The India Dream- An analysis of the Indian democracy and policies that can strengthen freedom in India


Most patriotic speeches of Modern India celebrate her immaculate run towards becoming one of the fastest economies of the world.  Our leaders speak with pride about the country’s defiant success in becoming one of the most successful democracies of the world. And perhaps, indeed, India has come a long way.  In less than a century, the country has produced some of the most influential business tycoons and we control a large part of the global wealth. However, behind the apparent success of the ‘India Dream’, lie the obvious contradictions and ambiguities in its manifestation.

An unsettling reality of caste hierarchy in India continues to haunt our dreams of a participatory democracy. It is unfortunate that invaluable democratic pillars like the media continue to be ruled by certain particular caste groups of the business Classes as they continue in their traditional occupations. Social frustrations with loosening values of inclusiveness in the democracy are yet to be addressed adequately. Surprisingly, unlike our GDP growth, Indian social record towards development has been very depressing even when compared too much poorer nations as Bangladesh and Nepal. Dissent in the recent years has been silenced with laws that no democracy can truly be proud of. Basic Human Rights in India often go unnoticed as manual scavenging continues as a profession. However, it is an undeniable fact that India has come a long way since independence.

In spite of her challenges, India has contained every argument within her and has established a working democratic model. From Tagore to Gandhi, debates have formed the very crux of our pluralism and this very pluralistic confluence of ideas hold the key to our problems.

The paper aims to dwell into the arguments and methods by which India shall strengthen her democracy in the coming years. Perhaps, the biggest debate in a democracy is democracy itself. And there, lies the charm of a democracy.

Key words: Democracy, India, Debate

When I was a kid, I had attended a social gathering. I still remember a conversation between my relatives that I had overheard.

The discussion was initiated by my ‘civil servant uncle’. He said that he wished to eliminate a particular community off the map of India by genocide. He added that he personally despised that community and any facilities given to them by the government was a sheer wastage of public money. All my relatives nodded in agreement. Some of them even added their own unique methods of torture to the cruel intentions of my ‘Civil Servant Uncle’.

I was very young and was taught to idolize my uncle. Apparently, he never stood second in his entire life. He often pointed out mistakes in his teachers. I was told that he was a man of honor. However, with age, I began to disagree with many of his opinions and I too never stood second in my life. The difference, however was, I never stood a rank at all. Not just second, I never stood third even. Yet, I too, had a voice. A voice that my society or the education system chose to ignore. My voice remained unheard because I was a loser.

The distinction between a loser and winner gets stuck up with all of us very early in our lives. It begins with the daunting admission tests to enroll into nursery classes and continues all the way into the end. Even, crematoriums have VIP queues![1] The winners stay and the losers are eliminated.

And then, we grow up memorizing the definition of democracy as outlined by our texts. Our books direct us and spell out our morals and narrate history that is continuously distorted to fit into the propaganda of certain powerful groups. Classroom debates are usually never a part of the curriculum and most Indians grow up memorizing concepts but never questioning them. Our lengthy syllabi, equips us with an excellent capacity to grasp information immediately. Yet, we often lack analysis. And hence, hides the irony of the largest democracy of the world.

India is suddenly aroused to discuss democracy. Civil society protests are apparently, brewing with a stronger fervor than ever before. We are often found speaking of our traditions with a lot of pride. Sometimes, our representatives even go overboard to protect these traditions. However, a very basic question regarding the meaning and our perception of traditions and culture remain unanswered.

A participatory democracy, in India, is probably, impossible without the inclusion of the entire society at large. Therefore, a simplistic repetition of the Indian tradition would be nothing more than rhetoric unless we initiate a process to respect the depth of these traditions.

In a letter by Poet and Nobel Laureate, Rabindrath Tagore, had once commented on our education system. He wrote:

“The history of India that we read in schools and memorize to pass examinations is the account of a horrible dream-a nightmare through which India has passed. It tells of unknown people from no one knows where, entering India; bloody wars breaking out; father killing son and brother killing brother to snatch at the throne; one set of marauders passing away with another coming in to take its place; Pathan and Mughal, Portuguese, French and French –all helping to add nightmarish confusion”[2]

For a participatory democracy to flourish, India should restructure its education system. Public reasoning is the nucleus of every successful democracy. And reasoning, as a habit develops through questioning. Our children must be encouraged to question. It is important that the system facilitates the creation of individual opinion instead of imposing any viewpoints upon them.

