Neerja Chowdhury in an edit page article titled ‘The decline of democracy’ published in the New Indian Express dated June 16, 2008 refers to two observations of a German student visiting India .
The first observation, ‘Delhi is not India’ ,though often repeated as to become cliché, is but a truth. In most countries, the national capital holds in a gist, the character and characteristics of the whole. But, in India, a foreign visitor who sees Delhi first and thinks it as India is in for a shock when he travels to other regions. So amazing and unbelievable is India’s diversity on all counts.
The second and more important observation made by our German visitor, says Neerja, is that while there is much hype of we being the world’s largest democracy, there is little evidence of democratic functioning in many parts of the country ------- be it in the police, local authorities, political parties and even families. Neerja cites numerous happenings in the week prior to her article as proof.
Excepting the fact that elections in India are conducted, by and large, in a free and fair manner, the ordinary Indian has been at the receiving end in the hands of the state apparatus. Large sections of Indian officialdom still consider it their birthright to lord over their subjects and put them to trouble and misery. The state is unresponsive and unyielding. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar bemoaned this in his writings when he stated that individual rights and personal freedom were alien concepts in India’s civilisational history. The Emergency of 1975 is a fine example.
The observation of the German student, confirmed by our experience, indicates that sixty years of being a Republic has not led to any attitudinal shift in the rulers over the ruled. Their mentality is fossilized in the colonial era with little prospects of change.