I have presented a paper titled "Democracy - Theory and Practice [Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi] at the 9th conference of International Congress of Social Philosophy(ICSP) on "Post Globalaization and the Emerging World Order" held on 25th-27th April, 2010 at Anna Malai University, Chidambaram, Tamilnadu, India.
This three day conference was organized by the Department of Philosophy,Annamalai University and witnessed the active participation from around 300 scholars, professors, philosophers, students from different corners of the country. Eminent Gandhian and ex-Member of Parliament Dr. Shri. Ramjee Singh presided the conference with his gracious presence and a key note address.
Over 200 papers were presented on the themes of Globalization,Value Education, Terror and Mass Communication, Social Philosophy, Democracy and Good Governance, Human Rights, Environment and Health, World Peace, and Relevance of Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and Gandhian Philosophy.
Here is the presented paper:
The essence of democratic system is that everyone must be responsible for upholding one’s own welfare, though it comprises a collective welfare of all sects of people. Everyone is equally responsible for the success or failure of democracy in a nation as they signify the diverse positions at all aspects of the nations’ life. The combined self-governance by all people constitutes the spirit of democracy and it forms the governance of the entire society. The government thus formed or elected must be run by qualified and capable persons. The politics involved in electing the right people and running the elected government democratically is the fundamental nature of the egalitarianism.
As Gandhiji said, “Democracy, disciplined and enlightened, is the finest thing in the world.”The discipline he mentioned here is the crucial aspect of the whole system of democracy. For a democratic civilian, both the duties and rights are important as he has to perform his duties by following the system yet upholding and checking his rights were not deprived of him. He has to maintain a high value for self-restraint and self-respect so that he can fit himself in the democratic system. This kind of discipline is largely expected from the people to run any democratic government.
For developing such discipline, people must have the tolerance, politeness and right education. With thousands of villages, India is still suffering to maintain democratic discipline due to lack of knowledge among the public. The knowledge of the democratic system and its implications on one’s well-being must be taught to them. And, only this knowledge will enable them to choose the right people for administering the offices.
A villager cannot perform his democratic duties unless the government steps nearly into his threshold and spell out what to do and how to do. A villager does not know his rights unless someone explicate them for his betterment. As the villager depends more on the governmental aid, more vulnerable they are handing over the power to incompetent and unqualified people. They will lack the skill of electing and selecting the right over the wrong. So, a villager must seek for this knowledge and discipline of the constitutional and social structure for the true success of democracy.
A perfect democracy will have its people obeying the laws. But, it has got its own drawbacks like corruption and hypocrisy. Abusing the laws and corruption in the government are owing to the careless and nonchalant attitude of the people once they form a democratic government. When the hitches of democracy affect the society, an individual too gets affected. He must understand the loopholes in the democratic system and must try to fix them only by himself. As everyone follows the same correction method, the whole democratic system gets sanctified.
Sharing of power with equal opportunities for all is the main object of the egalitarianism. It is the inherent way of maintaining discipline and politeness within the society. The individual responsibility and self-governance seems to be a tiny particle but it is what the power of egalitarianism.
As the world’s largest democracy, India enjoys the spirit and merits of democratic system. We have a huge electorate to decide who can rule and what principles we would stand for. We have a constitutional and judicial structure that could uphold our morals and the discipline required for safeguarding both the society and system. Our parliamentary system of governance and administration is delivering in its fullest capacity to maintain law and order in the political structure that is entirely based on democratic values.
Today’s people have more voice than their ancestors. Theoretically, people’s voice is regarded as the final judgement when it comes to election and selection of their representatives. People have more freedom of expression and have learned to live with the diversities and differences. People move from place to place, share their culture and knowledge, and exchange things to each other thus becoming more conversant with the values of democracy. People have access to all kinds of democratic tools and systemic functions ensuring that all is in-place.
