Random Thoughts: On Majoritarianism

Very often, the meaning attached to a word defines its fate. And the power to define words in the way it suits oneself becomes decisive in any society. The power to define words gives an individual or group of individuals the power to rule. Once the meaning sticks to a word, it becomes very difficult to shake off the stigma attached to it.

One of the most controversial words in modern day politics is ‘majoritarianism’. The way in which it is perceived could very well define your political ideology today. Therefore, I felt the need to deconstruct and redefine this word from a different vantage point.

A certain essay written by a popular ‘journalist’ in ORF caught my eye when I was trying to write something about majoritarianism. According to liberal political philosophy, the concept of majoritarianism is abhorrent for any political system. But I disagree. Majoritarianism can be either good or bad for a democracy depending on the kind of values supported by the majority. But things don’t work in a straightforward manner in the real world.

You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

‘Intellectuals’ in India prefer democracy, a political system that functions on majority-rule. In spite of knowing the basic premises of democracy they seek to fight ‘majoritarianism’. If they offered a credible alternative to the democratic system to fight majoritarianism — say a benign dictatorship or an oligarchy of intellectuals, then it would be worthwhile to listen to their arguments against majoritarianism.

In fact, the concept of majority rule is misused as per political requirement by these intellectuals. Let’s say that an intellectual is speaking on reservations. He or she will speak about the rights of poor Dalits, OBCs, Muslims and Adivasis to justify his or her support to the reservation policy. Further, the intellectual will highlight the fact that these groups form the majority in this country and therefore such a policy is justified. Similarly, a socialist politician who supports high taxes for the rich will justify the policy by saying that the poor are in majority and therefore the decision to impose 40% tax on the minority is justified.

But the same set of individuals will deny the right of the majority in this country, i.e. the Hindu majority to assert its political rights. The liberal intelligentsia is hell-bent on shaming and cursing the voters of this country if it votes any ideology that is opposed to theirs. A popular ‘psephologist’ proclaimed that he wanted to hold the voter ‘by their collars’ and call them ‘idiots’ for defeating him in a Lok Sabha election. The fundamental contradiction in the stance of our ‘intellectual’ class is the most profound joke of our times.

Image Source: HansIndia

Dubious Claims

The author of ORF article I mentioned above claims that violence and illiberal ideas have gained an upper hand under the current Prime Minister. According to her, every avenue for liberal ideology is being squeezed by those in power. This complaint is in line with that of her ‘band of intellectuals’. The article says:

The repeated signaling against Muslims and their ‘inability to assimilate’ with the majority either in India or elsewhere in the world is communicated in several ways. Legitimate conversations around Pakistan sponsored terrorism against India, especially in the wake of the Pulwama attack, turn insidiously to question the patriotism of Indian Muslims.

When I read these lines from the article, I was immediately reminded of the shameless support given to Muslim extremists in the Shah Bano case by the premier secular party of India. I am reminded of hundreds of secular-liberal intellectuals who support regressive practices like triple talaq and nikah-halala in an age where gender-equality has been the norm worldwide. I cannot forget dozens of instances where Kashmiri Muslims celebrated the Pulwama attack in urban centers like Bengaluru! Let us not mince any words on the matter in question. Yes, the illiberal minority has to embrace the liberal progressive majority on the issues of gender justice and human rights.

Further, the author of the ORF article claims that the judiciary has been a saviour in during these testing times. She says

India’s courts have thus far proven to be the only resilient caretakers of this representation. Through recent judgements on the right to privacy, the right to worship, the right to love freely, the highest judiciary has expanded our notions of rights and upheld the primacy of the rule of law.

While she is partially right, I have serious doubts about the ‘bravery’ of our judiciary. The top court of this country has failed several times to uphold liberal values whenever the issue is concerned with ‘secularism’ or the ‘minority’ religions of India.

When the case on triple talaq was being heard, it refused to deal with the issue of polygamy and Nikah Halala. On one occasion the top court asked a BJP worker to apologize for a meme she made on the West Bengal chief minister. If not for the outrage on social media, the regressive judgment would not have been questioned by our ‘liberal’ media. The Supreme Court has dragged the issue of Ram Mandir for decades now. I have serious doubts over the courage, liberalism and political/ideological leanings of India’s top court.

The Majority Can’t Be Held Responsible For Every Single Crime

Can majoritarianism be a problem? Yes. If it results in a system where a single ethnic group is being murdered by the majority administered government, then, it is something that must be stopped at any cost. If it leads to systematic racism as it happened in the USA, majoritarianism has to be fought tooth and nail.

Has the majority supported large-scale bigotry and discrimination in India? No. But an intellectual will stop you and say — it has. “Cow lynchings are happening everyday and therefore the current dispensation and the Hindu majority of India is to be blamed for all these crimes”, he says. Every week one or two crimes of this sort are dug up to justify this claim.

The double standard in this rhetoric is blatant. Whenever there is a terror attack by an Islamic group in the world, the same ‘liberal’ intellectual will scream that a large majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful. Similar treatment is somehow denied to the peaceful majority of Hindus when commenting on cow-lynchings.

Incidents of lynching happening around India are tragic and regrettable. They should not have happened. But this does not prevent any logical person from calling out the fraud in the propaganda spread by the so-called ‘intellectuals’ of our media.

If supporters of the right-wing scan all crimes that happened in a particular week, they too can find a list of incidents where the minority community committed hate-crimes against the ‘helpless’ majority. Such lists have been prepared in recent pasts. One of them carries a list of disturbing crimes which include forced conversions, riots and rapes of minor Hindu girls.

When ‘liberal-intellectuals’ are presented with this evidence, they prefer to shoot the messenger. They call the right-wing media-persons as hatemongers and avoid any serious debate.

The Larger Question

But the larger question remains. Can individual instances of crime/violence be used as a propaganda tool to fuel more violence in society? The answer is a big NO. Vicious cycles of violence are never-ending.

Mob violence and hate-crimes must be reported without any political agenda. And the cases must be disposed off by the legal system of the country. Guilty must be punished. Nothing short of this can be morally/ethically acceptable. But that does not seem to be happening. If news reports are to be trusted, the one-sided propaganda on cow-lynchings is already leading to mob violence in several cities.

Instead of finding the common ground where all citizens can work together and live harmoniously, the media (especially the left-leaning media) is hell bent on furthering divisive propaganda targeted at the peaceful majority of this country. The majority of this country seeks to live harmoniously. But the left-leaning media is targeting this constituency as an ego-project to justify the validity of its intellectual posturings.

This propaganda is not likely to sustain the test of time, because it is based on flimsy grounds. It would not be hard to create a counter-propaganda based on the same illogical premises. I hope that better sense will prevail in the media organisations which command a large audience. They have the maximum potential to damage the peace prevailing in the country right now. Of all option, the media has the least credibility and moral authority to lecture the public about good and bad.

In conclusion, I reject all conspiracy theories on majoritarianism in India and the taboo attached to BJP. I support the right of a liberal majority to impose its will on an illiberal and medieval minority. And I support the right of India’s Hindus who seek to submerge caste/ language barriers and vote for a regime that is preferable to them.

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