BJP or Congress win in elections won't make a difference unless Indians shed their casteist, religious hangovers and unite

The system of parliamentary democracy in India largely runs on the basis of caste and communal vote banks, but these feudal forces that divide our people and keep us backward. They must be destroyed if we are to progress, but parliamentary democracy further entrenches them.

Markandey Katju November 28, 2018 15:12:30 IST
BJP or Congress win in elections won't make a difference unless Indians shed their casteist, religious hangovers and unite

Elections are being held for five state assemblies in India, and the parliamentary polls are due around May next year. Speculation is intense on who will win — the Congress, BJP or other parties. However, a much more crucial — yet seldom discussed — question is whether the system of parliamentary democracy is at all suited to India, and if not, what is the alternative, and how can it be achieved?

There is no doubt in my mind that the present system of parliamentary democracy and the state of affairs in India cannot continue for long as they are entirely unsuited to our country. Regardless of whether the BJP wins, or the Congress, or any other party, it will make no difference to the lives of our people. Let me explain.

Our national goal must be to transform India into a modern, highly industrialised state, where our people can enjoy a high standard of living. We have two of the three requirements to bring about such transformation — a huge pool of technical talent in the form of thousands of bright engineers, technicians, scientists, managers, doctors, etc; and immense natural resources. (India is not a small country like England or Japan but a sub continent.)

However, the third requirement, which is the struggle for transformation by a broadly united citizenry, is unfortunately missing. It is this third, therefore, on which we must focus.

BJP or Congress win in elections wont make a difference unless Indians shed their casteist religious hangovers and unite

File image of people protesting against the police raids at the homes of activists and their subsequent arrests. PTI

Unfortunately, the system of parliamentary democracy adopted in India largely runs on the basis of caste and communal vote banks. Casteism and communalism are feudal forces that divide our people and keep us backward. They must be destroyed if we are to progress, but parliamentary democracy further entrenches them.

Historically, all great transformations have been the work of the masses, who are the real creators of history. All great modern revolutions — the British in the 17th Century, the American from 1775 to 1781, the French in 1789, the Russian in 1917 and the Chinese in 1949 — were the work of the masses.

But the problem in India is this: How can we rely on the Indian masses when they are deeply divided on the basis of caste, religion, language, race and region? How can we expect great deeds from them when to many, cow protection, "ghar wapasi" and building a Ram Mandir are more important than abolishing poverty, unemployment, child malnourishment, lack of healthcare and good education, among other necessities?

On one hand, we need to rely on the masses to bring about a historical transformation in India, turning our country into the modern, scientific region, and on the other, the polity in India is led by casteism and communalism.

How can this contradiction be broken?

To my mind, there is only one solution to this, though it will need a lot of time and patience to achieve:

We must first explain to the small, modern-minded section of our intelligentsia that our goal must be to establish a country where our people have a high standard of living. In other words, we must first educate the "educated" in our country.

Intellectuals are the eyes of society, and without intellectuals, a society is blind. Unfortunately, most of the so-called intellectuals in India today — academics, writers, mediapersons, etc — are not genuine intellectuals; their minds are full of arrogance and bookish knowledge. But there is a small minority among them who are sincere and modest, with a genuine desire to learn. We must focus on them and educate them, for they will be leaders in times to come.

However, since it is the people who create great historical transformations, we have to patiently wait until the masses recognise their true leaders from experience and unite behind them. Presently, most agitations in India are either casteist — like the ones launched by the Patels, Jats or Dalits — or communal, like the demand to build the Ram Mandir. However, even as the farmers' agitation cuts across caste and communal lines, it has no leaders with intellectual probity and is, therefore, bound to fail.

It takes little time for an earthquake to make its effects felt, but an eternity for it to build momentum.

The author is a former Supreme Court judge and former chairman for the Press Council of India

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