What is Indian Democracy

Comment: India's democracy is dying

It was a project close to the heart of the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru: a university that combines top performance and equal opportunities. A place that provides high-quality education to young people from all over the country - also from the less developed states of the South Asian country. Today the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in India.

I can still remember the day when I walked onto campus for the first time and walked down a narrow path to the Center for Social Sciences. The path was lined with a fig tree, in the shade of which famous Indian scholars such as Romila Thapar, Sudipta Kaviraj, Rajeev Bhargava and even Abhijit Banerjee, who won the Nobel Prize only last year, had sat.

Thugs attack students and lecturers

Fellow students reported on historic student protests at the JNU when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in the 1970s. Or they talked about how JNU students protected Sikhs during the riots in 1984. I myself took part in hunger strikes during my short time in the student council. But I would never have imagined, and never wanted, that masked thugs - armed with sticks and stones - would one day storm the campus and attack students and lecturers.

  • India in turmoil

    No connection

    The Indian government has shut down the internet in various parts of the country; the security situation has worsened. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh is particularly affected. The government fears a new wave of protests against changes to citizenship law that went into effect on December 11th.

  • India in turmoil

    In terms of the constitution?

    With the new law, Hindus, Sikhs, Jainists, Christians and Parsees from the predominantly Muslim neighboring states of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan can more easily obtain Indian citizenship. Critics fear that Muslims will be discriminated against because of their religion and that the change is incompatible with the country's secular constitution.

  • India in turmoil

    A civil register is not for everyone

    The Indian government is also preparing a National Register of Citizens (NRC). Its purpose is to identify illegal immigrants who will then be expelled. This could drive many millions of residents into statelessness, so the concern of critics. A similar law in the state of Assam has already excluded two million citizens.

  • India in turmoil

    Intellectual resistance

    Several liberal intellectuals, such as the world-famous writer Arundhati Roy, have harshly criticized the government for the law and plans of the civil register. Conservative politicians such as former Minister of Economic Affairs Subramanian Swamy are calling for Roy to be arrested. He accuses her of sedition.

  • India in turmoil

    Students against the new law

    Students from various universities across the country take to the streets to protest the law. Some student organizations are at the forefront of this. They use social media and graffiti (picture) for their mobilization campaigns.

  • India in turmoil

    Rigorous security forces

    The Indian authorities dispatched thousands of riot police to quell the protests. At least 25 people have been killed in the past two weeks. The Indian army chief sharply criticized the students.

  • India in turmoil

    Hindu nationalists are tough

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) show no concessions. They say the demonstrators do not understand the actual content of the law and are being stirred up by the opposition Congress Party.

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    The supporters

    Parade of the Rashitrya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Hyderabad to support the new law. The RSS is considered to be the parent organization of the BJP. It is a right-wing, Hindu nationalist, paramilitary organization.

    Author: Rodion Ebbighausen


The gap between the layers is growing

It is alarming to see how an ideological conflict is being waged in Indian universities, in which right-wing groups are increasingly using nationalism to stifle opposition.

The repeated criticism of the JNU that the university supported actions critical of the government could be a reason for the police inaction in the recent attacks on January 5th: Members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (AVBP), a student organization of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS ), the parent organization of the ruling BJP party, attacked secular students that day.

The students had peacefully protested against higher fees and the new citizenship law, which discriminated against Muslims. The masked attackers justified their unleashed violence with being part of a "united front against the left".

All of this now makes modern, progressive teaching and learning impossible. Mahatma Gandhi's speeches on civil disobedience, Michel Foucault's texts on discipline and Partha Chatterjee's lectures on good and bad nationalism only sound hollow in this environment. The gap between the educated and the masses is growing rapidly in India. The liberal values ​​of the country and the unconditional primacy of the law are coming under increasing pressure.

India is sliding into an ever deeper swamp because the ruling BJP is eroding the country's secular character. This is made possible because many people have become more skeptical about secularism in recent years. The breeding ground for this was the lack of intellectual culture and countless attacks on political decency.

The impending paralysis of Indian democracy

It is irritating that the anti-Muslim measures on the part of the government are not only popular with Hindu racists, but are also advocated by a growing number of people from the "moderate" bourgeoisie.

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This quite large group also includes many "tolerant Hindus" who are not necessarily anti-Muslim. However, scaremongering has also left them vulnerable to the anti-secular campaign of the Hindu nationalists. Accordingly, it is no longer just right-wing extremist groups who question the fundamental and equal rights of Muslims.

This development endangers the largest democracy in the world. It is time for India's seculars to stand together and disrupt fundamentalist discourse. India faces an uncertain future under the incumbent government. My concern goes even further: even if opposition parties eventually regain power, they will find it difficult to reverse the BJP's Hindu nationalist policies.