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OPINION

Indian Democracy Is In Trouble

Indian Democracy Is In Trouble

Indian Democracy Is In Trouble

MIKE XU '24

Contributing Writer

April 27, 2023

Maadhavan Prasanna '25

Hindu nationalism in India is not a modern phenomenon. However, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, it has intensified, culminating in violent clashes and rampant discrimination against Muslim and Sikhs. In one such incident, according to the BBC, a “Muslim bangle seller was slapped, kicked and punched by a Hindu mob [and] arrested the next day,” following a false allegation of assault by the daughter of one of his attackers. Modi’s government has consistently supported Hindu attackers over non-Hindu victims. 


India was once a shining ray of democratic hope as it shattered the shackles of British imperialism. Today, that same democracy is threatened by Hindu nationalists’ demonization of minority groups. 


This trend stems from politicians looking to appeal to their Hindu constituents, who make up a majority of the country. These politicians do so by appealing to humankind’s tendency to discriminate against those who are different. The suppression of minorities has diminished the presence of the Muslim press, leading to the harassment of civil society groups and the imprisonment of Muslim activists. The media, a pillar of democracy, has caved under government pressure to report anti-Muslim propaganda, leaving little room for independent voices. 


The judiciary, which is supposed to be the protector of the Constitution and minorities’ rights, is also under attack. According to the University of Pennsylvania, “Only 4% of High Court judges in India are Muslim, despite [the fact that Muslims make up about] 15% of the population.” In recent years, the Court’s decisions have reflected that lack of representation — one recent ruling came to the conclusion that “a mosque was not essential to Muslim mode of worship,” according to the Times of India. 


Democratic rights, such as impartial courts, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, and the integrity of the electoral process must be fortified and threats to those institutions by violent Hindu nationalists must be eliminated. This could be done by taking steps to increase the number of Muslim justices in courts, reducing air time for proponents of toxic Hindu nationalism, and ensuring proportionate representation for religious minotirits in the Electoral Commision of India. 


While India might seem far away from Hotchkiss, India’s toxic nationalism is mirrored in recent political developments in the United States. The U.S. has also seen the rise of right-wing extremism and attacks on the press made by many prominent politicians, including former president Trump. In the U.S., baseless accusations of election fraud spread by conservatives led the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, 2021. 


This can further be seen in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ policymaking, with the passage of bills such as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Given that DeSantis is a potential presidential candidate, his record of demonizing minorities is particularly troubling. 


The situation has worsened with the rise of conspiracy theories who have undermined public trust in democratic institutions and increased nationalistic fervor. The Indian press, for instance, seeking to increase revenue and whip up support from the Hindu majority, has been disseminating conspiracy theories that depict minorities as dangerous. One such theory is accusations of “love jihad” — a conspiracy theory that accuses Muslim men of seducing Hindu women in order to force them to convert to Islam. 


Two of the world’s largest democracies are being assaulted by nationalist extremism, which is increasingly being accepted as mainstream. Accusations of “love jihad” and election fraud have allowed leaders like Narendra Modi and Donald Trump to exploit the people’s fears in order to increase their own political capital. 


Prompt action must be taken to protect minorities’ rights and weaken extreme nationalism by educating the populaces of democratic nations. If this wave of hate in India and the U.S. is not stemmed, the very notion of a democratic nation that stands for all its people will be irreparably damaged and minorities continue to suffer.

Maadhavan Prasanna is a contributing writer for The Record.

February 1st

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Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.

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