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Rejoinder to Chatham House column “Democracy in India”

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Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
Columnist is a Senior Research Fellow in Defense Research and Studies (DRaS), Faculty of Management Studies in Trident Group of Institutions, Bhubaneswar, and author of novel "Travails of LOVE" and "Bimal's ANAND MATH". He writes column on Geopolitics, Indian Politics and Media for MyVoice.OpIndia, DRaS, The Kootneeti, The Diplomatists, The Avenue Mail, Delhi Post, Orissa Post, Outlook Afghanista, The Manila Times, etc. And also Moderated Panel Discussion on Geopolitics, Politics and Media

(Explaining the history, structure and challenge of democracy in the Republic of India dt. 07 April 2022 by Dr. Gareth Price, Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme)

This rejoinder tries to expose the biased analysis about “Democracy in India” by author Dr. Price who writes for London based eminent Think Tank Chatham House, otherwise known as Royal Institute of International Affairs.

History of democracy in India

Here, the author writes, “In the 1970s Indira Gandhi broke with this successful formula and attempted to concentrate power in the central government. When these efforts were resisted, she declared a state of emergency in 1975, arresting journalists, politicians and other opponents.” This is baseless. Indira imposed National Emergency after she was found guilty for electoral malpractice by Allahabad High Court.

J. L. Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi married to Feroze Gandi, a Parsi, not Feroze Gandhi. She manipulated the issue and got herself the title of Gandhi in order to gain electoral benefit from M. K. Gandhi fans whose number was very high due to the foolishness of Nathuram Godse, his assassin who was of the believe that Gandhi was reasons of many national problems related to Indo-Pakistan relation. Many people in India still believe that Indira married to Feroze, the adopted son of M. K. Gandhi.

The author stated that BJP won the most of parliamentary seats from northern states such as UP, Bihar and MP in GE2014 and GE2019 is fallacious. Along with northern states, the party had also won majority of seats in Karnataka, and Goa, the two south Indian states in GE2014 and GE2019 consecutively. Also had clean-swept western states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat, won majority seats in North-East, and large number of seats in Jharkhand, West Bengal (2019), Chhattisgarh and Odisha (2019).

Challenges of democracy in India

Under the above subhead, Dr. Price writes ‘India could not achieve neighboring China kind economic development’ without going into the details of the existing political/governance systems in these two countries. He should have mentioned that China has been under rule of single party authoritarian communist regime without popular elections due to which policy planner least bother about people’s opinions even if the policy/ies are anti-people and there is no place for populous policies and freebies welfarisms, while India has democracy where governments keep on changing every now and then –even before fixed term of five years in many cases. In India, development policies with long-term economic benefits are delegislated (per example Farm Laws)due to oppositions from miniscule vested interests with moral and financial supports from hypocritical western democracies and their so-called human rightists.

The author admitted that since independence considerable development had taken place in India, and they are uneven. I (this rejoinder’s author) agree with Dr. Price’s finding. And here I write the facts. During early years of independence, India got world cases educational institution such as five IITs, one AIIMS, four IIMs, etc. at great cost, only in metros. And India’s top academicians were recruited to them, and the education expenses for those institutions were buried in the union budget year after year and decade after decade when there was no blackboards and all season roofs in majority of schools both in towns and villages. Do Dr. Price knows who were studying there and where are these institutions’ products are now? 90% of them are children of families who could afford high cost coaching in metros, and after completion of their studies they left for developed countries causing huge brain drains. Other undeniable aspect is: five IITs, one AIIMS and four IIMs with few thousands or hundred seats (AIIMS) for millions of applicants. Big questions are: Why seats had not increased? Why the passed out students were not discouraged to leave their motherlands where they were born and brought up at a great cost to their poor natives/cousins? Instead these institutions’ authorities were very happy for getting placements for their students in MNCs, and were found highlighting these ‘anti-India achievements’ through media reports and institutions’ annual reports. Was it because the earlier rulers –three prime ministers who ruled the country for 38 years out of 42 years of self-rule (1947 to 1989) and were from one family- of country were educated in West and had an electoral vested interest in poverty, under-development and illiteracy of the country?