‘Tolerance’, as a term in itself is flawed. Tolerance means to ‘allow’ or to enable an opinion to merely exist. It is clearly, a charitable and inorganic manifestation of an adjustment. Adjustments are obviously never voluntary, they are done in compulsion. Indian society however has assimilated every opinion and idea of the world. Therefore, minority representation of opinions is in our very system. As J.M Mill, while explaining his idea of democracy says, the important mechanism in a democracy is the element of minority opinion and dissent formation in the country. If the ruling parties represent the assent of the country, the opposition represents the dissent and democracy is nothing without dissent. India should inculcate the formation of individuality and freedom of thought in the children of the country.

We grow our children by forcing them to write answers as dictated by ‘test suggestions’. Instead, let us hear their unique suggestions and ideas. Until the third grade, it is very important to develop creativity amongst future generations. These are the formative years of children and whatever they do during these days shall stay with them forever.

Primary education of children should recognize creativity and its development as one of most important aims of learning.[3] Every human being is born with a sense of imagination. The curriculum should nurture this ability of a child to weave a dream. Children should read fairy tales and enjoy the idea of magic. Through these tales, basic theories about space, stars, aliens and broader sciences should be taught to them. Teaching must not be a one sided lecture. Instead, learning should be a part of the everyday stories that children learn.

As a child, my mother often told me stories from the Feluda series of Satyajit Ray (Which was written keeping the young readers in mind). Ray’s movies for children, feluda’s sharp intelligence and imaginative description of far off lands, ignited curiosity in me to learn more about the world and beyond.  With Ray’s Goopy and Bagha, I had first known free speech when I was only three years old.

The wicked minister of Goopy Gyne and Bagha Byne spoke about how free speech was important to know what the people of the state wanted. Only then, could they be suppressed properly, he said. In the next film, Goopy and Bagha travelled to a diamond mine (like South Africa) and freed laboureres from exploitation. Then, sometimes, Tintin went to the moon, I even travelled to the Malgudi Days.  There were so many stories all around and I learnt so much. With the innocence of my literary characters, I travelled the world and I saw time without any baggage. I learnt to see human beings as they are, beyond any culture or barrier of borders.  I found language in music and touched the bohemian history of India. The world became my own and even today, I find a bit of me in every stranger I see. I wanted to know more. Children should enjoy learning, not fear them.

 The Indian democracy today stands at a crossroad of globalization and a complete invasion of Corporates on one side with a lot of apparent prosperity and a very competitive market on the other side. Most of our parents have been victims of a sudden liberalization of markets and a subsequent and relentless struggle to sustain themselves and their careers. Naturally, they are extremely jittery about the future developments of the market (which seems to get crueler each day) and the success of their children. Hence, from the very beginning, we tend to snub the inventiveness of our kids and force them to conform to mainstream beliefs in order to keep the in the ‘right track’. And, needless to say, our society is only breeding pessimism and a lot of frustration. As an impact our children, too are so busy memorizing texts for their ‘board exams’ that they no longer get any time to participate in broader discussions.

There are papers, analysis and discussion of much higher value and intellectual standards on democracy than mine. Yet, like me, my future generations, should not be afraid to think beyond the already expressed and established ideas. They should question and rebel. What else can a democracy dream of?

Children, until the third grade should learn about learning. Children should explore fantasies. Why not believe that democracy is a beautiful fairy dressed in a smooth white robe, who came to rescue the world when the demon of wars was eating away all the little children? Democracy is, probably, the mother, who protects her children every night when the witches hover around the sky to abduct little babies. Democracy is a dream that we all believe in?

Children must not be graded at all until the third standard. Slow learners should be given an opportunity to catch up through these few classes. And it is also unfair to expose children to such narrow competition of ranks and career so early in life. If they all turn machines, who would expand participation in future democracy? All of us would then remain as great employees who can confirm ideas but can never create them. Let the children breathe.

