Eroding democratic values in light of social contemporary issues
Concept of DemocracyThe word democracy comes from the Greek word, demos meaning people
and kratos meaning power, meaning rule of the people. Democracy refers to
a system of government wherein the supreme power is vested with the people and
exercised by them either directly or indirectly through a system of
representation through the process of free and fair elections. Democracy is
often known as 'government of the people' or 'rule of the majority.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States defined democracy as
government of the people, by the people, and for the people¯ in 1865, which even
after 156 years still applies. It is also known as representative government¯
meaning, it represents the ideas, values, aspirations, etc., of the people.
The word 'democracy' and 'freedom' often go hand to hand, wherein the essence of
democracy is the freedom provided to its citizens. It rests upon the principle
of individuals right and liberties. Principles such as equality before the law,
social justice, liberty, freedom of speech, are some democratic values which
upholds the institution of this form of government.
Democracy in IndiaAfter India attainted its independence in 1947 and declared itself to be a
democratic and a republic state with the adoption of the Constitution in 1950,
it has held much pride and honor in holding the title of being the world's
largest democracy. Not only is the Indian democracy referred to as the world's
largest democracy but also it has been, for years, been an influence to other
democratic nations of the world.
However recently, democracy in India, is being seen in danger, continuously
downgrading. The essence and values of a democratic government are being
challenged rapidly. Social contemporary issues like, poverty, hate speech,
freedom of religion, press freedom, unemployment, caste system, minority rights,
etc., are eroding in a way that has caused concerned all over the country and in
international media as well.
The growing challenges to the Indian democracy are being observed by the
international media and authorities all over the world. Earlier in the month of
March, in an annual report published by the US' non-profit Freedom House, on
global political rights and liberties, it downgraded India' status from being a
'free' democracy to a 'partially free' democracy. India's score dropped to
67/100 as compared to 71/100 in 2020.1
The Freedom House gave reason for the
same; a crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, academics, civil
society groups, and protesters¯. In another report, by the Sweden based V-dem
institute, in its recent report, called India an 'electoral autocracy.'2 These
rankings blame the current government for the backsliding of democracy. Threats
to journalists, restriction on press freedom, hate speech against minorities,
has grown under the current government as stated by the reports. In addition to
this, it has led to a deterioration of political and civil liberties in the
What is more concerning is that not only international media but also there are
being debates held in parliaments to discuss democracy in India. On 15th March
2021, in a session held by the British parliament, the members of UK's house of
lords debated India's alleged crackdown on human right activists and press
freedom. Lord Jack McConnell, a labor MP, strongly pointed out to the
parliamentary session, that it is not possible for India to claim to be world's
largest democracy if they continue to restrict freedom of expression and freedom
to organize. Another member, Lord Richard Harries, a crossbench member, quoted
one instance to stress on the worrying situation. More than 24 Dalit rights
activists are in jail on unproven charges¯ he cited.3
The eroding democratic values in India can be seen in a number of issues
discussed below:Legality and impact of scrapping Article 370
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution gave a special status to the state of
Jammu and Kashmir and the power to be an autonomous state. Article 370 conferred
the state with its own constitution and most importantly under clause (3) of the
article, the President may, by public notification, declare that this article
shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and
modifications and from such date as he may specify: Provided that the
recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State¯ is necessary before the
President issues such a notification.
On 5th August 2019 Amit Shah, the Union Minister of India, declared in the Rajya
Sabha that the Government of India had officially nullified Article 370 of
Constitution of India, thereby removing the special status granted to the state.
Further, he introduced two bills in the Rajya Sabha that necessitated revoking
the special status guaranteed to the state. The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization
Bill, 2019 was also passed, revoking the powers of the state given under Article
Both bills were passed in the house. The Presidential Order stated that all the
provisions of the Indian Constitution will now apply on State of Jammu and
Kashmir, and that the Constituent Assembly in Article 370 (3) shall be read as
This move by the Indian government was severely debated and legally challenged
by lawyers and legal experts. In the case of Article 370(1), it gives the power
to the President of India to nullify the article anytime provided this to be
done in concurrence with the recommendation of State Government of Jammu and
Kashmir. However, in this situation, the state of Jammu and Kashmir did not have
a government for months, so the order was passed in consultation with the
Governor of the State, and as per Article 155 of Constitution of India, the
Governor of a state is appointed by President of India, and it can be said that
Governor of a State is representative of the Union Government, hereby the Union
Government has consulted itself, violating the principles of Article 370(1).
A number of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the
constitutionality of this move. The Centre's decision to abrogate provisions
of Article 370 was "unconstitutional" since people of Jammu and Kashmir were
"bypassed" and any proposal for altering the constitutional status of the
erstwhile state should emanate from the citizens there, one of the petitioners
said in the Supreme Court.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, said that Jammu and Kashmir was under
President's Rule from December 19, 2018 till October 31 this year and "will of
the people" was not there in the concurrence given by state for abrogation of
provisions of Article 370.