During last 8 years and from 1998 to 2004 (earlier BJP rule), number of IITs, IIMs and AIIMSs have been increased by many folds. Apart from them, new institutions of excellence in the names of IISER, IIIT, NISER, Central Universities, Central Schools, Sainik Schools, etc. have been started with increased budget allocations, students’ scholarships and liberal study loans (without collaterals in many cases) which could have been done earlier. Liberalization of education sector, which allows increased private participation, has helped the country get world class universities though the Western rating agencies have not been so pleased to give their recognisation despite the fact that Western MNCs gate-crash in these institutions to get Indian students for their jobs.

Here, the critics may ask that increased number of top institutions might contribute to increase in brain drains. No, it is not so now as employment opportunities with world class facilities have been developed in the country now. Due to this many sectors have been witnessing reverse brain drain. Per example, in the US, defence manufacturing and research sectors among others were the major recruiters of top brains. And in India, the successive governments had a policy of importing maximum arms and ammunitions, and through which bureaucrats and their political masters were filling their Western bank accounts.  Now, the defence manufacturing sector has been liberalized and maximum arm forces purchases have been reserved for internal procurements.

Regarding elimination of extreme poverty, I would like to request Dr. Price to read April 5, 2022 report of IMF under title “Pandemic, Poverty and Inequality: Evidence from India”. For his information, Western appreciated secular, liberal and democratic Indira Gandhi won election in 1971 with Garib Hatao (eliminate poverty) slogan. And since 1971, she and her son Rajiv Gandhi ruled India till 1989 with two and half years break, and after that, their owned party Congress ruled India from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2004 to 2014 when their family’s imported daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi was de facto ruler of country though London School of Economics educated but never democratically elected –rarely seen in any democratic counties including West- Dr. Manmohan Singh was PM; yet the effort for extreme poverty elimination had to wait till 2014, and found greatly eliminated post two years long horrendous pandemic when many countries around the world witnessed rapid increase in poverty.

Dr. Price writes and I quote, “Indian nationalism and populism have fed off this (poverty) discontent by scapegoating religious minorities – notably Muslims and Dalits – while increasing pride for many Hindus”. Will the author be kind to give an example of Indian nationalists scapegoating religious minorities – notably Muslims and Dalits- for poverty? From where Dr. Price got to know that Dalits are minorities in India, so he bracketed Muslims and Dalits together?

Also the Chatham House researcher writes, “Since before independence nationalists have argued that India should be the homeland for South Asia’s Hindus, as Pakistan was for its Muslims”. Can the author deny the fact that British India was balkanized on religious ground as instigated by departing western colonial power? Muslims got their homeland as per their wish, but majority of them stayed back in India. For the author’s information, at the time of partition, Hindu population in Pakistan was 22%. Now it has come down to less than 2%, while in India Muslims population increased from 9.8% to 14.2%. If there is minority discrimination as propagated in Western media and researchers, how could their population increase in India and Hindu population going to be nil in Pakistan in next one decade? Despite the anti-India propaganda in West, India’s largest business conglomerate that is Tata Group has been running for century by Tata family, who are Parsi, a minority of minorities?