I had once, asked my maid about what she knew of democracy. Her answer was nothing more than a blank stare. Her school going children never heard of the term. Yet, they were all voters. In this way, participatory democracy shall only remain as a cruel joke. Education should be standardized. The kind of education that a student receives in an International convent should be just the same in content as that of the school in which my maid’s children study. We really do not need luxury in education. The ivory tower of elitist India must come down to reality. Children must be allowed to mix in every cross section of the society. Classrooms should be classless and children should get the exposure to the real country. By syllabus, there should be exchange programmes where every individual goes to an opposite economic background and explores the lifestyle and learn the real scene of the nation. In a country of majority poor, we cannot nourish our already to be become richer by their snobbish class consciousness. The society, to progress, must take a collective and conscious effort.

Primary teachers should be given vocational training to understand child psychology and to be able to appreciate them. Definitely, in a country as big as India, such training for all teachers over night is very difficult. Yet, there should at least be a beginning.

. Parents too should be counseled by concerned authorities of the state, in order to help them also understand children. This counseling endeavor, should begin with the lesser privileged part of the society. They are the most vulnerable elements who largely stay neglected in our democracy in terms of learning (yet form a very significant voter base).

A child, belonging to a maid’s family faces an unusual existential dilemma. On one hand, he learns about the world and its vast and expanded horizons in school. And, on the other hand, he sees regular domestic violence at home and drunken family members uttering every word that they should never know. This is the worst impact a child can have and can completely scar him for life. Such parents should be counseled to send their children to hostels for a better future. Of course, in a democracy, we cannot forcefully separate children from their families. However, Government schools should at least have the provisions of hostels.

In the higher classes, children should be introduced to the real traditions and legacies of India. India History should not be a one sided definition of Hero worship. Instead, let children read about the rigorous debates and arguments that had happened and continue to happen at every level of the Indian Revolution. From the debates between Gandhi and Dr Ambedkar, to the Letters by Tagore, History should be demanding answers from our students. The adolescents should gather courage to question the age old heroes and decide if at all they were Heroes. These answers cannot be imposed by text books; texts should only outline the skeleton of questions.

Assessment should be based on original research work of students with interactive understandings and internal performances in speech and elocution. Education should be a real intellection discourse.

Today, every other Indian screams about a miniaturized version of Indian culture which sounds more like a cacophony of an identity crisis. What really is the Indian Culture? [4]

Indians historically participated in the legacy of public debates. The Indian identity and pride should come from knowledge and Education, instead of sweeping comments supporting majoritarian tyranny. Why do we always, demean someone to feel superior ourselves? It is as if, a ‘clerk’ has to be mediocre or even below and redundant to make a President of a Company seem big. Indians have no dignity of labor. As if, the system could run without either. It is only the sense of our own lack of confidence and inferiority that we like to humiliate others to satisfy our insecurity. Our children should learn otherwise. Perhaps, we should just let them decide and honor their beliefs and not mock them. Let us support them and they shall definitely give us a future to proud of.

Our texts often describe how Islamic invasion took over India. Very rarely, do we read about how various cultures of the world that intermingled in this country to become what sociologists call “epitome of the world.” [5]

Dara Shukoh, Brother of Aurangzed had himself, translated and compared various Hindu texts including the Upanishad and had done a comparative study on it with the Koran. This had helped, West Asia and Europe to get introduce to Indian Intellectual Culture for the first time. Muslims had not just fought wars in India. In fact, as otherwise stated in many of the texts, Islam entered India, much before Muhammad Bin Qasim. Islam had reached in India through trade relations with the Arabs as early as 629AD[6]. In fact, Islam is so much intermingled with our traditions, that it is believed that Lord Ayyappa of Kerala had a Muslim friend. Hence, the famous Sabarimala temple has mosque situated in it and worship to Lord Ayyappa is not complete until one prays in the Shrine as well.[7] Such is the traditional connect of India. This country has sheltered every culture of the world and has assimilated in itself everyone. It is the only country that has not persecuted Jews.

Our strong legacy of public debates and reasoning has encouraged every thought process and its participation. Women, like Gargi, Apala, Maitreyi, even today, stand as pillars of intellectual Exuberance. Adolescents and young adults should know about the freedom of thinking in India and must not be afraid to question their ‘civil servant uncles’.

Local Counselors should host interactive sessions with school children, every year and listen to their suggestions for betterment of politics in the area. Class Teachers, should accumulate the ideas and briefly present them to the counselor. The activity should involve students from class eight to twelve.

