Political Polarization and Democracy Erosion in Contemporary India

What was once considered one of the world’s largest and most vibrant democracies is now facing challenges that threaten the very foundations of its democratic principles. This erosion is marked by a series of events, policy changes, and ideological shifts that have raised questions about the future of democratic governance in the country.

At the heart of this erosion lies the rise of Hindutva ideology, a nationalist and exclusive interpretation of Hinduism that seeks to establish a Hindu-majoritarian state. Hindutva has gained significant prominence in Indian politics, shaping policies, influencing decisions, and impacting the socio-cultural fabric of the nation.

The erosion of democracy in India is deeply intertwined with human rights violations that have emerged as a result of various factors, including the rise of Hindutva ideology. The violation of human rights, such as freedom of expression, religious freedom, and equal rights for minority communities, raises critical concerns about the state of democracy and social justice.

Hindutva’s emphasis on a Hindu-majoritarian identity undermines the secular and pluralistic values enshrined in India’s constitution. This has led to unequal treatment of religious communities, eroding the idea of a diverse and inclusive society.

The promotion of Hindutva has contributed to the polarization of Indian society along religious lines. This division fosters tensions, hostility, and discrimination among different religious communities, weakening the social fabric and hindering democratic dialogue.

The erosion of democracy is evident in the suppression of dissenting voices and the curtailment of freedom of expression. Individuals and groups critical of the government or Hindutva ideology often face harassment, legal action, or even violence.

Legislative changes, such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), have raised concerns about the unequal treatment of minority communities. These changes have the potential to strip citizenship rights from vulnerable groups based on their religion.

The erosion of democracy is exacerbated by threats to the independence of the judiciary. The appointment of judges with perceived ideological alignments, coupled with instances of interference, raises questions about the judiciary’s ability to uphold democratic values.

The media’s role in a democracy is pivotal, but its integrity is compromised when manipulated by vested interests. Disinformation campaigns, biased reporting, and self-censorship hinder the public’s access to accurate information, impacting their ability to make informed decisions.

Consequences of Democratic Principles and Human Rights

The rise of Hindutva ideology and the erosion of democratic values have led to the weakening of democratic institutions. The impartiality and autonomy of institutions such as the judiciary, election commission, and media have been compromised, affecting their ability to uphold democratic norms.

Hindutva’s exclusionary approach has resulted in the erosion of India’s rich religious and cultural diversity. The marginalization of religious minorities and attempts to homogenize culture challenge the essence of pluralism that democracy thrives on.

The erosion of democracy has led to a shrinking space for religious freedom and freedom of expression. Individuals and communities are deterred from practicing their religion freely, while dissenting voices face suppression and legal harassment.

The erosion of democratic principles disproportionately affects marginalized communities, including religious minorities, Dalits, and indigenous groups. These communities are often targeted, facing violence, discrimination, and socio-economic marginalization.

India’s international reputation as a democratic and diverse nation has been tarnished due to the erosion of democratic values and human rights violations. The rise of Hindutva and its associated consequences have raised concerns among global observers about the direction India is taking.

Case Studies: Examples of Democracy Erosion and Human Rights Violations

The Ayodhya dispute and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 exemplify how the rise of Hindutva ideology has led to communal violence and the destruction of religious sites, undermining the secular fabric of India.

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have sparked protests and concerns about the exclusion of religious minorities from citizenship. These policies further marginalize vulnerable communities.

Instances of mob violence, lynching, and attacks on religious minorities and Dalits showcase the human rights violations that have occurred in the context of the erosion of democracy and the rise of Hindutva ideology.

According to Kashmir Media services HR Violations in IIOJK includes:

(From Jan 1989 till 30 Jun 2023)
Total Killings96,213
Custodial killings7,297
Civilian arrested168,009
Structures Arsoned/Destroyed110,500
Women Widowed22,960
Children Orphaned1,07,903
Women gang-raped / Molested11,259

Sikhs in India have long faced discrimination and marginalization, often due to their distinct religious identity. This discrimination can manifest in various forms, including limited access to resources, educational and employment opportunities, and political representation. Sikh individuals and communities have been treated as second-class citizens, leading to social and economic disparities.

The erosion of democratic values has also affected academic and cultural freedoms. Instances of censorship and suppression of artistic expressions that challenge the dominant narrative are evident.

Inclusive and open dialogue between all sections of society, including marginalized communities, is essential for understanding grievances and finding common ground. Honest discussions can lead to constructive solutions that address the root causes of democratic erosion.

Strengthening legal safeguards for minority rights is crucial to ensure their protection within the democratic framework. Laws that uphold religious freedom, equality, and non-discrimination are vital in preventing further erosion of democratic values.

The restoration of democracy requires strengthening checks and balances within governance mechanisms. This includes ensuring an independent judiciary, transparent electoral processes, and accountable government institutions.

Media plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion and holding those in power accountable. Upholding media integrity and unbiased reporting is essential to counter disinformation campaigns and promote informed civic engagement.

Hindutva’s influence, accompanied by the erosion of democratic values and human rights violations, has had profound consequences on India’s social fabric. The interplay of these factors has raised concerns about the nation’s direction.

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at National Defense University. His interests include history, politics, and current affairs. He has been published in the London Institute of Peace and Research, South Asian Journal, Diplomatic Insight, International Policy Digest, Sri Lanka Guardian, Global Village Space, Global Defense Insight, Global Affairs, And Modern Diplomacy. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

Wasama Khalid
Wasama Khalid

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing his Bachelors in International Relations at National Defense University (NDU). He has a profound interest in history, politics, current affairs, and international relations. He is an author of Global Village Space, Global Defense Insight, Global Affairs, and Modern Diplomacy. He tweets at @Wasama Khalid and can be reached at Wasamakhalid@gmail.com

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