Dr. Price writes, “Kashmir, the only Muslim-majority state in India, was put under lockdown from 2019-2021 and subjected to a communications blackout. The region’s autonomous status was revoked, and thousands were arrested, including Kashmiri politicians, activists and separatists.” Here, I may suggest to Dr. Price to read India’s post-independence history mostly guided by British policy of princely states annexation with either India or Pakistan. ‘The region(Kashmir)’s autonomous status’, the author talked about was a temporary provision. Should the temporary provision remain so indefinitely? And using this provision, should Islamic terrorists continue to rain havoc in the state and not allow Hindu minority, who were raped, murdered and evicted in late 1980s and early 1990s and now staying in refugee camps, to get rehabilitated? Regarding Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 that Modi Government enacted and Dr. Price talked about, I want to inform him that the need of the same was strongly felt by the Western applauded liberal and secular Congress Party in 1948 when minorities mostly Hindus in Muslims majority Pakistan were targeted and they had no alternative but either to convert or be stateless. Many of them to save their lives migrated to India and remain stateless for decades when the Western liberal and human right activists, who are now crying over the new law and branded the new law discriminatory, remained silent.

As per the author, the economic growth in India has been slowed down during BJP rule. He has this opinion in view of his ignorance about economic growth during Congress rules from 1947 to 1989 and he refuses to acknowledge –may be due to vested interest- the impact of dreaded pandemic on world economy for two consecutive year 2020-21 and 2021-22, and which has not yet subsided in 2022. Regarding religious polarization during Modi rule, I would like to remind Dr. Price former Congress PM Dr. Manmohan Singh statement “Muslims must have first claim to national resources”. As per Dr. Price’s own admission in his column, there is widespread poverty in India, means poverty is there irrespective of religions, castes, creed, etc. When this is a fact how could a PM educated in world renowned economics institution and branded a great secular-liberal-democrat said “Muslims must have first claim to national resources”? Should not this fuel religious polarization in the society?

Dr. Price writes, “Trust in the law is further undermined by India’s dysfunctional legal system, which leaves many languishing in detention before trial for ‘crimes’ including peaceful protest.” The author writes this without any example. Had he given some examples, it would have been better to rebut them. If he thinks detentions of anti-nationals, naxalites, terrorists, separatists, anti-socials, etc. anything to do to democracy, he is advised to look inward on what is happening in Western countries and what their coalition had done in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

Regarding several demographic challenges and selective abortion raised in the column, I may suggest the researcher-author to study the report. Yes these issues were societal challenges decade back during the Western appreciated liberal and democratic rule of Gandhi-Congress. Since 2014, during Modi rule, these issues have been taken care of with right seriousness and now sex ratio is 1020 females to 1000 males replacing earlier sex ratio of 940 females to 1000 males.

Indian political system

Under above highlighted subhead, Dr. Price writes “Last names (of Indian nationals) often indicate to which caste a person belongs”. This is absolutely wrong and fallacious. There is title called ‘Das’ which is there in every caste in northern and eastern India. In state of Odisha, title ‘Behera’ is there in Brahmin, Vaishya and Sudra or Dalit castes; means in three castes. Similarly, widely used title ‘Singh’ is there in all castes in north India. In south India and among many Sikhs in north India’s Punjab state, last name often indicate place of birth. In this column, author writes name of former Finance Minister and Congress MP Palaniappan Chidambaram. Here, last name Chidambaram indicate his place of birth in southern state Tamilnadu. Also, in some cases, father’s name is last name of many people.

Secularism and democracy in India

Under above subhead, author writes, “The constitution is secular in that it prohibits the persecution of individuals for their religious beliefs, but it does not specifically separate church and state in the fashion of the United States constitution”. Here, I don’t understand –if there is no vested interest- the logic for clubbing together two issues ‘persecution of individuals for their religious beliefs’ and ‘separation of church and state in the fashion of the United States constitution’. When the author writes ‘it (Indian Constitution) does not specifically separate church and state in the fashion of the United States constitution’, he has not given specific Indian example or instance to justify his conclusion. Therefore, I feel it is imperative to inform him that despite his claim of separation of church and state in US constitution, the country’s politicians including President take oath of office keeping hands on the Bible; whereas in India, politicians take oath of office in the name of Indian Constitution.

