvels at them. But these are the contributions of different communities. The great stone temples of Konark or Khajuraho were made by People who were Hindus. Many of the figures carved out on them are Gods of Hindu religion. The Taj Mahal was made by a Muslim equally feel Proud of the Taj built by Muslims and the great temples built by Hindus. Now, take the example of our classical music.
- We have great Muslim and Hindu musicians. Everybody honours them because they are artists of Indian music, not because they are Hindus or Muslims.We have similar feelings for our respect for the unique and composite culture sustains our democratic system. Our culture and our secular state would be destroyed if all People belonging to different retigion are not treated equally.
- India is a land of many religions and languages. This creates some special problems for our democracy. Democracy works on two Principles which are of equal importance. First, it is a government based on the majority Principle, second the government based on tolerance and consensus. It does not make People do things by force.
- This second Principle of democracy is the basis of minority rights. Our Constitution makes provision for such minority rights. These rights have been guaranteed by the Constitution. These cannot be taken away. These rights are universally Human Rights.
- The question of minorities has come up very much in two fields-religious communities and cultural groups. If you take India as a whole, number of minority communities like Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, excites because of this situation that the Constitution gives a fundamental right to the religious and linguistic minority communities to establish their own educational institutions. It is important to note that in our country the rights of the minorities are adequately protected The intolerance of the majority can also harms democracy.
Regional Aspirations and Regionalism
- Our country is so large that there is a great diversity among its many different regions. A region is an area, the inhabitants of which have a sense of unity and a feeling that they are distinct from others. But of late the more common use of this word refers to a sense of unity based on language, culture and economic interests.
- After independence, states in India were reorganized on the basis of language. But regions do not always coincide with states. Within a state with a majority of citizens speaking one language, there may be other citizens speaking other languages. Moreover, People with different cultural background having different economic interests live within the boundary of state.Therefore, regions and regional problems are not confined within the boundaries of the state.
- These in fact cut across the state boundaries. Unfortunately we have been facing a number of regional problems throughout the length and breadth of the country. In a democracy regional aspirations are not always wrong or bad which are related to our history of colonial exploitation. During British period some areas which were close to ports, or towns which were important centres of administration were developed by the Government Industries grew in and around them.
- In such places facilities like good educational institutions, transport system and other civic amenities were provided By contrast, other areas which were often parts of the same region where people spoke the same language were left very backward Tribal areas experienced very little effort at development This kind of backwardness is the cause of inequality between regions.
- Popular feelings against regional inequality have led to movements for regional autonomy or for a new state.Sometimes, people have demanded comparatively more economic and political autonomy for a particular region. In fact, this is called a demand for regional autonomy. Even such feelings have led to movements demanding creation of new states.
- However, this also leads to what is known as the problem of regionalism. Sometimes demands of political parties or groups against neglect of a region appear to be against the unity of the nation as a whole. At times, this leads people to say that a particular region is only for its own inhabitants, it becomes a seriously wrong approach.
- First, this idea clearly goes against some constitutional provisions.Our Constitution gives us right to live or work and equality of opportunity, which would be harmed if such idea is promoted We all believe that we are, despite all differences, one single nation.
- If every region is supposed to belong only to the people of that region and not others, the idea of India as a nation itself will be destroyed In fact, regionalism does not always do well to the region itself as contribution of other regions is essential for its growth and development Regional aspirations therefore are quite natural and should be respected But regionalism, as a feeling of hatred against other simply because they do not belong to the region, goes against the feeling of all Indians constituting one nation.
Caste and Untouchability
- It is good to be proud of one’s heritage. But one must not do it blindly. It is equally important to be critical about it A practice is not good simply because it has been there for a long time.Whereas we have a great cultural heritage, many things in our traditional society are bad and these must be changed if we are to progress and have a democratic society.
- One of the great problems facing our democracy has been the rigid caste system. It had divided our society into so called high and how castes. Thousands of years ago the Hindu society was divided into four categories: Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras.
- These categories have been known as Varna. However, the caste system, and not so much the Varna system, has been responsible for maintaining the social inequality in India. The caste system had ordained professions by the accident of birth in a given family and jati. It has been believed that the four major caste categories have had types of work in every society.
- The Brahmins would do rituals, worship and educate the young. The Kshatriyas would learn warfare and defend the country. The Vaishyas were supposed to carry on trade. And finally, the Shudras the lowest of the four categories were to do all other types of work which needed physical labour-like agriculture and other menial work. We all now accept that such a system is not good for our society.
- This kind of inequality is entirely unjustifiable as the most important activities of a society include agriculture and the production of other necessary things. Do people not need food or clothes or other to survive? And is it not very unjust to treat those people who produce these things for the rest of the society as the lowest of all?
