by Promod Puri
Republic Day on January 26 is an official colossal event in India every year to celebrate the adoption of its constitution marking the nation as an independent democratic republic.
How does the country look after all these years since its Independence from the British Raj in 1947? Especially when there has been quite an ideological transformation to reweave India’s social and secular fabric in the last few years since the Hindutva forces led by Narendra Modi are at the helm of the nation’s affairs.
When explored, the cliché that India is a country of extremes makes it so complicated and contradictory that all the realistic but conflicting political, social, religious, and economic argumentation and statistics do not go beyond their mindset boxes.
And that leaves a juggernaut of overviews or images of the country, making it one of the most complex and challenging to discern societies in the world.
The extremes of India can be as high as Himalayan peaks. Or these can be as deep as the Indian ocean.
They cover all the nation’s aspects and its mass of 1.366 billion people brimful in the space of 3214 kilometres from north to south and 2993 kilometres from east to west.
Growing at the rate of 1.00 percent per 2019 estimates, these billion-plus people speak over 185 different languages. Twenty-nine of these get categorized as “official.” That means each one of them has over one million native speakers.
The linguistic breakdown continues with countless dialects as part of the family of each of the official languages. The plethora of languages and dialects result in multi- multicultural, distinct communities trying to retain their ethnicities in India’s damaged democratic environment.
In addition to the linguistic and cultural divide, India’s population further splintered along the world’s major and minor religions. These religious affiliations are then sub-divided into hundreds of regional and ethnic sects.
Hindus dominate the religious demography with 80.5 percent of the population. Hinduism has the maximum number of sects within it.
Muslims form the second largest group with 195 million followers. And that earns India the distinction of having the third-largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan.
India is the birthplace and cradle of four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Christianity touched its soil about 2000 years ago, almost at the same time it entered Europe.
Whereas the country’s religious, linguistic, and cultural plurality seeks peaceful preservation under the nationalistic jingle of unity in diversity, occasional bursts of communal riots dampen that spirit.
But the realities of contemporary India lie in its voluminous changes and no change at all. It is a wide-open scene of extreme disparity in all fields and occupations along with overwhelming and mind-blowing figures, which offer cheers and despairs.
However, the most anguish aspect of the present Indian scene is institutional damage, which is a primary cause of concern for the survival and functioning of democracy in India.
Judiciary, election commission, media, and statistics are some of the most operative integrals of democracy, which keep it authoritative, functional, dynamic, and accountable. If any or all of these systems are damaged, corrupted, compromised or abused, democracy becomes meaningless or even collapses.
All the democratic fundamentals fiddled brazenly and subtly with shrewd politics of religious fanaticism, fear, threats, murders, fake police raids, intrusions and influences in the media, obstructions, interference in bureaucracy, and deceptive claims of accomplishments.
The seventy-three years of the solid foundation of Indian democracy after the Independence in 1947 suddenly became fragile in just eight years of the Modi rule.