Only Love can Save Democracy -Manas Agarwal

For over a year I have not shared my thoughts on the current Government’s policies or the general state of affairs in the country. I am not sure what prevented me from doing so. It could have been because I was working with the Government sector- not that I was forbidden from critiquing or because I found no point breaking my head against the wall. But, unlike some I totally blame myself and not Nehru for this. I abstained from posting anything on any social media platforms, I stopped commenting on senseless and illogical posts on those platforms, I even found myself pitying the people who were still writing and fighting against the government. Also, I stopped correcting people I know who were vigorously forwarding fake news without checking their authenticity. But today I don’t want to stand mute I want to write- not against the government but for the people, for the democracy, for the love and respect I have for India. 

Lakhs of people fought for the freedom that we in India enjoy today. Their ways were different, their contribution was different but their aim was the same- Freedom of India. They did not just envision a free India, but they saw a democratic India. But today all that is forgotten. Many families lost their loved ones, their everything for the Freedom and Democracy we are taking for granted today. 389 people sat through endless hours of brainstorming to give us The Constitution of India (the most sacred text of this nation). But today I believe that both the Government and the Citizens have forgotten the ethos that our forefathers envisioned.

What is Democracy? In its simplest sense it means rule by the public. India is always believed to remain in election mode. People are also believed to participate very enthusiastically. But is this enough? Robert Dahl, the great democracy theorist of the past century, laid down a simple set of processes to characterize genuine democracy, chief among them were inclusiveness and public contestation. Inclusiveness means that every citizen should have full access to all information, freedom of expression, and equal voting rights. Public contestation means that all political organizations and parties should be able to compete in elections and express their opinions on an equal footing. These ideals are really difficult to put in practise in country so populous and diverse, but now we have to decide to what extent are we ready to stick to them to save our democracy? Although Indians today without knowing the consequences have started favouring dictatorship. A Pew survey suggested that 53% of the Indians are favouring Military Rule. Are we tired of our Democracy? Many suggested that India’s democracy was never expected to survive but it has continued to persist and I still hope that India will recover in the Democracy index where our ranking has fallen to 51 in 2019. 

The last elections we saw were the Delhi assembly elections in February 2020. A Union Minister while campaigning for the ruling party in centre and opposition party in Delhi started shouting “Desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maro **** ko” forgetting that he holds an important post of Union Minister, and how can we question them when our very own Prime Minister while upholding his duties as campaign minister forgets that he is a Prime Minister of World’s biggest democracy. The Union Minister mentioned above although was asked to refrain from campaigning for few days by the Election Commission but the arrow had left the bow. His comments were all over the media and were supported by other MPs as well. Then the loyal bhakts came to his support and a man brandishing a gun fired at peaceful protestors’ rally. This is the level of dedication some of our countrymen have for their leaders. They can’t even be called as citizens because a citizen knows his duty towards a nation not towards a political party. I wonder that if a person could pick a weapon to kill people on a leader’s behest, could they also do the opposite and drop the guns and hatred start loving each other on their request? But no leader will ever want to do so. The political leaders have filled the people’s heart with hatred and now, for their survival they encash this hatred whenever they require to. The enemy of democracy in my opinion are not these politicians or media, it is this hatred we have in us for each other.

It was not the Cow’s meat but this hatred that killed Akhlaq in Dadri or Pahlu khan in Rajasthan. What was Ankit’s fault, who was brutally murdered in Delhi for loving a Muslim girl? All these instances show that it is the communal hatred that has led to several lynchings in India. Can a stronger law stop these lynchings? I highly doubt that. It is very difficult for the fear of law to remove hatred from our hearts. The present government cannot alone be blamed for this hatred. Kuldip Nayar while tracing the Communal differences far before independence in his book ‘Beyond The Lines’ wrote “The hiatus between them had been visible, at least in the urban areas, for a long time. They lived in separate localities, had separate eating places, and separate places for social gatherings. Railway stations had separate water pitchers, with ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ written in bold letters. A similar segregation was visible in government offices. There were no protests against the practice; no indignation. In college hostels, the kitchens were separate…..”

A son of an RSS person, an acquaintance of mine, considers a Muslim as his best friend. His father has been trying, for a long time, to make him think that Muslims are not trustworthy, that he should be staying away and not befriend them. This could have either of the two consequences. This could have either of the two consequences. He could begin harbouring hatred for the Muslims or could start disliking his father, and both the consequences will have negative impact on him. What I want to highlight is that this communal hatred has begun to make us hate people of our own community, if they do not hate those of the opposite community. If a Hindu doesn’t hate Muslims his own community will call him Vibhishan, he will be abused, called anti Modi, anti-national etc. Even one’s own family can turn against them, labelling them as “Liberals”, “Urban Naxals”, “Sickulars” etc. without even knowing the meaning of the terms. An expression of this on social media or group of friends might lead them to distance themselves. This hatred can cost a person his own family and friends. This pressure forces people to stop expressing their views, further endangering Democracy. 

