Democracy, Dissent, and Dialogue in Contemporary India
AbstractThe complexity and commonality of today’s local and global challenges, such as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, deepening democratic governance, preventing violent conflict, or tackling terrorism, is a poignant reminder of our increasing interdependence and the distant future of equity. Much like other nations, India is experiencing and resisting each of these. Since 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, the contours of these experiences and resistances are marked by somewhat centralised and authoritarian stakes imbued in an ‘emotional force’. The emotional force is rooted in values of Hindutva which has a precise type of ideological construction of how India, its people, and the Indian democracy should be. There is a conspicuous dualism and chauvinism in the imagined democracy. This imagination derives and delivers the ‘new democracy’ which is inextricably grounded in the majoritarian-populist politics. Bearing this in mind, this paper aims to unpack and understand the way democracy and dialogue, or the lack of it, shapes the everyday experience, while using some pertinent examples to typify the discourse. We find that democracy is challenged, but questioning its meaning is wrought with grim complexity and tensions. The author takes stock of an ongoing event to demonstrate that democracy and dialogue are becoming provisional and desultory tools in the larger scheme of things in India.