- Besides, how does one say that the skills of mind and body travel in the family? As the sons of great poets or players do not necessarily become poets and players by virtue of their birth, similarly, what is the guarantee that the son or daughter of a Brahmin would like to study and be a scholar. Or, that the son of a warrior would also be good warrior? The caste system which existed in ancient India was thus a very unjust system.
- With the passage of time, this caste system has become very complicated Instead of four castes now there are innumerable castes. Each caste has its own rites and ceremonies that distinguish it from others. They ask their boys and girls to marry within their caste and not to outsiders. Each caste has many sub-castes. Accordingly people have to lead their lives under very odd restrictions.They cannot eat from others, or with others. It means that people belonging to one caste treat others with hatred and suspicion.
- Worst of all has been the system called untouchability. People of upper castes would not even touch those of lower castes. It was shameful and inhuman aspect of our old society. People belonging to the lowest castes would not be given education. They could not eat with others. They had to live outside the villages. Sometimes they could not eat with others.
- They had to live outside the villages.Sometimes they could not even use the wells from which other people drew water. Yet often they were doing some of the most important works for the society.They tilled the land of other people because they were too poor to have land of their own.Society treated them most unjustly although it benefitted out of their labour. But it did not treat them as equal to others.
- There were sometimes protests against such injustices. At times, lower caste people rebelled Later, social reformers tided to abolish these practices. Nationalist leaders, especially, Gandhiji tried hard to abolish untouchability. But to abolish a system that has continued for hundreds of years is not easy. Those who benefit from the system, the so-called upper castes would not let it go. After independence, laws were passed making untouchability an offence.
- But laws are not enough. It is important for others to respect the rights of those who belong to lower castes in your society.And it is equally important for those of the so-called lower castes to assert their equal rights.
- Ordinarily, people of the lower castes were poor. Because of their poverty, they were unable to have education and as a result, they could not get better jobs. To offset this, our Constitution has included certain revisions under which, some jobs are reserved for those belonging to the Scheduled Castes. This category is known as Scheduled Castes because the names of these lower castes are put into a schedule or a list prepared by the Government Some seats can be reserved for them in educational institutions also.
- This is a way of undoing the injustices that the society had done to them for centuries. Like the Scheduled Castes the Constitution also guarantees some reservations for the Scheduled Tribes in jobs and admission in educational institutions. As long as discrimination against these castes and tribes remain, there can be no real democracy. It violates the principle of dignity of the human being. It goes against the main principle of a democratic society that all human beings should be regarded as equals.
Inequality of Women
- Traditionally, another negative aspect of our male dominated society was the way it treated women. This has been the situation not only in India but also in any other societies of the world, but in the Indian society it has some peculiar forms. Society’s laws and customs were made primarily by men which went in their favour. Women have sometimes been treated as little better than slaves. Often their own families would consider women as fit to cook, work in the household and look after their children.
- They have been told that they can not do important work outside the house, or take important decisions for themselves. This kind of view is doubly wrong. Firstly, these types of work-cooking for the family, keeping the house, or looking after children are not at all unimportant work. In fact, these are most important of all being extremely necessary for the society.
- To consider these types of work unimportant precisely show the prejudices that men often have against women. Secondly, it is also not correct to say that women need not work out of home. If one travels through the countryside during planting or harvesting time, one would find women working in the fields. Those who live in cities must have also seen women working in offices, schools and factories.So we see everywhere, in almost all walks of life, women do as much work as men.
- Although they do so much for the society, our traditional society often treated them very cruelly. They are even not allowed to take decisions for themselves.They have little say in the matters of the family. At one time, there was a horrible practice of sati.A woman whose husband died was burnt to death with him.
- Another strange system was the purdah. In some homes, women were not allowed to come out in front of outsiders, or come in contact with any man who did not belong to their own family. Women could not go out of their house very often. And the potential they might have had was never realized Of course, these practices have declined now.
- But stilf if you look carefully around you, you will find many instances of people treating women differently from men. For example, even in the cities, among educated people, dowry is being demanded from the family of the bride. This practice treats the girl unequal to the boy. Discrimination against women also occurs in economic practices. Quite often women are paid less amount for doing the same work as compared to men. so, although the situation has changed and some of the terrible practices of the past have gone, the question of raising the status of women still remains.
- The change in the status of women that are coming, are the outcome of various factors. Living in cities is one of them. Education of women is another. Women now go to schools and colleges just as much as men. They work in offices. They often join politics, and become parliamentarians, ministers, even the Prime Minister. Still in our vast countryside, women are ruled by tradition and are bullied and oppressed As democracy means equal treatment to all such acts of inequality and prejudice against women have to be stopped.
