Our Farcical Democracy
Written sometime before the December 2007 elections in Gujarat which confirmed Narendra Modi in power yet again, the following article is a critical appraisal of the state of affairs in the country by a practicing Supreme Court Advocate, ABDUL RASHID QUREISHI.
On 15th August 2007, the largest democracy of the world celebrated its 60th birthday. At birth, the British christened it with a system of governance called ‘Democracy’ – modern, civil and benevolent. The British have a constitutional monarchy but thought it beneficial for India to have democracy. We, as a nation are proud to trumpet our self as a modern and civilized society, quick to criticize our neighbouring countries of being dictatorial and therefore primitive and oppressive in governance, be it Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
In the first place, our beloved democracy is often a result of elections in which, on an average only 40-45% of the populace votes. The remaining 55-60% does not participate because they do not have the right of negative voting i.e. to say that they don’t want a particular individual to be elected. Is this government really BY the people? Then there are innumerable parties and its splinter groups to distribute the booty of those 45% votes, some of those parties getting less than 1% of the total.
They then scramble to stitch together some alliance of convenience so as to ensure power by hook or by crook. When parties with different ideologies come together to form a government, they are bound to clash and collide. They merely stick together, else they sink. Again, what is the good reason to have so many political parties? USA, UK and Israel have only two major parties – the ruling and the opposition, but want India to have so many political parties. Is it merely to ensure India does not come out of internal squabbling?
A six-month Tehelka investigation threw up irrefutable evidence of many horrific incidents that have remained contested in the last five years. But can the court take it as evidence? No! Because they are extra-judicial admissions and not confessions before the Magistrate. They need to be proved before the court. And you know that the system has a way of evading what it wants to. A living example is that of the 1993 Bombay blast cases, which are decided and convicts are on their way to the gallows, but fourteen years later the discussions on issuance of a Government Notification to file FIRs for the December 1992 Babri Masjid demolitions are yet being debated in the Supreme Court of India, although the latter was the cause while Bombay blasts were the effect/ consequence.
Now let’s be honest. What best do you expect the courts to do after the Tehelka expose? The Supreme Court is revered for its having once issued a writ on receiving a postcard from a jail inmate, and today when the perpetrators of crimes rival with each other to say with pride what they did, the same Supreme Court sits tight as a mute spectator.
Nearly six years have passed and nothing has been done by democracy to pin the perpetrators. They walk boldly, far from any trace of remorse. The Congress party is careful not to ask for removing Modi now, for that would go against political wisdom before election. But the question that comes to mind is, whether the Congress can ask for his removal after Modi comes back to power after the December 2007 election? Rest assured, no one will ever ask for his removal because democracy has installed him in power.
What Tehelka has revealed is, indeed, commendable, but how does it help us? In the world’s largest democracy the victims, the perpetrators and the instigators were all citizens of India. The master-minds became the elected representatives of people. They were, are and will be re-elected again with thumping majority. The protectors of life were not just abettors of crime, they were co-conspirators and executors. The courts’ silence was criminal.
In Tehelka’s special issue of 17th November 2007, Mr. Ram Jethmalani former Law Minister and senior Supreme Court advocate said in his concluding remarks that if the Central government does not displace Modi’s government, then both, the Central and Gujarat State governments will have to be ‘democratically’ displaced. Sorry Sir, Modi is coming back to power democratically on 16th December 2007.
Honestly, are you still hopeful that the system CAN do something to atone for the collective guilt? Rights of minorities are a farce in democracy. In fact, by definition, democracy is the ‘will of the majority’ (I mean the fragmented 45% voting populace, not the 55% silent ones). Please excuse me; I don’t want to be fooled any longer. This is ‘demoncrazy’, not a ‘people-friendly’ government.
[The author, a practicing advocate in the Supreme Court of India, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]