Opinion: Democracy, But Not As We Know It

When Americans think about their democracy, the worst kind of injury involved is mud-slinging and slander. When Indians think about their democracy, on the other hand, the specter of violence and bloodshed often comes to mind.

This provokes the democracy debate. What truly constitutes democracy? There are currently seventy-eight countries that claim to have a form of a democratic government. Some of these governments have been around for hundreds of years, like America’s; others are only a few months old, as in Egypt. India is also a democratic government, but from an American standpoint, since when does democracy entail rioting and bloodshed?

Indian politician Narendra Modi, whose selection as prime ministerial candidate by the BJP has invited controversy. (Picture from his official Flickr).

Indian politician Narendra Modi, whose selection as prime ministerial candidate by the BJP has invited controversy. (Picture from his official Flickr).

Recently, the Bharatiya Janata Party announced their decision to put forth Narendra Modi as their candidate for India’s prime ministerial elections, occurring next spring. Modi is unapologetically polarizing. As evidenced by his nomination for election, he has followers who support him and desire to see him in more authoritative positions in the future. Others view him as a Muslim-murdering, biased Hindu zealot. Modi has been accused of demonizing Muslims and it’s not a secret that he peppers his speeches with anti-Muslim phrases. India’s Hindus admire him and India’s Muslims abhor him.

Following his selection by the Bharatiya Janata Party, there were violent protests and bloody riots in Uttar Pradesh due to a video of two Hindus being lynched by a Muslim mob. The video was circulated by a member of Modi’s party and understandably did little to ameliorate the already tense relations between the two religions. Forty-four people were killed in these protests. Can you even imagine forty-four people being murdered after Romney won the presidential nomination for the Republican Party? It’s a terrifying thought.

So what separates American democracy from Indian democracy? My first idea was that there is no division of church and state. But actually, India is a secular country. This means that it is forbidden to discriminate against members of a particular religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. So how is it possible such religiously intolerant politicians are able to gain nomination for prime minister? I don’t know. Is it ethically or democratically right that a politician like Modi is able to secure a place in the Indian election? I don’t think so.

The question begs that if Modi was to be elected as India’s prime minister, what would that mean for India’s Muslim population? Should there be such a polarizing and unrepentantly discriminatory leader in power? In America, the obvious answer is no. To be an effective leader, it’s important to keep one’s personal opinions concerning religion, race and gender on the “down low,” and Modi would be doing the complete opposite of this.

Recent history does not have a great track record with “effective world leaders.” Just recently, Iraq was ruled by the dictator Saddam Hussein and Egypt was governed by the undemocratic Mohamed Morsi. To this day, Russians live under the homophobic Putin and North Korea suffers under the threatening Kim Jong-un. Another great world power like India doesn’t need a leader that discriminates or corrupts. Democracy isn’t a safe term anymore. Democracies have had leaders in authoritative positions that have proved to be wholly undemocratic.

So on that note, let’s hope India doesn’t let history repeat itself.

— Megan Evershed, Staff Writer

Posted by on September 19, 2013. Filed under Op-Ed. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry