Justice Markandey Katju, former judge, Indian Supreme Court-
Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own
In his article ‘ As the UK embraces its diversity, Indians need to ask why India is turning its back on its own ‘ published in thewire.in, Siddhartha Varadarajan has made a scathing criticism of the polarization of Indian society, and vilification and sidelining of Indian Muslims, and pointed out that there is not a single Muslim minister in the Central Government.
He concluded by saying ” This is modern India’s ugly reality, and the sooner we recognize it and start working for change, the better “.
With great respect to Siddhartha, he has unfortunately not gone deeper into the issue and has not enquired how this polarization in our society has come about, nor has he said anything about how the change he talks of can occur. I am therefore venturing to submit my own views for consideration.
The first thing we must understand is that secularism is a feature of industrial society (as prevail in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and now China ). It is not a feature of feudal or semi-feudal societies. India is still semi feudal ( as is evident from the rampant casteism and communalism prevalent here ).
The Indian Constitution no doubt proclaims India as a secular country, but the ground reality is very different. After all, the Constitution is only a piece of paper. The truth is that in our country most ( not all ) Hindus are communal, and so are most Muslims. When a Muslim is lynched, most Hindus are indifferent, and many even inwardly happy ( one terrorist less ! ).
This was the situation even before the BJP came to power in 2014, but communalism was then to some extent checked by the then-ruling Congress or other ‘secular’ parties, not because they were really concerned about the welfare of Muslims, but with an eye on the large Muslim vote bank ( which is particularly important in North India ). After 2014, of course, polarization in our society has increased exponentially.
When most Indians go to vote they have only caste and religion in their minds, and real issues like unemployment, price rise, lack of proper healthcare and good education are largely ignored.
India is perpetually in an election mode. There are 28 states and 8 union territories in India, and elections are taking place, or preparations are going on, somewhere or the other all year round. Therefore, the communal and casteist pot has to be kept perpetually boiling by our politicians.
When our Constitution was being framed our Constitution makers opted for parliamentary democracy, as in England. But in India parliamentary democracy has largely become caste and communal vote banks. So unless an alternative to parliamentary democracy is thought out and implemented, the change which Siddhartha talks of will just not occur, however much wishful thinking we may do, and Indian society will remain polarized. Parliamentary democracy divides the people ( on caste and communal lines ), and so needs to be replaced by a system that unites them.
Eighty percent of Indians are Hindus, and therefore the party which claims to represent Hindus will have an upper hand in parliamentary democracy.
What will be that alternative to parliamentary democracy which can take the country forward, and how it can be created, are the questions that serious, patriotic, and modern-minded Indians must now ponder upon and figure out.
Homilies and platitudes, and superficial analyses, will take us nowhere.