There is no quick fix solution to building a perfect democracy overnight. It would be naive to believe that in a day, every Indian can be easily made an active member of a democracy. There are millions of issues and hindrances to this country as it looks forward to carve its own destiny. But then, when were dreams so easy to fetch?

India and Indians must learn to respect individual opinions first. We are, primarily a society of Joint families. We take pride in the fact that our elders influence most of our decisions (from the preference of careers to marriage). However, with the changing times our families should also mature. Democracy should begin at home.

 We should learn to question our past. After all, democracy is also the name of a rebel to voice individual opinions.[8]

Globalization and further corporatization is an inevitable future. However, Capitalism can only be controlled by real democracy. When a labor law is being composed, where are the voices of the workers? The system should be more inclusive with the participation of every employee of both private and public offices in India. From a director to a peon, everyone must express their perception of rights. And the lawmaking body should contain one representative from each segment of workers chosen through votes and unions. The state must initiate the formation of a union of corporate employees whose rights need urgent protection in this age of globalization. In a democracy, retrenchment and Hire and Fire cannot be so simplistically done. Yes, the process would make lawmaking a very tough and time consuming proposition. Yes, democracy, does take time, but it cannot deny justice.

Participatory democracy should involve the opinions of every single individual in order to accommodate a holistic and dynamic society. Commenting about the third world democracies, Social Scientist Francis Fukuyama evolved the concept of Social Capital.[9]  It is basically, the co operation and team work habits of the entire society (and civil society) that shall need to consolidate in order to achieve a limited government in modern democracies. This, not only benefits citizens in their political involvements, but also encourages a better economic set up. This, trend of co operation must be inculcated amidst Indians. And it should trickle down to every level of the society. Modernization or liberation of thought, if remains confined to a limited elitist group, then we shall not move much ahead of an elitist pseudo democracy. A ‘network of trust’, as Fukuyama calls it, must be forged in all sections of the society.

In the year 1990, in a piece titled “Brahmin power”, the writer Khushwant Singh said:

Brahmins form no more than 3.5% of the population of our country…today they hold as many as 70% of government jobs”[10]

Of course, the country has moved on since the 1990, in terms of economics and politics. However, the progress remains, rather unsatisfactory when we discuss caste discriminations and social ostracisms.

It is observed, that amongst the Indian society caste still plays a very major role in our politics and economics.  As per a survey by the CSDS in 2006, of, out of the key decision makers, almost 90% of the key decision makers in English media and 79% in Television were ‘upper caste’ members. Of them, 49% were Brahmins.  Not even one out of the 315 decision makers that were surveyed was from a Dalit or Adivasi community.  In a medium as important as the press which forms a very significant element of democracy, it is very important that decision makers are a representation of the entire society at large. Even the owners of these big media houses (Bennet &Colman, Hindustan Times) are majorly from the Vaishya community. Dalit, Adivasi and other minority opinions are often unheard in our media.[11]

Through education, it is necessary to uplift these communities further and to empower them. The state media like Doordarshan and All India Radio have a fantastic network throughout the country. Learned scholars should deliver short speeches regularly and begin an interactive session in order to create a connect between Adivasis, Dalits and other minority groups. Their voices need to be heard. Every village in India, has a post office, it should develop the connectivity of all the neglected communities with the government. The state and non government organization, young entrepreneurs can participate in such endeavors and bring closer the nation and its vast opinions.

The sad and alarming trend in NGOs these days, perhaps began long ago with in 1911 and 14, when Carnegie Foundation took control over philanthropy and began maintaining public libraries, schools and what not. Indeed, today, we see, Mr. Bill Gates, not just dsoing philanthropy but also designing syllabus of global schools. They control the CIA, World Bank and almost every other important global institution. Opinions are being harnessed through scholarship learning like Ford Scholars and even resistance is controlled by Capitalism. Arvind Kejriwal’s many NGOs are funded by Ford Foundation and Kiran Bedi’s NGO is funded by Coca Cola and Lehman Brothers. Movements, in India have become too elitist. However, I personally believe that scholarship education of a Tata School of Social Sciences or Jindal Global Law School, can still trigger thinking as colonial education inspired rebel in India. However, the strong exploitation histories of all Capitalist houses in India need to be exposed.[12]

