Modi’s illiberal majoritarian democracy: Future of Indian minorities in question
By Asad Wajeed
The word majoritarian is an adjective which relates to or constitutes a majority, majoritarian politics, or majoritarian democracy. It can be defined as a traditional political idea, philosophy or a practice according to which any decision whether political, social, or economic of an organised society should be made by a numerical majority of that society or it can be defined as a traditional political philosophy that stresses that a majority usually branded by religious, language, social class that also includes other recognising factors of individuals in a society are subject to a level of superiority in a society because of which they have a say in every affair of a society.
The concept of majoritarian dispensation in India under Narendra Modi has deep links with four other political philosophies, that is, Populism, Nationalism, Authoritarianism, and Sultanism. Before exploring Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India and its effects on the future of Indian minorities, I will first uncover the link of majoritarianism to political philosophies as mentioned.
A majoritarian leader is actually a populist leader who works hard for the concerns of people who he/she thinks are being ignored by the established elite groups in a society, and who always presents himself as a new man mostly of a modest and plebeian background against old political establishment, in spite of the fact that who is a seasoned political figure, but usually not centre stage. This is exactly what Modi is, because in his 2014 election campaign, he presented himself as a new man against the Ghandi family’s old political system, despite the fact that he was CM Gujarat at that time.
He also presented himself as someone who belongs to a very plebeian background, that he had to work in his father’s tea shop when he was a child. Whereas, nationalism is a political idea or a philosophy that promotes and protects the interests of a particular nation, nationalism is the bedrock of most of the populists and Modi is no exception. Modi is a majoritarian national-populist leader who since his childhood has been the member of RSS, and now is a full-time pracharak of RSS ideology that stresses that Hindus are the true and only sons of this Indian soil.
Rejecting political pluralism
Majoritarian national-populist leaders like Modi are basically authoritarian leaders who reject political pluralism, and this is exactly what Modi is doing in India. Modi and the BJP have made it clear that no other Party should compete with it, or is even needed, as indicative from its slogan of a ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (a Congress-free India). Whereas, Sultanism is a form of authoritarian Government and according to Max Weber Modi is a new sultan of India who is pushing India towards illiberal democracy by rejecting all kind of civil liberties particularly of the Indian Muslim minority.
Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India is basically the promotion of majoritarian democracy that asserts Hindus a special and superior status in India because they constitute 80.5 per cent of total Indian population and that this majoritarian policy protests Hindutva ideology that stresses that Hindus are the only sons of this soil and that strengthen the Hindu community. This majoritarian democracy is a big question mark on India as the world biggest liberal democracy because continuous violence, rejection of civil liberties, and crimes against the minorities that are Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians have been on the increase. About 1.8 million people who are minority communities are tortured in Police custody every year. The word murder of minorities has been replaced by the term encounter killings.
Torture has increased to such a huge extent that it questions the credibility of the rule of law and criminal justice. Hindu nationalists are revolting all around India, especially against Muslims, because they are the largest minority in India, constituting 13.4 per cent of total population and because Hindus have resentment toward their religion, Christians and Sikhs are no exception to their violence because they too constitute 2.3 per cent and 1.9 per cent of total Indian population.
Safeguarding only Hindu’s civil rights and liberties
Unfortunately, India under Modi is crawling from the world’s biggest liberal democracy to illiberal majoritarian democracy which is promoting and safeguarding only Hindu’s civil rights and liberties and that which is negating minority’s civil liberties and civil rights especially rights and liberties of Muslims of India. One such example of this is the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). Under the Act, for the first time in India, religion is a basis for granting citizenship.
According to some, this Citizenship Amendment Bill by the BJP is an intentional act in order to marginalise Muslims from mainstream politics. In addition to this, Muslims are not only being tortured at their religious places for their religious affiliations, but they are also being tortured at their educational institutions, which is evident from a video of 15 December 2020, where Delhi Police brutally tortured Muslim students of Jamia Millia Islamia University.
Keeping in mind Modi’s illiberal majoritarian democracy, the future of liberal democracy or pluralistic India appears to be gloomy, where the future of Indian minorities especially Muslims is a big question mark.