Without naming any political party, former governor and diplomat Gopal Gandhi has cautioned against the possibility of political majority being ‘fused and confused’ with ethnic-religious majority in India today, which could transform its democratic roots.
Delivering a well-received speech at the India Day celebrations at the University of Edinburgh on Thursday evening, Gandhi said the conflation of political and religious majorities was a ‘retrograde’ development, and one that could bring secular democracy to the ‘doorstep of a majoritarian theocracy’.
“(Political) majority has nothing to do with India’s ethnic majority, its linguistic or religious majority. But there is in India today a real possibility of the political majority getting fused and confused with its ethnic-religious majority”, he said.
“There is in India today a reflexive possibility of India’s religious minorities forming political outfits on the basis of religion. This is a retrograde development, for democracies are meant to be about policy choices, not prejudice choices”.
“The mutation, through the sanctification of the ballot box, of electoral options into religious polarizations can bring a secular democracy to the doorstep of a majoritarian theocracy”, Gandhi told the gathering comprising senior academics and students.
There was a related danger, he said, referring to India and Pakistan being nuclear states and tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities.
“Religious polarization between Hindus and Muslims fluxing into political antagonisms is a recipe for communal riots which mimic war. They are in fact , dress rehearsals for war. And so I lament the entering of iron into the soul of India today, Pakistan today”, he said.
“Pakistan with its history of the army telescoping into politics has been pre-disposed to armed engagement for long but I lament the conversion of one part of India’s mind into a permanent War Department. It makes war that much closer and militarizes our reflexes”, Gandhi added.
In the speech titled ‘India Yesterday, India Today’, Gandhi dwelt on the past and present, and focussed on the many paradoxes that marked India. Stating that ‘time is running out for India today’ on the issue of climate change, he called for drastic changes in lifestyle.
“The fact is indisputable that nothing less than life-style and workstyle changes will have to be made by the water-splurging, power-splurging, fuel-splurging classes if life-style revolutions are not to be visited upon them”.
“Our short-termism is unbelievable. It does not realize that development will eat into itself unless it is climate compatible. Our short-termism is notching up a debit card bill our children will have to pick up without the means to do so”, he said.