Inequality between the Rich and the Poor
- One of the major problems before a country like ours is economic inequality. One of the most obvious forms of inequality is the inequality between the rich and the poor. This is inequality of income and wealth. As money helps buy all other goods and services, this extends to all aspects of peoples lives. The coming of industries helps reduce some inequalities, for example, caste discriminations in modern cities. But the most important question before our country is the question of economic inequality. A poor man is politically equal to a rich man. Both have a single vote in elections. But his equality does not mean that they are equal in other equally important fields.
- The problem of poverty is the result of economic inequality. It is the question of some people having a large income that makes it easy for them to live comfortably and others being too poor to even eat properly once a day. Poverty exists in different forms in cities, industrial centres and in villages where people depend on land. In cities, the poor are mainly workers. In villages poor are small peasants or those who have no land Let us look into the problems of poverty in villages as well as cities or industrial places.
- Still there are certain things that have not changed A poor man can become rich now, but the distinction between the rich and the poor remains. Formerly, it was rank and birth, now it is wealth and money. An industrial society left to itself, continually increases this distinction. The socialists claim that in such societies, the rich become richer and the poor becomes poorer. Growth of industries improves the productivity which in turn improves the economy of a society, no doubt, but it also leads to greater inequality between various classes.
- Although advantages of industrialization cannot be denied its capacity to create new problems cannot be overlooked either. Due to industrialization new classes arise, and with them new types of oppression, exploitation and inequality. In the cities, the problem of poverty is very acute among workers in industries. Indian democracy also faces challenges from wide spread rural poverty.
Poverty in the Indian Villages
- The poverty in villages has a pattern quite different from, that exist in cities. In Indian villages men tilled the same land for the same kinds of crops, with the same kinds of implements for years together. They lived in the same kind of houses, had the same kind of thought, and had exactly the same superstitious beliefs.
- Some changes have taken place in our village life after independence. The efforts of improved agricultural production have brought about such changes. But many of the problems still remain, particularly, there has been very little change in those aspects of village life, which cause poverty.
- One of the major problems in rural life has been related to land ownership. The man who actually tilled the land did not own it On the other hand the owner of the land, without doing any work received benefit through his tenant’s labour. This was a very unjust system. It reduced productivity of land causing poverty to sustain.
- Changes in such a system in favour of the actual tiller of the land that produced the crop was essential. This required measures which came to be known as Land Reforms. After independence, a number of land reform laws were passed by state government But those who owned land have often managed to thwart the process of implementation of such laws.
- When land ceiling laws were made to limit the extent of ownership, land was transferred in the names of other members of the family. So the law could be satisfied but land still remained with the same people. Land reform legislation has thus not been able to remove the inequality in holding of land among peasantry in all the states of our country.
- Poverty is much greater among the landless rural folks who work for others who have land and live on the wages. Wages are usually very low. During lean season, having no works the poor peasants and agricultural workers suffer great hardships. This can be removed if land is more equally distributed Some relief is sought to be given to the poorer section of the village people by various programmes. Many states have the integrated Rural Development Programmes which are meant to help them. Sometimes some states run the food for work programme which can also be of great benefit to the rural poor at the time when they find it difficult to get work.
- Besides inequality of land ownership, some other evils in the countryside were even more unjust Sometimes, people were compelled to do bonded and forced labour.Sometimes, peasants or landless workers had to borrow money from the local landlords or money-lenders when they were hard pressed They were charged incredibly high rates of interest As they were never able to pay off the money, they were asked to work for the moneylenders to pay off their debts.This practice resulted in rural poverty due to indebtedness. Many of the debtors had to work for their whole lives for the landlord or the money lender, for a small sum of money they had to borrow at one time. This was called bonded labour. Now bonded labour has been abolished by law. But still one comes across occasional reports of such practices.
- Such problems are also related to illiteracy. Many people in our countryside still cannot read or write. They are often cheated in matters of contract and employment as they cannot read what is written in the paper. So the powerful and moneyed class exploits the poor. Thus the main problems in the countryside are inequal land distribution and debts of the peasantry
Poverty in Towns
- Towns are usually centres of industry or trade. In both these sectors, there are thousands of labourers who migrate to cities in search of jobs. But cities have no plan or provision to accommodate such people, workers, therefore, have to live in vast slums which lack even the basic facilities like electricity and drinking water.
- Actually most of our industrial cities are vast slums with comparatively smaller pockets of better housing and sanitation. Workers often do hard labour for long hours but get low salaries with which they cannot buy good food If they are sick, they often cannot afford medicine. Unhygienic conditions make their lives even worse. Once a worker gets too old or too sick to work, there is no provision for any kind of security
- The problem of poverty has been a great hindrance to the successful functioning of democracy in India. Another major factor of poverty is the prevalence of unemployment Our economy has not been able to create adequate employment opportunities. As a result, the number of the unemployed has been increasing. Besides, there are a large number of people who are unemployed These people do not have opportunities to work to their potential.
