I remember having seen a classic advertisement, released by one of the major brands of Scotch Whiskey. The advertisement showed a half full bottle of whiskey of that particular brand, with a catch line below: “To the guest it is half full; to the host it is half empty.” I always consider this as one of the finest example of an advertisement for a consumable product, though I am fully aware about the futility of any discussion, which could be carried out to prove, who is ultimately correct; the host or the guest, simply because no answer exists at all for this question. The catch line only tells us that there are always two ways of looking at a thing; a positive way and a negative way.
We, Indians, value individual freedoms that our constitution has bestowed upon us. Arising out of these basic freedoms is a right, which allows us to select our leaders, starting from grass roots or local Government level to the federal Government, who shall rule over us for a period of next five years. The constitution also guarantees that the way, people can select their leaders, is only through a majority selection carried out by means of an election process. In short, India is ruled by people who have been selected through a democratic process or simply speaking, we are a democracy.
If I say that it is the democracy that really ensures the individual freedoms for
Indian citizens, I may not be far away from truth. Having fought the British colonization for well over a century, Indians value their freedom above all. One of the great freedom fighters of the twentieth century, Vinayak Damodar Sawarakar has written a poem in which he compares the freedom to a Goddess, to be revered and worshiped above everything else. It becomes imperative then that the process of democracy, which really ensures and guarantees the individual freedoms for Indians is sacrosanct for people of India.
Democracy has its own defects and many a times, it appears that the process is not leading, where it should lead; the path towards progress. The last decade was one such period in India, when there were many skeptics or doubting Thomas', who questioned, whether the democracy was the root cause for all the confusion, indecision and policy paralysis brought in by coalition politics.
A reply to these skeptics has been delivered by the Indian democracy in such a emphatic and clear cut fashion that not many would dare now to raise any doubts about our democratic process for times to come. India elected a new federal Government recently, through a general election and as results were declared on 16th May, many people like me cried, because it was also the triumph of the democratic process, sweeping away all the cobwebs of doubt about mass wisdom of the people of India with a political party and a leader coming out with a clear cut majority, whom they considered as most trustworthy for their future.
Coming back to the half full-half empty analogy, which I gave in the beginning, readers can immediately point out that I am actually narrating the half full or the positive side of the story of democracy. What about the half empty or the negative side? If there is one country in the world, well qualified for it and also that needs this negative projection of democracy badly to project advantages of its own autocracy, it is China.
China has been on high alert over the past few weeks in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of its last suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. China's constitution enshrines the Communist Party's long term leading rule in the Government, which alone decides the once in a decade leadership transition. What better way is there for justifying the Chinese autocracy than looking at the negative projection of democratic processes in other countries.
It is therefore no surprise that the Peoples Daily, the Chinese Communist party newspaper, has come out this week with a lengthy commentary denouncing the democracies and democratic processes around the world. It has found two convenient examples, that of Ukraine and Thailand, as to what kind of complete chaos, a democratic process can lead to. It also criticises the system of the upper house of Lords, still prevalent in Britain, as an illustration of “ hereditary noble.”
The article goes on to justify the Chinese Communist party rule and says: “ Rejoice that we have resolutely upheld socialism with Chinese characteristics. Otherwise would China have peace?” It is needless to point out that China has forbidden all public discussions on Tiananmen and any reference to the crackdown are swiftly censored from the country’s popular on-line social networks.
People's Daily article further goes on to the extent of calling the democratic process as sheer madness and says: “ From western Asia to North Africa, many countries have slipped into the confused madness of “western democracy,” which has neither brought happiness nor stability.” It is no surprise, that this article has just about neglected the Indian democratic process that recently evolved conclusively a new leadership for the country, which India hopes would work for the betterment of the people.
If you ask any of the Indians about the Peoples Daily comments, you may not find any takers at all. After all, who wants the happiness and stability of the dead? It is the life that we all desire and need.
11th June 2014