But at large, people have become weakened and tired of upholding the real systemic values as they are constantly putting under economical and social pressures. They are slowly loosing the grip of the power, the self-power, main ingredient of the democratic system. Due to economical conditions and fast-paced culture to earn money and power, the spirit of self-governance has vanished; sometimes, it has become invisible and ineffective.
The mechanisation of an individual’s life is usually a welcome by-product of a successful democratic system. One need not have to worry much about how to perform his duties as a citizen. The system takes him where he wants to go and what he wants to do. But, in the vast countries like India, mechanising the system has become a challenge and tedious task. Particularly in villages where poverty and illiteracy rates are high, deploying a governmental scheme or performing a democratic function takes a lot of time. Malpractices and bribery have penetrated into the system due to the negligence of officeholders and their sub-ordinates. For all this, an individual can’t be held responsible especially when it comes to mechanising his duties as it merely reflects the downside of the democratic system.
To remove this illness, innovation of new sets of rules and regulations, and adequate education has been consistently added to our system so that even a layman could seamlessly perform his or her democratic duties.
As Gandhiji said, “What is really needed to make democracy function is not knowledge of facts, but right education.” Strengthening the laws and inclusion of innovative plans alone will not be sufficient for successful governance. The public must be given proper education to imbibe the conceptual purpose of them. He must be tutored to adopt the schemes and policies on a regular basis. Today, very few people have such knowledge and others are just inter-dependent.
India is hugely populated and highly diversified. She is prone to be susceptible to put up with mobocracy that might crop up anywhere. Violence of communal and religious nature has become usual everyday. The non-violent methods of protests are dwindling, and terror and brutality have become regular to settle the disputes and differences. She has to responsibly react to the mindless entreaty by impoverished and tribal outfits. Attacks on temples, mosques, churches and other worshipping places are surely not the democratic ways of acquiring power. The implication of such acts and subsequent ways of forming the government should never been conceded in a truly democratic country.
Democracy cannot be upheld at the expense of nation’s self-respect and security. If individual liberty of opinion and action is not highly regarded, it would mean disrespect for him and the society. The disrespect could turn into a state of insecurity and is not a healthy state for the nation. Although the trust we have in the democratic system remains to be the same, it is yet doubtful whether we performed our democratic duties satisfactorily. Defending one’s respect and liberty is the utmost necessity for defending the whole nation’s respect and liberty.
Sitting in a quiet place, one has to ask himself, “What I ought to do?” The self-realization by an individual will make his neighbourhood or community to perceive the same realization. The collective realization will help them introspect and perform their duties entirely. Very few people do this realization and want to look outside their world to make democracy work for everyone.
Democracy undergoes evolution all the time. This is the only form of governance that is open to all changes. Since the system itself is in the hands of people, it is their awakening that triggers the change. The wants of the people vary from place to place, community to community or might be due to cultural differences. Hence, it would become necessary for the system to change as well. Amending the laws and invoking new ordinances are just part of the democratic system. If this does not happen in a country, it is said to be that it is dead.
The myth prevailing today in India is that capitalism is slowly swallowing the spirit of democracy. People are not like yesteryears, dull and conventional. They have learnt how to live with modern times, doing free trade and moving places. Literacy rates are going high and they know how to stand on their own legs for their living. At the same time, they have the willingness to bring in new products and external dealings in their commerce. All these changes are just an implication of how our democracy has evolved over the years. Our governments have lately understood the same and alter their economic policies according to the people’s expectations. And, people do elect such governments so as to get into a modern era of privatisation and globalization. Within the democratic framework, the system has allowed all these to work for the people.
So, the liberty and self-governance of the people today cannot be misjudged as a result of a capitalistic impact. People have developed more tolerance towards the external entities yet preserving their own discipline and performing their democratic duties.