The recent lynching in Palgarh (Maharashtra) is an example of my argument where 2 sadhus and their driver (all Hindus) were killed by the public in the presence of Police. Although the investigation is under process and nothing has come out yet but going with the Home Minister’s clarification all 101 FIRs are against the Hindus. The lynchings have no longer remained communal. We are killing people of our own community, that time is not far when we will kill people of our own family. What’s shocking here is that there are around 9 minors believed to be involved in this lynching incident. We are seeding hatred in the hearts of our next generation.

Ankit was murdered in Delhi because he loved a Muslim girl. Yes, love can kill you. Hundreds of couples are killed in India because their love transcends their religion or caste.Their mistake was that they loved and our hatred for other community made us kill the person of our own community. There could be solutions like police protection should be given to them, government shall arrange security if they want to run and marry, helplines shall be created etc. etc. (although in our country only Anti Romeo squads are created) but this is not going to change things much. It is this hatred that is needed to be killed.

I cannot blame the media or the Government for this. I believe it is us who have enabled this and are to be blamed. If a minister asks us to shoot people and we condemn it he will be forced to stop making such comments. But we pick up guns and start shooting people instead, because we were just waiting for the orders. The politicians, in fact, say what we want them to say, rather what we allow them to say. In the rally, the Minister sahib was chanting “desh ke gaddaro ko” to which the public was replying “Goli maaro **** ko”. He had the public support. On the contrary, had public not responded, it might have stopped then and there. It was the hatred that the group of people had in their hearts they responded to the Minister’s appeal.
Media here is not to be blamed because it only shows us what we want to see. We let it tell us every morning, how our day is going to be and what should we eat or what should we wear. We choose to watch it every day and give them enough TRP to continue with all the nonsense. So, one’s morning news is soaked up with astronomy, afternoon news is replaced up by gossips of different daily soaps and evening news by non- pragmatic debates which tries to fill our hearts with hatred. If the channel favours the Government and instead of questioning them, they advertise all the government policies without any hard facts and figures, we allow them to spoon feed us these notions. Very recently a very prominent news anchor of a news channel alleged the president of an opposition party responsible for Palgarh lynching. He further went on to ask if the situation would have been same if there were Maulvis or Padris in place of Hindu saints. The questions tried to paint the lynching in the colour of communal hatred. All was done in order to flatter the government, please the people and sustain their careers. But we need to stop consuming this poison, because more the ‘chatukarita’ increases the more it’s detrimental to the spirit of Democracy. Many channels claim to be India’s number one News channel, while India has fell down to rank of 142 in World Press Freedom Index ranking. We all know that media has sold their souls. They praise the Government in order to get government advertisements. Some media personals have lost their jobs, some have lost their lives while questioning the Government and trying to uphold its role in the democracy. Now it is on us to decide what to watch and what to reject.

Social media is another platform today spreading hatred and endangering democracy. We have no idea how damaging these IT cells of political parties can be. It is not only damaging country as a whole but also damaging us personally. A false news spreading hatred for a political party or a politician or any person is circulated without any facts and figures. There are various websites which fact checks the news. It requires only around 3-4 seconds for a person to google and check the facts but it takes just 1 second to forward that news. So, we generally tend to save on our time and vehemently keep forwarding these fake news without acknowledging the impact it is going to make on society. During recent assembly elections in Delhi I received a WhatsApp forward alleging that Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi was accused of rape in 1987 when he was the student at IIT. There was a clipping from an English newspaper with it covering the whole story. I was shocked but had some doubt so I googled it and got various websites confirming that the news was fake and clipping was made using some website It didn’t take me more than 5 seconds to know the reality but for several days I kept receiving the same message in different WhatsApp groups or status updates of various social media sites. This is the level of hatred we have for each other that for an election we have made a fake newspaper clipping alleging rape charges on a Chief Minister. Although it didn’t work but it shows us the level to which we can fall. Again, the IT cell is not to be blamed, it is us who in the interest of saving our 3 seconds and mindlessly forward anything that we receive on WhatsApp, without questioning the authenticity of the news. How can a democracy work where one casts the vote on the basis of fake news?
It is, we the people who gave ourselves the Democracy and it is our responsibility to save that Democracy. We cannot expect others to do something for us and even if they do, it would not have much effect because it’s us who have to together fight this hatred. As Balkavi Bairagi used to say darkness cannot be fought by waiting for sun to shine the next day, we have to light diyas and overcome darkness then and there. Hatred could have very devastating effects. This hatred led to the division of the country once and we have no idea what consequences this will have now. Many years ago, a voice was silenced who preached non-violence and love even in that times. India might need a Gandhi soon. And if not Gandhi his ideology is the last arrow in the quiver. The fight has to be fought transcending the religions and castes. Everyone has to come together. The strength of the first war of independence or the 1857 revolt was that the Hindus and the Muslims fought together for a common cause, the liberation from the Britishers. The effect that war had is known to all. Again, we have to fight together to liberate ourselves from this hatred, to revive our democracy. The title song of B.R. Chopra Mahabharat says “seekh hum beetein dinon se naye yug ka karein swagat” (let’s welcome a new age keeping in mind the learnings of the past days). There always remains a ray of hope.