Preserving Indian Plurality
In a Democracy, the role of civil society is very important. It is the duty of the civil society to highlight the plight of the people and compel the government to take remedial measures. In short, to make a democracy work, civil society should play the role of pressure group.
Unfortunately in India, which is often touted as the largest working Democracy in the world, civil society has failed to perform its role. Instead of working as a pressure group, it has churned out a number of individuals who are more interested in personal gains, rather than securing relief for fellow citizens. It’s a pity that barring a few like Anna Hazare, many civil society leaders in this country are spineless.
How effective the civil society is in India, can be judged by the fact that finally, after more than seven decades of independence, we have a Lokpal system in place, which can independently inquire into any allegation against anyone connected with the government. The political circle was not interested in such an independent body. But due to relentless pressure from Anna Hazare and his supporters, today Lokpal is a reality. How difficult the road to Lokpal was, is proven by the fact that even after the legislation was passed, for more than five years, the post of Lokpal was vacant. The political circle relented only after Anna Hazare went for indefinite fast before the last general elections.
But despite having the sword in our possession, we are using it for shaving. The Indian civil society is not independent. Rather, it is dancing to the tunes of political parties. Take the example of war of letters by two groups of civil society. One group wrote a letter to the Prime Minister protesting lack of tolerance in the society. Within no time the other group came out with another letter literally justifying the growing intolerance in the country by citing a total of 13 incidents. According to them, intolerance was allowed to rise as those incidents happened. From the letters, it is clear that the civil society in India is clearly divided on partisan lines and we will have to learn to live with intolerance.
Will the civil society ever examine the real cause behind growing intolerance? No one in particular can be held responsible for this trend. It is a result of neglecting the tolerant nature of Indian society for thus long. Instead of strengthening it, we allowed it to be used as vote banks. We didn’t ensure enough growth to enable our youths to get jobs. Health and education are the two most neglected sectors in this country. Our leaders are aware about the ground reality, they know their performances will not fetch votes. So, ignoring the promise made in the Indian Constitution to make India secular, political parties spend all their energy on creating captive electorate to ensure continuance in power. Youths, who are spreading intolerance today in the society, are actually venting their anger against the system and they are being encouraged by those whom they call leaders.
Beyond a doubt, intolerance in the country has reached a tipping point. Something needs to be done on war footing to preserve the age-old Indian culture of plurality. Blame game or mud throwing against each other will not lead us anywhere apart from destruction. Is the civil society listening?