- The problem of unemployment is very much visible in cities, but is less visible though equally acute in villages. Where three persons are enough to cultivate a plot of land we find four or five person involved in that work.This kind of situation leads to disguised unemployment The solution of the problem of unemployment lies in faster economic development
- Population has been a great challenge to development Although population is considered an asset, the faster pace of its growth has been a cause of great concern. The population of India has grown three times since independence. If the present trend of growth continues, the present population will double itself with the next three decades.
- The pressure of growing population in our country has been generating a lot of problems for economy as well as environment Even when the pace of economic development is accelerated to meet the needs of the growing population, the problems are not going to be solved The faster pace of economic development will require more use of our limited resources.
- The best way of economic development is to utilize our resources carefully.The resources should be utilized in a way that adequate resources remain to be utilized by the coming generations. This kind of development is known as sustainable development With this kind of development, we can be able to save environment from being polluted It is therefore essential for us to reduce the rate of growth of population.
- The causes of population growth in countries like ours are many. The main reasons for growth of population in India are prevalence of poverty and illiteracy, low status of women, high rate of deaths of people and particularly of infants and mothers. Because of these factors, the birth rate remains high, resulting the faster growth of population.
- The increasing population puts a lot of pressure on agricultural land in villages. In cities population grows due to large scale migration from rural areas in search of jobs. In order to ensure population stabilization, four important steps are necessary. First, urgent steps are needed to remove poverty and illiteracy. It is more important to make our population literate.
- Females in particular are to be made literate.Secondly, there is a need to ensure gender equality. To attain this goal it is necessary to provide special opportunities of education for girls. Females are as important members of society as males. Women must be given equal opportunities to work outside homes. Their potentials are to be fully utilized by the society instead of confining them to home.
- Thirdly, the health facilities need to be extended to all so that, greater care of the health of infants, children and mother can be taken. Fourthly, the country needs to adopt and realize the policy of sustainable development It means that the development processe are to be promoted in a way which enables the economy to meet the requirements of all the people but does not lead to an over-utilisation of resources.
Nepotism and Bribery
- Many other types of problems also add to the challenges to Indian democracy.Some practices like nepotism and bribery reduce the efficiency of the government This also causes frustration for the ordinary citizens, because, at times they fail to get their dues.
- Sometimes these result in violence among the youth.Certain degrading business practices like hoarding of goods and commodities for profits also lead to problems. There are some malpractices like smuggling and accumulating black money which make the administration corrupt and inefficient and hinder the development of the nation.
Suggestions to solve these problems.
There are many types of measures which can be taken up to solve these problems.
- Education can improve people’s economic conditions and pave way for better understanding. But it is not only formal education that is needed to fight the ills from which our society suffers. Literacy, of course, is of great help. A literate person knows more about rules and laws and her/his rights and duties.
- Awareness of laws can be created even among illiterate people.But the crux of these problems are essentially economic and these economic problems have to be tacked by measures like land reforms, reduction of unemployment or by providing under employment benefit to those who are out of jobs. This will bring greater social equality.
- The government has to legislate on these measures. But just legislation is not enough. It must also see that people do not find loopholes as to slip away through those.
- Increase in productivity is necessary both in industry and agriculture. In agriculture productivity is increased by use of better seeds and fertilizers, by the use of farming machines, etc. This has happened in some areas of our country through ‘Green Revolution’. As a result of this, India has become self-sufficient in food Earlier, we did not produce enough food for all Indians. Over the last many years, we have not only produced enough food but we have produced more than we need So some of it is now exported
- Productivity has to be increased also in industries. This can be done in two ways. If the machinery is improved this can lead to more production by the same worker. Another way of improving productivity is by the worker learning more skills. Usually these two have to go together.To use a more efficient machine, the worker has to be more skilled. Therefore, increased productivity also needs that education should be spread among workers. They should have the knowledge of new techniques and skills.
Ambedkar on Democracy.
Ambedkar had complete faith in democracy. Dictatorship may produce result quickly, it may be effective in maintaining discipline but it is inferior to democracy because the crucial element of liberty. Democracy enhances liberty. People have control over the rulers. Like many other national leaders. Ambedkar choice too fell on parliamentary form of democracy.
Social and Economic democracy
- Ambedkar’s understanding of democracy goes deeper. He does not see it merely as in political form. For him it is instrument of change it is a way of realizing drastic changes in the social and economic spheres of society. His idea of democracy is much more than just a scheme of government does not exist in vacuum.
