Time to Revamp Indian Democracy?

By Moorthy Muthuswamy PhD, November 2004


In a recent series published in Indian Express, former cabinet minister in NDA coalition, Mr. Arun Shourie has pointed out the dysfunctional nature of an elected democratic regime when it came to making much-need and rudimentary steps to rollback militant Islam (The Silent Demographic Invasion). Specifically, he was referring to the "nationalistic" NDA regimeís inability to even repeal the IMDT Act.

His analysis, taken together with the history of elected regimes in appeasing militant Islam, including Article 370 -- a backbone of militant Islamís assault against the "infidel" India, points to systemic deficiencies in the way democracy functions in India.

Under Indian democracy, the Muslim majority in Kashmir has reserved most opportunities for itself at the expense of non-Muslims (The woes of Jammu and Ladakh, India, the Kashmiri colony). Over 300,000 non-Muslims have been driven out of Kashmir valley to the rest of India. In Kerala where Muslims hold one power center, opportunities and resources again were selectively used to favor themselves at the expense of Hindus (For Hindus in Kerala it's now or never). These are all attributes of the power and expanding influence of militant Islam and Indian democracyís inability to confront it. Now, militant Islam sponsored terrorism is gaining ground in Northeast. This must be seen in the context of massive ethnic cleansing and marginalizing of non-Muslims from parts of former British-ruled India that are now Muslim majority Pakistan and Bangladesh. Through these years under democracy India took no action to stop this Hitler-like fascism of militant Islam, but meekly accepted Hindu and Sikh refugees. These are the underlying dynamics of proselytizing India has had to contend with.

In light of that there is no point in just preparing volumes of material giving "expert advice" to leaders and regimes in power what they should do and not do with regard to security issues. Well, simply nothing effective will likely be done under the current system. Unconfronted, the democratically elected regimes in power will continue their track record of appeasing militant Islam with India irreversibly descending into chaos.

Put the critical issues ahead of everything else

The attributes of modern-day problem-solving lies in putting critical issues first and then build everything around to facilitate problem-solving. Let me give an analogy: For a family with a very sick child, it is natural for them to orient their entire life in order that the child gets the best medical treatment and is cured.

Indian strategic experts in my opinion, should first place solving the problem of militant Islam ahead and then look to see what kind of a reform or changes that need to be made in Indian democratic system of governing to get the job done.

This approach has been lacking thus far.

Indian democracy -- not home-grown

The British democratic system evolved along with British society for several hundred years in England. This gave both the British society and the system time to make adjustments with each other. This was not the case in India, which inherited an alien British-based democratic system in 1947.

Even the recent wealth creation associated with software industry we have seen in India is through private initiatives with the elected democratic regimes playing little role.

Those who think that militant Islam can be neutralized within the current democratic context are just missing the big picture. Not only Indian track record thus far shows otherwise, one can note the near-absence of democracy in Muslim majority nations. Besides, militant Islamís goal is to expand Islamís frontiers and it sees India as the unfinished agenda of medieval Muslim conquest. Hence militant Islam is not looking for coexistence in a "infidel" majority state it sees in India.

There has been a rethink even by many western experts about the applicability of Western-styled democracy in different conditions. Recently, Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek has published a book "The future of freedom: Illiberal democracy at home and abroad" in which he too has voiced similar views. In a review of Zakariaís book, Samuel Huntington (who foresaw the clash with militant Islam in his seminal work, "The clash of civilizations") observes: "unregulated democracy undermines liberty and the rule of law".

It has become absolutely clear that there must be changes in the way democracy is practiced in India in order for it to defeat militant Islam to survive as a civilization.

Areas to focus on

Think Tanks need to work toward revamping the Indian democratic system and educate the public by emphasizing the following points:

Think Tanks need to publish detailed plans of how India can defeat militant Islam. For instance, such a plan may involve declaring emergency or even martial law in certain parts or the entire nation. A civilization that doesnít even discuss how to defeat an enemy can never defeat the enemy. Military and religious institutions in Pakistan have created volumes of work on how to Islamize India. But there is hardly any published work on how India can defeat militant Islam. The result is that Pakistan has succeeded in escalating jihad and India has no plans to neutralize this survival threat. Only through such analysis Indians will understand the magnitude of the threat and the changes they need to make under the current form of democracy to defeat militant Islam.

Given Indian militaryís massive involvement and its insights into battling militant Islam (and politiciansí proven lack of it), it may be necessary to give a cabinet rank representation to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Indian military. Prime Minister meeting with military commanders once in a while to "listen" to them is simply not enough. Indian military needs to be part of the decision making when it comes to security matters. Military staff should be giving frequent briefings to the press and the members of Indian parliament on security matters. In short there need to be more involvement of Indian military at decision-making levels and its direct exposure to the public. Both Indian military and the public need to be aware of each otherís responsibilities and progress in this long war of civilization India is faced with.

Given that security is among the elected regimes number one priority and particularly so with Indiaís, the Prime Minister or the candidate must have a vision of how he/she is planing to defeat and rollback militant Islam. It has become clear that only a massive defeat of militant Islam can ensure peace. It is a must in my opinion to question and discuss the credentials of the people in power or the prospective candidates -- as leaders without strategic outlook have a higher chance of making blunders in their dealings with militant Islam (When are India and Pakistan ready for peace?).

India experts need to do a much better job of articulating to the Indian public the big picture associated with militant Islamic expansion in South Asia I discussed in the introduction. India is also facing escalating costs of a never-ending and draining war. These costs have already led to decreased opportunities, resources and wealth for all Indians regardless of their status in the society Ė including the upper middle class and wealthy. Even the naxal-based insurgencies can be seen as being induced by economic depravation of the poor brought on by enormous expenses spent on fighting militant Islam. Indians need to work together as a society to defeat militant Islam. As individuals Indians are defenseless -- like most non-Muslims, even the financially well off ones -- who were driven out of Muslim majority areas of Pakistan, Bangladesh or even from Indiaís very own Kashmir valley.