 Sedition laws or constant CRPF retaliation of Naxals and Maoists shall only lead to further violence. Operation Green Hunt or Salwa Judum did more harm than good. We killed innocent and the poor and the deprived. Was it any democracy at all? ‘Good investment Climate’ cannot come secondary to human development that continues to go unheard of in the country. It is shameful that cases like Binyak Sen still happen to us.[13] AFSPA, continues to haunt the democratic conscience of India. From Manorama Devi to every civilian of the north eastern states and Kashmir continue to stay in seclusion. India should allow freedom to flow and discuss opinions and not suppress them.  That is still the most militarized area of the world with higher military employment that that done by the United States in Afghanistan. It is shameful. This is undemocratic and unfair, unlawful and against not just the constitutional principles of India but also her legacy, heritage and philosophy.[14]

Instead, dialogues are important. Public dialogues between rebels and state are required and they should must be aired in State channels and let the people of the country participate and contribute to solutions instead of just passing the buck. We need to listen to all the views from an Adivasi to Kashmiris and Manipuris. Everyone has a story to tell. After all, it is a fact that India is the hungriest nation of the world and also one of the largest growing economies of the world. Definitely, something has gone wrong in our perception of growth that has only focused on narrow GDP statistics. The nation should participate in building and every opinion, no matter how immatured and insignifact it is, must be heard.[15] If any idea is bad, it will automatically be eliminated. Why should we be afraid of hearing the truth? We need democracy. Let organizations work to organize such debates. Perhaps, the media can play a very significant part too.

If the ruling government represents the assent of the people, the opposition should represent the dissent of the country. And dissent is just as important as assent. Voices of dissent cannot be shunned as anti national because the times have changed. Free thinking is a birth right as per the constitution, then why not a complete free speech? Sedition as a concept has been scrapped in England itself, where it had originated.  Having said that, to enable free flow of ideas and speech, it is necessary to educate the masses to handle opinions contrary to their own beliefs. Education is of primary important as it enhances patience and renders capacity argued back with decency and self control. All of these are prerequisites of a successful and working democracy.

The proposed Prevention of communal and Targeted Violence (Access to justice and reparations), 2011 bill is probably one step closer to ensuring enhanced protection of minority voices and opinions. Contrary to arguments by certain Ministers, this bill shall protect minorities and their opinions. It would be hypocritical to shy away from the fact that minorities in India need protection. Tragedies like the Hashimpura Verdict remain as dark spots on ourselves. If Article 14 guarantees a right to equality, we should see it. Those, who are not in the equal pedestal, should be brought up with social justice and law. And that is also a part of Article 14 to treat “Unequals unequally.”

Most of my essay had focused upon education and how the system should better equipped to handle young minds. The country is so much filled with hatred today that it wants to treat every adolescent as an adult whenever any crime is committed. It is funny, how, in spite of being a country where criminal intent of a child is recognized at a very early, we still feel that our laws overprotect children.[16] The entire nations seems be have been engulfed with hatred and pessimism. This is not a principle of democracy.[17] A democracy understands minds. It should think deeper and realize the reasons for juvenile delinquency in India. It would not be that hard, because we are the country with the most child labors (and expensive malls) and they do wash our expensive imported cars. This does breed frustration. Article 15(3) of the Constitution speaks of the need to protect children and their rights and this stands in accordance with the United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child 1989 (Beijing rules)[18], to which India is a party. We cannot alter and chose to ignore the ‘Basic structure’ of our constitution as outlined by the Keshavanand Bharati V State of Kerala. Judgement. Our Parliamentary debates have repeatedly argued about child rights as was argued in the case of Hari Ram v State of Rajasthan.[19] When there no social mobility, we should blame our system, not our children. We have failed to protect Childhood and we cannot absolve ourselves from the responsibility.

India should, first be sensitized with these issues because every eighteen years, a generation of new voters is born. And eighteen years are not much in a democracy. Education hence holds the key to the advancement of public participation in our democracy. Public debates should create a genesis of various opinions around the country. Social media should be used to integrate the elitist urban masses in order to make them aware of the realities in the interior parts of the country. It is, after all a fact that even today, child marriage, manual scavenging (of which the Indian Dalit Children and women are a significant part in spite of the practice being illegal).[20] Voices should be evoked through societal sensibilities.