Democracy and corruption in India

The author under the above subhead writes, “Indian politics has been plagued by corruption for decades. A wave of scandals engulfed the Congress-led coalition government that assumed power in 2010.” Please correct the fact replacing 2010 with 2004. This highly corrupt government under LSE educated economist PM Dr. Manmohan Singh came to power in 2004 and was there till 2014.

Regarding corruption scandals’ over purchase of Rafale fighter jets, I would like to request the author to investigate the issue in Paris as the deal was signed between France and Indian government to take care of depleted lethal power of Indian Air Force neglected by earlier Congress government for reason best known to that despite known lethal China-Pakistan strategic nexus with which India fought three wars and several bloody border skirmishes. This issue raised despite apex court rejection of any wrong doing, just before the General Election 2019 and subsided post election.

Future of democracy in India

The opinion placed by Dr. Price about the ‘future of democracy in India’ is worthless and time waste to read simple because he does not know the basic fact of Indian Democracy as illustrated above. When he writes ‘Congress-led coalition government that assumed power in 2010’, he exposed his poor knowledge about current situation in India. With this knowledge, how could he be right person to present his correct assumption on ‘future of democracy in India’? Perhaps he wrote this column for time-pass or has a vested interest to defame Chatham House image.

Will democracy survive in India?

Dr. Price writes, “Through its control of the media, monopolization of campaign finance and harassment of opponents, India seems set on a path to becoming an illiberal pseudo-democracy similar to Turkey or Russia.  However, when the BJP has faced a united opposition in recent state elections it has generally lost.” If media is controlled under Modi rule how could The Washington Post India Bureau Chief Gerry Shih, who was earlier expelled from Beijing tweeted sitting in New Delhi, “Modi on ‘same page as China on the issues of human rights, climate change, the treatment of religious minorities and freedom of expression …. claims of Western hypocrisy emanating from Indian diplomats could well be coming from Chinese diplos’ @SushantSin” in response to a column in The Caravan under title “The Ukraine crisis spotlights the West’s need to understand India’s democratic decline”? If Dr. Price thinks Modi government should not act against lie-peddler journalists, politicians and social activists such as Rajdeep Sardesai, Shashi Tharoor, etc. for tweeting farmer accident death as police fired death on Republic Day that is on January 26, 2021, then I will certainly assume that the author has some vested interest. If there is monopolization of campaign finance as alleged how in Punjab and West Bengal anti-BJP parties such as AAP and TMC won the election with 2/3 majorities?

Regarding demonetization, Dr. Price says this was BJP initiative. No. This was as advocated by the Father of Indian Constitution Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, a LSE alumni, decades back in 1950s. He wanted the demonetization in every ten years. Later, in 1971, Wanchoo Committee recommended demonetization to Indira Gandhi government which snubbed the idea for electoral vested interest.

Regarding the farmers protest over Farm Laws, this is to inform to Dr. Price that the agriculture sector reform laws were withdrawn due to western funded political agitation by vested interests who want Modi Government lose the 2022 Assembly elections. Farmers were just used like foolish Zelensky used to fight Biden war against Putin in Europe. On March 11, 2022, next day of election results publication, the ideologue of agitation Jogendra Yadav openly admitted in TV interview that the agitation was ‘political stunt’ to facilitate opposition parties to come to power. This Yogendra Yadav wished to slap voters for defeating him with loss of deposit in GE2019. Yet Modi Government never arrests him. He has been normally found in all kinds of agitations in New Delhi, so popularly known as andolanjeevi.

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Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
Columnist is a Senior Research Fellow in Defense Research and Studies (DRaS), Faculty of Management Studies in Trident Group of Institutions, Bhubaneswar, and author of novel "Travails of LOVE" and "Bimal's ANAND MATH". He writes column on Geopolitics, Indian Politics and Media for MyVoice.OpIndia, DRaS, The Kootneeti, The Diplomatists, The Avenue Mail, Delhi Post, Orissa Post, Outlook Afghanista, The Manila Times, etc. And also Moderated Panel Discussion on Geopolitics, Politics and Media
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