"The record indicates that neither the President nor the Governor held any
consultations on the issue either with the public at large or with members of
the legislative council," Ramachandran said in his outline of submissions which
was handed over to the bench.
Further, following the abrogation of Article 370, section 144 of the criminal
procedure code was imposed, internet services were cutoff, political leaders and
activists were put on house arrest, thereby hampering the fundamental right to
speech and expression.
Although this decision was a landmark decision and an important one to provide
the state with an equal status as that of others states of India, nevertheless
it hampered the development and freedom of the state and its people.
Threat to journalistsThe media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy in India, and it plays
a crucial role in the country's social, political, economic and international
affairs. Accordingly, the freedom of press is a sine qua non for the survival
and success of democracy and to preserve such values of a transparent
governance. However, recently concern of India's clampdown on freedom of
expression has grown since the beginning of pandemic with the government
actively trying to censor media to cover up the actual severity of the ongoing
public health crisis. Not only in respect of covering information of the
pandemic, journalists are being threatened, beaten and arrested for merely doing
A shocking study published in 2020 called Behind Bars: Arrest and Detention of
Journalists in India 2010-20 found out that between 2010 and 2020 about 154
journalists were arrested or detained, out of which 40% of these cases were
reported in 2020 alone. In a recent article published by Reporters Without
Borders, it said India is one of the world's most dangerous countries for
journalists trying to do their job properly.¯4
The government is actively trying to curb journalist on reporting issues where
criticism of the government is a part. Journalists and activists like Disha Ravi, Sidhique Kappan,
Ravindra Saxena, Dhaval Patel, have been charged under seditions laws,
conspiracy against the state, inciting riots, merely for several reasons like
reporting information about the ongoing pandemic, assisting the farmers protest
or just travelling to the crime site to report a rape case.
Attack on minoritiesEver since the current government came into ruling in 2014, there was a sharp
increase in violence against religious minorities. This got worse when the
government was re-elected in 2019 followed by the passing of Citizenship
(Amendment) Act, 2019, which, many critics felt that these laws had the
potential to be used to control and discriminate against India's religious
minorities, particularly the Muslim community.
In a report by the South Asia
State of Minorities Report 2020, it declared India as a "dangerous and violent
space for Muslim minorities" ever since the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019
was passed. There was nation-wide protest held against the passing of CAA and
NRC laws, where students protesting were beaten, detained and threatened against
being part of these protests.
More than 50 Muslim deaths were reported in
February, 2020 amid violent communal riots held in the state of Delhi. Justice
S. Muralidhar was transferred from the Delhi High court when he rebuked the
police for taking no action during the riots. In 2020 with the spread of
Covid-19 cases there was a big propaganda shared by the print and electronic
media where the members of Tablighi Jamaat were vilified and Muslims all over
the country were scapegoated and blamed for the spread of the virus.
to a report by UK-based Minority Rights Group International indicate that
minority groups in India are increasingly encountering hate crimes, such as
lynching, threats, attacks on places of worship and forced conversion.
Caste-based violenceThe historically marginalized community of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes is subjected to a plenty of problems such as prejudice, poverty,
violence, discrimination etc.
According to the Annual Crime in India Report 2019 published by the National
Crimes Records Bureau, a crime against Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribe has
been recorded an increase of over 7% and 26% respectively in the year 2019. The
same report also produced that; 88 rape cases are recorded every day in India.5
In June, 2020 a hashtag Dalitlivesmatter trended on Twitter for days discussing
how the justice system was constantly failing survivors of caste-based violence.
Following the rape and death of 19-year-old Dalit women in a district of Uttar
Pradesh, the police officials without the permission and knowledge of the family
'cremated' the victim's body, several questions and backlash were raised on the
issue of alarmingly increasing violence against the Dalit community.
What obstructs the marginalized community from getting justice is that, more
than often, atrocities are not reported by the mainstream media. On June 6, 2020
a 17-year-old Dalit boy was shot dead by four upper caste men for visiting a
temple in Uttar Pradesh. This incident did not make it to the mainstream media
houses until people on social media expressed outrage.
Not only does the lower caste suffer through violence and discrimination but the
poverty rate is much higher among them as compared to the upper castes. Among
the lower castes, 81% of the STs, 66% of the SCs, and 58% of the OBCs live under
the poverty line. On the other hand, the poverty level among the rest of the
population is 33%.6
Since the re-election of the current government in 2019, there has been a
growing concern worldwide about the decline in India's democratic values. As the
world the horror COVID-19 unleashes on India, the world's largest democratic
government is going out of its way to curb journalists who are trying to expose
its inability to control the spread of the virus. Not only this, but such a
clampdown on media and the principal values of democracy has led to a
deterioration in the political and civil liberties promised to the citizens of
The Freedom House report showed concerned that the world's largest
democracy was slipping into authoritarianism under Prime Minister Narendra
Modi's government, and this claim without a doubt has been backed up ample of
instances that are taking place in the country every day.
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