- It operates within society. It’s usefulness depends upon its relationship with the other spheres of society. Election, parties and parliaments are, after all formal institutions of democracy. They can not be effective in an undemocratic atmosphere. Political democracy means the principle of ‘one man one vote’ which indicates political equality.
- Here are some experts, ‘one 26th of January1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of ‘one man one vote’ and ‘one vote one value’. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value.
- How long shall we continue to live this life of contradiction. How long shall we continue to deny equality in our … economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer form inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this assembly has so laboriously built up”.
- This he said in constituent assembly debate while cautioning on societal conditions. In the Indian society. For instance, so long as caste barriers and caste-based Inequalities exist, real democracy cannot operate. In this since democracy means a spirit of fraternity and equality and not merely a political arrangement Success of democracy in India can be ensured only by establishing a truly democratic society.
- Along with social dimension of democracy Ambedkar takes into consideration the economic aspect also. He was greatly influenced by liberal thought Still he appreciated the limitation of liberalism. Parliamentary democracy, in which he had great faith, was also critically examined by him. Because parliamentary democracy was based on liberalism.
- It ignored economic inequalities and never concentrated upon the problems of down trodden. Basides, the general tendency of the western type of parliamentary democracies has been to ignore the issue of social and economic equality.This analysis becomes very important in Indian context as parliamentary democracy implies both ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’.
- Indian Society was demanding freedom from British. But he was afraid that freedom of the nation would not ensure real freedom for all people. Establishing democracy in such a society which is dehumanized due to ages of social and economic inequality would be nothing short of revolution. This would be revolution in the social structure and attitudes of the people. Therefore, Ambedkar supported idea of all round democracy i.e democratic society
Factors necessary for the successful operation of Democracy
- For the successful functioning of the form of government, It is necessary that certain other conditions must be fulfilled Political parties are necessary for the effective working of parliamentary democracy. This will ensure existence of the opposition which is very important It will ensure responsible government Moreover respect and official status for the opposition means absence of absolute power for the executive.
- The other condition is a neutral and non-political civil service. This will be possible only when appointments of civil servants are not made on the basis of political consideration.
- Success of democracy depends on many ethical and moral factors also. A constitution is only set of rules. They become meaningful only when people in the country develop conventions and traditions consistent with the constitution. People and politician must follow certain norms in public life.
- Moreover, there must also exist a sense of morality and conscientiousness in the society. Low and legal remedies can never replace a voluntary sense of responsibility. No amount of low can enforce morality. Norms of honest and responsible behaviour must develop in the society.
- Democracy can be successful only when every citizen feels duty bound to fight injustice even if that injustice does not put him into any difficulty personally. This will happen when equality and brotherhood exist in society.
- To make democracy successful in India. He suggest few other precautions. Democracy means rule of the majority. But this should not result into tyranny of majority. Majority must always respect the views of the minority. In India there is a possibility that the minority community will always be a political minority also. Therefore, it is very essential that the minority must feel free, safe and secure.Otherwise, it will be very easy to convert democracy into a permanent rule against minority.
- Caste system could thus become the most difficult obstacle in the successful functioning of democracy. Caste will create barriers in development of healthy democratic traditions. This means that unless will achieve the task of establishing democracy in the social field, mere political democracy cannot survive.
Democracy is supposed to
- Promote equality among citizens;
- Enhance the dignity of the individual;
- Improve the quality of decision-making;
- Provide a method to resolve conflicts; and
- All room to correct mistakes.
Are these expectations realized under democracies? When we talk to people around us, most of them support democracy against other alternatives, such as rule by a monarch or military or religious leaders. But not so many of them would be satisfied with the democracy in practice.So we face a dilemma: democracy is seen to be good in principle, but felt to be not so good in its practice. This dilemma invites us to think hard about the outcomes of democracy. Do we prefer democracy only for moral reasons? Or are there some prudential reasons to support democracy too?
Over a hundred countries of the world today claim and practice some kind of democratic politics: they have formal constitutions, they hold elections, they have parties and they guarantee rights of citizens. While these features are common to most of them, these democracies are very much different from each other in terms of their social situations, economic achievements and their cultures. Clearly, what may be achieved or not achieved, each of these democracies will be very different But is there something that we can expect from every democracy, just because it is democracy.
Our interest in and fascination for democracy often pushes us into taking a position that democracy can address all socio-economic and political problems. If some of our expectations are not met, we start blaming the idea of democracy. Or, we start doubting if we are living in a democracy. The first step towards thinking carefully about the outcomes of democracy is just a form of government It can only create conditions for achieving something. The citizens have to take advantage of those conditions and achieve those goals. Let us examine some of the things we can reasonably expect from democracy and examine the record of democracy.
