Sunday, May 26, 2013

Secularism, Socialism and Democracy are cool concepts, till we question them !

Those were the proud moments in school, when we were taught about how India achieved independence through non-violence, and how we have done a great job writing our preamble and the constitution, which were ideal from all angles. 

It was secular. It was socialist. It was democratic.

We were told about our Government, and that, it is a democratic republic of the people, for the people and by the people. It gave us a feeling that we are all together to take India towards fame.

As I grew up, studied, read news, books, listened to elders, and as I began to understand more about politics, governance, human rights, I found that secularism, socialism and democracy are good sounding theories, and perhaps not practical, given human instincts of love, hatred and fear.

Secularism, if we go by the dictionary, is a philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship. In India, however, it implies equality of all religions, and it prohibits discrimination against members of a particular religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. 

Isn't it a wrong literal definition to start with? I have a problem with an 'end' that sounds too good to be true. It only means that we have not studied the 'means' to achieve that 'end'. Or it is only rhetorical. So the more important question is 'how to achieve secularism' and that somehow is not well researched, tested and formulated. For instance, even after 60 years of independence, we are not clear about whether school uniforms be uniform for all students.

Read this news article where a mother of a four-year-old Muslim girl has moved the Guwahati High Court after her school refused to allow her daughter to wear a ‘hijab’ (headscarf) along with the school uniform.

Socialism, if we go by the definition, refers to any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods and services. It refers to a system where there is no private property.

In India, socialism, instead of spreading wealth equally and without vested motives, has bred in-efficiency, politicking, lack of respect for Government properties, and a false hatred for trade and profits (and many more such malices!). We kept profiting and profiteering in the same bracket of common understanding. (Fools, we became!). It created a generation of Indians who were lazy, comfortable with mediocrity, and afraid of the big owners of all the production and distribution of goods and services.

This was Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru pet vision, (and to me the most significant reason why India is yet to be a developed country). Later Indira Gandhi trumpeted it to absurd levels by nationalizing the banks among all institutions. (And then, ironically, she became a dictator unleashing the state of Emergency bestowing on her the power to rule by decree, suspending elections and civil liberties.) Socialism ki maa ki aankh.

Democracy, similarly has (can I say) failed in India. The quote 'of the people, for the people, by the people' is at best euphoric, rhetoric and poetic. In India, democracy is getting titular day by day with decreasing electorate, and increasing discontent with Indian politics, power games and corruption.

In a daring attack on Saturday in Darbha Ghati, Chattisgarh, naxalists killed almost the entire Congress leadership of Chattisgarh. The Congress Chief Mr. Nand Kumar was abducted and killed later. The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh has called the rebels India's biggest internal security threat. Mr. Narendra Modi - the PM aspirant from BJP has termed the attack in Darbha Ghati as gruesome, and said that the government needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards Terrorism and Naxalism.

Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi called it a 'dastardly attack' on the country's democratic values. To me, it sounded funny and serious at the same time!

According to the Home Ministry, Naxalism and its ideals are present in 20 of India's 28 states, and have thousands of fighters. It is a confirmed data that all these fighters are Indians. It is also evident that they are risking their lives for some common cause. Democracy gives them the right to live and choose. This is the reason why I find Sonia Gandhi's statement funny. It sounds as if Congress has the autocratic right to India's democratic values. Would she say that if 26 rebels, who are Indians, were killed instead.

The problem is killing, and the reasons why these killings are taking place. It is just a matter of fact that Congress workers got killed this time. Some other group will get killed the next time. It is common knowledge how the innocents of the neighboring villages around Darbha Ghati will suffer rape, molestation and death in the name of investigation now.

How should a democratic country (of the people, for the people, by the people) react to such a scenario? If such a significant population is against the establishment and its power centers, how should the constitution deal with such a situation? How should International Bodies deal with this scenario of basic human rights and choice to take sides and fight for sovereignty or for any cause?

It is with contempt I realize that we are yet to understand the basics of governance, of free will, of human nature. Democracy, Secularism and Socialism as we understand has to undergo a huge transformation through research.

Perhaps India is too big and diverse for the right practice of democracy, secularism and socialism.