Yes, democracy means freedom, but then how come people at many places have been asked to step out of voting queues in Indian parliament elections and told “go home your vote has already been cast”?
Most obey as consequences otherwise can be a thrashing even in front of the elaborate security that is usually there to ensure ‘free and fair elections”. Millions of others in such queues are successful to use their right to franchise but somehow the democratic process most of the times return the sons and daughters from select clans year after year.
These modern day princes and princesses even topple each other like Mufti’s daughter winning against Abdulla’s son and Mulayam’s son winning against Sonia’s son. In 1990 about 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus were chased out of their homes by fundamentalists to become refugees in their own country.
Most of these “internally displaced” citizens of democratic India tasted joy of voting only when special provisions were made by government for them to be able to cast vote for elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir from temporary ‘camps’ in Delhi and other cities.
Joy of getting that indelible mark on their fingers ‘proof of casting a vote’ is the only glimpse of fundamental rights that they have experienced even though they could not ‘tick’ any candidate – as terrorism denied them any opportunity to put up a candidate of their choice. For many this may be the only experience of freedom.
As regards putting one’s response across, you have to be friends with media Moguls. Corruption at high places gets selectively reported and a tedious judicial jargon seems to never end. Some recent incidents of judicial activism have proactively delivered minor changes but for common people there doesn’t seem to be any response mechanism available.
For hundreds of millions the shine of incredible India is yet to deliver an environment of equal opportunities. Water and electricity are still luxuries for the most. But even in this entire unjust environment a just process elects Abdul Kalam to become the President and a new hope rekindles people to cheer for democracy.
Masses hope to get another Mahatma and show their total support to every Anna but the democratically elected Sansads have the final say and the rot continues. To understand Gandhi’s statement “Truth is God” it is extremely important to have the clarity that freedom of thought and action is the essence of all truth. So if democracy does not deliver freedom to all it is only a tool of exploitation for countries like India.
Democratic process in developed world definitely exhibits freedom and people focus; but it doesn’t seem to be ideal either. In US spending millions of dollars is essential part of the democratic process. New Zealand’s MMP system allows even election losers into the parliament and in some cases it is very difficult to find the basis of their inclusion into a party list. Referendums as response mechanisms are not taken as obligatory verdicts. Submissions about a new legislation are well accounted for but these hardly change the policy focus.
The strength of west lies in having drilled down the ethos of democracy right to local government level and even to each individual a daily experience of being equal is a granted practice.
Having access to basic amenities and respect for each individual gives a feeling of equality and empowerment. Just this simple but fundamental difference between east and west is defining the real meaning of democracy.
Ideally, democracies shall return candidates who are bestowed with statesmanship, wisdom, courage and clarity of purpose. At the same time the response mechanisms should provide a window of continued dialogue between the masses and the government to enable common people to hold their heads high – Tagore’s dream of modern India.