Education system can succeed only when children are enrolled in schools. The initiatives should begin from somewhere. India has the biggest entertainment Industry of the world and this industry of films, sports and glamour can play an excellent role in spreading awareness. Most certainly, some of these agenda have already been implemented in the country and it would be a lie to say that nothing has changed at all. Things are changing. However, a little more involvement is needed from all the authorities including the people. We are all only blaming each other and increasing social pessimism. We all are a part of that system of hypocrisy where we still judge people on their caste affiliations, looks and ethnicity. If the country has to change, we should change first.

The success stories of RTI, RTE and the activism of great judges like Justice Krishna Iyer, Justice Bhagwati and commissions like the Human Rights Commission and various other bodies must reach the common public. Positivity is a key element in a participatory democracy. [21] should reach every corner of the country and not just the15.01% users in India. And that is not an impossible proposition. The post offices throughout the country can carry the Indian messages. We have a great communication system and internet, should be used for better connectivity between the urban and rural masses. [22]

I still wish that I had the courage to question my ‘civil servant uncle’ that day. Unfortunately, I still cannot. Questioning elders, especially successful elders shall only invite reprimand from my society. My uncle would consider debate as an unnecessary argument and my audacity as defiance. Doesn’t a democracy fail at this very moment when an inclusive public participation is discouraged? Our society must be tolerant of even a losing opinion, because…a loser too has a voice.

There is no magic potion that will make our democracy more participative immediately. It should be the constant efforts off every individual and the state. For, only democracy recognizes equality of thought along with indivuality. My uncle was extremely educated, but he could not be a good human being. Democracy builds character. We need to bring up our children as better human beings for a better democracy.

[2] Amartya Sen , The Argumentative  Indian ( Penguin 2005) 59

[3] ‘National Foundation of education Research’ (Developing young children’s creativity: what can we learn from Research Autumn 2004, Issue 32) <>  accessed 28 May,2015

[4]  Amartya Sen , The Argumentative  Indian ( Penguin 2005) 69

[5] C.N Shankar Rao, Indian Society (Jai Bharath Prakashana 2011) 16

[6]Lost Islamic History ‘(How Islam Spread in India)  <> accessed 28 May 2015

[7] ‘Sabarimala’  Sabarimala-Pilgrimage <>  accessed 28 May 2015

[8]  Resistance studies Network, <> Aril 23, 2011, accessed 28 May 2015

[9]   Francis Fukuyama, Social Capital, Civil Society, Development,( Third World Quarterly, Vol 22 No 1 2011) <>  7-20 accessed 28 May 2015

[10] Arundhati Roy, Annihilation of Caste-Forward,(Navyana,2014) 30

[11] Arundhati Roy, Annihilation of Caste-Forward,(Navyana,2014) 31

[12]  Arundhati Roy, Capitalism-A ghost story, (Haymarket Books, 2014), 21

[13]Aman Sethi, “ Activists shocked at gallantry award for Chhattisgarh cop”, <>  Accessed 23/12/ 2015

[14] Arundhati Roy, “What we have done to Democracy”, < > Accessed, 24/12/2015

[15] Arundhati Roy, Walking with the Comrades, (Outlook, March 29, 2010), <>  Accessed 28 May 2015

[16] “India is the ‘hub’ of child sex trafficking”-Traficking in persons report-U.S Government

[17] Swagata Raha and Arlene Manoharan, ‘Adolescents are not grown ups’ (Economic Times, 9 May,2015) <> Accessed 28 May 2015

[18] “ Shashi Tharoor, ‘Legislative Business: Discussion on the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015”, May 6 , 2015, Accessed 24/12/2015

[19]  Hari Ram vs State Of Rajasthan & Anr on 5 May, 2009, Criminal Appeal No 907 of 2009 <> accessed 23/12/2015

[20] Agrima Basu, ‘The railways in denial’, (Info Exchange, Human Rights),  <>  Accessed 28  May 2015

[21] John Samuel , ‘Human Rights: Background and Perspective”  Accessed 28 May, 2015

[22] World Bank Data 2010-14<> accessed 28 May 2015.

Author: Ujjaini Chatterji, Fourth Year, Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA

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