Monday, March 26, 2012

In a real democracy

A democracy is a system whereby all citizens have a vote, and a majority vote decides who will make decisions for the rest of us for a given number of years. By definition and in form, that is all it promises. Our constitution, however, offers us more than just a system of governance. It offers us rights and freedoms.

This makes for complex situations. Say, I want to play music at midnight but this interferes with the neighbours’ right to sleep peacefully.

A good democracy is one that allows us the right to make others uncomfortable, as long as we are not physically damaging them or their property. Which means that if I believe that you are immoral or indecent for wanting to strip down to your birthday suit as a form of protest, that’s okay. I can think and say what I believe. But if I assault you in response, that is not okay.

Therefore, in a real democracy, a small group of 13 activists can march about carrying placards, asking that cities be safe for women. The Delhi police should not prevent them from walking about with placards saying “Keep men at home after 8”. They certainly should not rough up the men who join such a march.

We all owe each other certain basic currencies of citizenship. I do owe it to my fellow-citizens to not murder them, or prevent them from earning an honest living. But I do not owe anyone the convenience of reaching to work swiftly, on smooth, protest-free roads, especially if your work and your air-conditioned offices demand the sacrifice of my children’s health.

Therefore, a real democracy does not send in 6,000 armed policemen to deal with a bunch of unarmed villagers who do not want a nuclear energy plant in their backyard. The villagers of Kudankulam (in Tamil Nadu) do not owe it to the rest of us to put up with radiation risks. Sure, the government and other promoters of nuclear energy can scream about how their fears are unfounded. They can promise jobs as compensation. But to send in policemen or paramilitary to deal with a non-violent protest, or arrest protesters for sedition is unconstitutional. And in a real democracy, it would be illegal.

Read full piece here.

Update: There's a open letter from an activist who is on a hunger fast against the nuclear power plant in Kudankulam/Koodankulam. He says there have been instances of the police trying to force fishermen to go fishing to keep up appearances of normalcy, and cutting off  food and other supplies to the protesters. Here's an extract from his letter

"The governments here are taking up a new weapon now and that is our alleged links with Naxalites (Maoists). They are fabricating evidences and concocting conversations to establish that we have connections with Naxal youth and trying to portray us as a violent group. The whole world knows that we have been struggling for the past eight months in a nonviolent manner with absolutely no violence or terror. They will fail as they have in the “foreign hand” and “foreign money” accusations. The governments are desperately trying to provoke our people to prove their theory that “ordinary citizens” of our country do not have a mind of their own; they cannot think for themselves; they cannot stand up for their rights and entitlements in a nonviolent noncooperation campaign; and most importantly, these fishermen, Nadars, Dalits, Muslims, women and children are all dispensable for the growth of the Chennai-based and Delhi-based multi-billionaires."


sundar said...

Democracy is bent for the benefit of those in power and still we call us the biggest country which follows Democracy.

Dr Mandeep Khanuja said...

i have read so many posts and article on democracy,corruption,right to protest etc etc. Yours by far is the best....superb work,love it !

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