Accountable, responsive and legitimate government :
- There are some things that democracy must provide. In a democracy we are most concerned with ensuring that people will have right to choose their rulers and people will have control over the rulers. Whenever possible and necessary citizens should be able to participate in decision-making that affects them all Therefore, the most basic outcome of democracy should be that it produces a government that is accountable to the citizens, and responsive to the needs and expectations of the citizens.
- Before we go into this question, we face another common question: Is the democratic government efficient? Is it effective? Some people think that democracy produces less effective government It is, of course, true that non-democratic rulers do not have to bother about deliberation in assemblies or worry about majorities and public opinion. So, they can be very quick and efficient in decision-making and implementation. Democracy is based on the idea of deliberation and negotiation. So, some delay is bound to take place. Does that make democratic government inefficient?
- Let us think in terms of costs. Imagine a government that may take decisions that are not accepted by the people and may therefore, face problems. In contrast the democratic government will take more time to follow procedures before arriving at a decision. But because it has followed procedures, its decisions may be both more acceptable to the people and more effective. So, the cost of time that democracy pays is perhaps worth it
- Now look at the other side, democracy ensures that decision-making will based on norms and procedures. So, a citizen who wants to know if a decision was taken through the correct procedures can find this out She has the right and the means to examine the process of decision-making. This is known as transparency. This factor is often missing from a non-democratic government Therefore, when we are trying to find out the outcomes of democracy, it is right to expect democracy to produce a government that follows procedures and is accountable to the people. We can also expect that the democratic government develops mechanisms for citizens to hold the government accountable and mechanisms for citizens to take port in decision-making whenever they think fit.
- If we wanted to measure democracies on the basis of this expected outcomes, we need to look for the following practices and institutions: regular, free and fair elections, open public debate on major policies and legislations, and citizens’ right to information about the government and its functioning. The actual performance of democracies shows a mixed record on this. Democracies have had greater success in setting up conditions for open public debate. But most democracies fall short of elections that provide a fair chance to everyone and in subjecting every decision to public debate. Democratic government does not have a very good record when it comes to sharing information with citizens. All one can say in favour of democratic regimes is that they are much better than any non-democratic in these respects.
- In substantive terms it may be reasonable to expect from democracy a reasonable reaconable that is attentive to the needs and demands of the people and largely free of corruption.The record of democracies is not impressive on these two counts. Democracies often frustrate the demands of a majority of its population. The routine tales of corruption are enough to convince us that democracy is not free of this eviL At the same time, there is nothing to show that non-democracies are less corrupt or more sensitive to the people.
- There is one respect in which democratic government is certainly a legitimate government It may be slow, less efficient, not always very responsive or clean. But a democratic government is people’s own government. That is why there is an overwhelming support for the idea of democracy all over the world. As the accompanying evidence from South Asia show, that the support exists in countries with democratic regimes. People wish to be ruled by representatives elected by them. They also believe that democracy is suitable for their country. Democracy’s ability to generate its own support is itself an outcome that cannot be ignored.
Economic growth and development :
- If democracies are expected to produce good government, then is it not fair to expect that they would also produce development? Evidence shows that in practice many democracies did not fulfil this expectation.
- If we consider all democracies and all dictatorship for the fifty year between 1950 and 2000, dictatorship have slightly higher rate of economic growth.The inability of democracy to achieve higher economic development worries us. But this alone cannot be reason to reject democracy. As you have already studied in economics, economic development depends on several factors: country’s population size, global situation, cooperation from other countries economic priorities adopted by the country, etc. However, difference in the rates of economic development between less developed countries with dictatorship and democracies is negligible. Overall we cannot say that democracy is a guarantee of economic development But we can expect democracy not to lag behind dictatorship in this respect.
- When we find such significant difference in the rates of economic growth between countries under dictatorship and democracy, it is better to prefer democracy as it has several other positive outcomes.
Reduction of inequality and poverty :
- Perhaps more than development, it is reasonable to expect democracies to reduce economic disparities. Even when a country achieves economic growth, will wealth be distributed in such a way that all citizens of the country will have a share and lead a better life? Is economic growth in democracies accompanied by increased inequalities among the people? Or do democracies lead to a just distribution of goods and opportunities?
- Democracies are based on political equality. All individuals have equal weight in electing representatives. Parallel to the process of bringing individuals into the political arena on an equal footing, we find growing economic inequalities.A small number of ultra-rich enjoy a highly disproportionate share in the total income of the country has been increasing. Those at the bottom of the society have very little to depend upon. Their incomes have been declining. Sometimes they find it difficult to meet their basic needs of life, such as food, clothing, house, education and health.
- In actual life, democracies do not appear to be very successful in reducing economic inequalities. The poor constitute a large proportion of our votes and no party will like to lose their votes. Yet democratically elected governments do not appear to be as keen to address the question of poverty as you would expect them too. The situation is much worse in some other countries. In Bangladesh, more than half of its population lives in poverty. People in several poor countries are now dependent on the rich countries even for food supplies.
Accommodation of social diversity :
- Do democracies lead to peaceful and harmonious life among citizens? It will be a fair expectation that democracy should produce a harmonious social life. We have seen in the earlier chapters how democracies accommodate various social divisions. We saw in the first chapter how Belgium has successfully negotiated difference among ethnic populations. Democracies usually develop a procedure to conduct their competition. This reduces the possibility of these tensions becoming explosive or violent.
- No society can fully permanently resolve conflicts among different groups. But we can certainly learn to respect these differences and we can also evolve mechanisms to negotiate the differences. Democracy is best suited to produce this outcome. Non-democratic regimes often turn a blind eye to or suppress internal social differences. Ability to handle social differences, divisions and conflicts is thus a definite plus point of democratic regimes. But the example of Sri Lanka reminds us that a democracy must fulfil two conditions in order to achieve this outcome:
- It is necessary to understand that democracy is not simple rule by majority opinion. The majority so that governments function to represent the general view. Majority and minority opinions are not permanent
- It is also necessary that rule by majority does not become rule by majority community in terms of religion or race or linguistic group, etc. Rule by majority means that in case of every decision or in case election, different persons and groups may and can form a majority. Democracy remains democracy only as long as every citizen has a chance of being in majority at some point of time. If someone is barred from being in majority on the basis of birth, then the democratic rule ceases to be accommodative for that person or group.
Dignity and freedom of the citizens :
- Democracy stands much superior to any other form of government in promoting dignity and freedom of the individual Every individual wants to receive respect from fellow beings. Often conflict arise among individuals because some feel that they are not treated with due respect The passion for respect and freedom are the basis of democracy.
- Democracies throughout the work!have recognized this, at least in principle. This has been achieved in various degree in various democracies. For societies which have been built for long on the basis of subordination and domination, it is not a simple matter to recognize that all individuals are equal.
- Take the case of dignity of women. Most societies across the world were historically male dominated societies. Long struggles by women have created some sensitivity today that respect to and equal treatment of women are necessary ingredients of a democratic society. That does not mean that women are actually always treated with respect.
- But once the principal is recognized it becomes easier for women to wage a struggle against what is now unacceptable legally and morally. In a non-democratic set up, this unacceptability would not have legal basis because the principal of individual freedom and dignity would not have the legal and moral force there. The same is true of caste inequalities.
- Democracy in India has strengthened the claims of the disadvantaged and discriminated castes for equal status and equal opportunity There are instances still of caste-based inequalities and atrocities, but these lack the moral and legals foundations. Perhaps it is the recognition that makes ordinary citizens values their democratic rights.
Expectation from democracy also functions as the criteria for judging any democratic county. What is most distinctive about democracy is that its examination never gets over. As democracy passes one test, it produces another test As people get some benefits of democracy, they ask for more and want to make democracy even better. That is why, when we ask people about the way democracy functions, they will always come up with more expectations, and many complaints. The fact that people are complaining is itself a testimony to the success of democracy: it shows that people have developed awareness and the ability to expect and to look critically at power holders and the high and the mighty A public expression of dissatisfaction with democracy shows the success of the democratic project it transforms people from the status of a subject that of a citizen. Most votes make a difference to the way the government is run and to their own self-interest.
- Who is a citizen? In brief a citizen is a person who enjoys rights and performs his duties in a State. Anyone who lives in India is not an Indian citizen. Because besides citizens, aliens also live here. Therefore, every inhabitant of the country is not a citizen.A citizen is one who is a member of the State and who participates in the process of government In a democratic society there must be two way traffic between the citizens and the government All governments demand certain duties from its citizens and all citizens have to observe those duties. But in turn, the State must also admit some demands of its citizen on itself. They are called right A person who is ruled by laws but who has no political rights is not a citizen.
- People who live in States which are not democratic often do not enjoy political right In such a State the government expects the subjects to perform their duties to pay taxes, to obey laws do whatever else the government wants of them. But they cannot question their rulers or ask them to explain their action. Politics in these societies is like a one way traffic. The government tells the people what to do and what not to do but does not listen to them in return. Only the rulers have rights. The ruled have none and hence they are not citizens.
Democracy and Citizenship
Historically, the term ‘citizen’ was linked with the rise of democracy. The demand for democratic government came up first in a few western societies, like England France and the United States of America.