Mobocracy is a term used for disorder and violent form of governance run by a group of people for the quest of power by illegal means. Many groups and terror outfits today in India have chosen a path of violence and are slowly spreading across the country. If allowed, these undemocratic forces would find place in administration and governance also. And, this kind of government will be full of intolerance, hatred and harshness.
The very existence of Mobocracy in India is due to the poor background and illiteracy among the certain sects of tribal and minorities. Exploitation of the majority community on these sects takes the precedence. These people are vulnerable to evil and violent forces and are prone to be guided by them. Their ignorance and immoral livelihood has brought them boldly to the streets to carry out any kind of violent act. Their way of thinking and understanding between the good and bad are empowered by the evil forces. They lack self-thought and their self-judging capacity is driven by the forces that are hungry for power. Such forces are willing to perform attacks of any magnitude and have a support of such ignorant people who believe that they could live with this not caring about the legalities. And, for some people, it has become a way of life to be held by law frequently.
When it comes to politics, these forces gather together with similar such evil forces and starving people to act as a unit to quest for their rights and power. With no sufficient knowledge of what democracy is, gangs of people quickly react to the situations and wrongly approaches the problem what they face.
According to Gandhiji, “The spirit of democracy cannot be established in the midst of terrorism, whether governmental or popular.” But, today terror has become a routine in many parts of the country. Terrorism has infiltrated into the daily life and people have let the terrorism grow in their houses, roads, schools and other institutions. The self-restraint and self-respect of an individual has been demoralised and an individual’s liberty of opinion and action has been perverted to promote and assist the violent attacks at the cost of nation’s security and freedom. The spirit of democracy has been tarnished due to some miscreants who can channelize the violence into the democratic process. Today, a single individual can change the face of the nation through his terror acts that puts the entire state of the nation in turmoil. Any terror attack that occurs in the state of Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, the city of Mumbai and major cities, and the border territories has a face behind them.
Although, mobocracy is not hailed as terrorism, the power at the back of the mob believes that anything can be achieved by violence and terror. For attaining power, they practise non-violent acts and protests that burns and derails trains, and attacks churches and mosques. The very mood and motive of the violent mob is to cause damages to the public and government properties, and see bloodshed and causalities. The gang leaders who preach mobocracy to the innocent and ignorant crowd get satisfied upon performing such cruelties and lead them into a more disturbed state of mind. The reality is that people who involve in these acts do not get a peace of life; instead they go through a lot of troubles from their own bosses and for sure, from law too.
Today in India, these mobocratic forces have been largely politicised and are functioning as separate political outfits. Every group claims that they fight for justice and rights for the people and indulge in attacking local administration and democratically functioning governmental bodies. Their violent and brutal ways of attacks have become a huge threat in the country and they could not be fit into any form of political method or process. They must realize that non-violent attacks will never be a part of democracy.
Remember the words from Gandhiji, “Democracy and violence can ill go together.” The so-called political entities following mobocracy as a practise and preaching violence in a peace-loving country like India should be banned and must be brought to justice at the international court of law. There must be a separate mobilisation team for non-violence and peace in places that are susceptible to mobocratic forces. The team should campaign for democratic values and non-violent methods of protests for seeking justice. The government must prevent people to fall prey to violence and brutalities before anything adverse such a mob does.
Practically, the mob will not rest even if the unit they belong-to gets banned. There must be a legal punishment and they must be democratised gradually over the period of time. Then, they can get assimilated with democratically functioning parties. The government must consistently carry out this process whenever attacks occur so as to uphold the democratic values and to insist that there is no place for violence.
Most of the mobocratic groups have got a political tint and are easily escaping from the rule of laws. While the central government passes laws like TADA, POTA to counter terrorism, there must be similar such laws to tackle mobocracy. The current laws are not sufficient enough to book the criminals involved in terror and violent acts. The political approach by anti-social and anti-national elements must be dealt with severe punishments. The elements such as Naxals and Maoists must be first dealt with appropriate laws to condemn their violent acts before pursuing a dialog process with them.
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