Democracy means that everybody should have political rights. When one has political rights, the right to vote and the right to participate in decision-making on important questions facing one’s society, one is a citizen. Of course, all these ideas did not grow up all of a sudden. It took a long time for them to mature. They grew up gradually. Universal suffrage a system in which literally everybody can vote – is a fairly recent development The ideals of democracy made people fight for their rights against monarchical government Many of the ideas of which democracy is made up are accepted after great revolutions. For instance, after the revolution of 1789 France became a republic. All citizens, it was said, were equal; they had equal rights.
Not surprisingly, the word ‘citizen was made popular by the French Revolution in 1789. Later on, this word was used whenever democracies were set up.
- At present it is common to treat people in democratic societies as citizens. It means; above all that in relation to the government, the individuals are active participants in the process of governance. They not only obey and listen to what the government says the government must also listen to them in turn.
- They have the right to express their opinion freely, to be consulted and to be involved in the politics of the country. In democratic politics, the common human being no longer is treated as an outsider.
- A good citizen is one who is conscious of both rights and duties. For instance, the right to vote is one of our most important rights and it is our duty also to exercise the right to vote. If a person does not vote she or he cannot be considered a good citizen, though otherwise she or he may be a good person.
- Good citizen should not only be conscious of their own rights alone, but also give the government what is its due they should obey laws that are made by the legislature and pay taxes.These are their duties towards the government But they must also perform their duties to other citizens.And the most important duty of every citizen is to respect the rights of others.
- Our Constitution gives every one the right to practice one’s religion. Every citizen, should practice religion in her/his own way; but in doing so one must respect the right of other citizens to practice their religion in the way they like.
- The qualities of good citizens must, therefore, include a consciousness of their own right tolerance for others and respect for laws.
- A democratic state particularly depends on the quality of its citizens. If citizens do not take interests in politics, a democratic state might also gradually become undemocratic.
- Conversely democracy can be strengthened if the citizens have a clear view of own rights and the rights of others; if they demand what they can claim from the government; and if they know what the government can claim from them.
- Many social evils cannot be fought only by the government passing laws against them.
- There is a need to create an intense social opinion against them. A society is after all made by humans and not by laws.
- One essential condition for a democratic state is that citizens must participate in the governing process. The quality of democracy improves if citizen from all walks of life participate in its activities and if they take interest in the basic processes of making importuned decisions for their society. Democracy implies that the decisions affecting the whole society should be taken as far as possible by the whole society.
Understanding Citizenship in Detail
- The idea of citizenship means that not only the government has some claims on the citizen but the citizen also has claims on the government A government, after all is an association like many others in the society. But it is an association of a special kind
- One can decide not to have anything to do with other associations. We may not join any political party, a religious organization, a college or a cricket club.All these associations have their special fields of activity and also their special rules.We may not like their rules and decide not to join them. If we are not a member of these groups, we need not observe their rules. But government is different from all other associations. Its laws will apply to you whether we like them or not.
- Governments in modern society have much power to control the ordinary people. This is something that cannot be escaped But there should be some mechanism by which the people can also control the actions of a government According to them, the best form of government is one which runs the country according to the wishes of its people. This type of government is called participatory government or responsible government
- The idea of citizenship is closely linked to the participation of people in government This is how the ideas of democracy and citizenship are linked to each other.
How one become citizen of India?
- As we know, anyone living in the territory of a State is not automatically its citizen. Many people living in India are not Indian citizens; they are aliens, Aliens are – those who live on Indian Territory but who are citizens of other countries.Students from other countries, particularly Asian and African countries, often come to India to study. They sometimes live in India for several years. But that does not make them citizens of India. Similarly, tourists from other countries visit India. During their stay here they cannot claim all the rights that an Indian citizen enjoys. Businessmen from other countries may come and stay here for long periods. Diplomats who represent their countries also often do so. But they are not citizens. They cannot vote in the elections, and would not have the same rights that a citizen will enjoy.
- Most of us do not have to try to become citizens of India. We are citizens simply because our parents, whether both or at least one of them, are Indian citizens. This kind of citizen is called a natural born citizen. Some countries have another rule for being a natural born citizen. Anyone born in the territory of that country, even if her or his parents are not citizens of that country, is automatically given citizenship. But the Indian Constitution does not follow that rule.
- There is a second form of citizenship which is called acquired or naturalized citizenship. A person who is not a citizen of India can apply for Indian citizenship; and when this is granted the person is called a naturalized citizen. The procedure for acquiring citizenship is determined by a law made by the Parliament. To acquire citizenship a person has to fulfil some conditions, like living in the country for a fixed length of time or by marriage. A person can also lose her/his citizenship in certain cases. For some types of legal offence, the government can take away a person’s citizenship. Besides a person accepting the citizenship of another country loses the citizenship of her or his own country.