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Religion and Indian Democracy

(Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

Is there or should there be any connection between religion of people and the government or governance? Is not religion something very personal?

By definition democracy is ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ And India takes pride in being the world’s largest democracy. Here we shall be discussing in Indian context only. To achieve the desired implementation of democracy, a system of votes has evolved. Along the line, democracy has reduced to manipulation of votes or vote bank politics, replacing the government through free will and good intentions of the people as was envisaged. There is a marked difference between intelligent voting by people with free spirit and manipulation of their votes through vote bank politics. One has to understand this to understand why democracy in India appears to be failing of late.

People are at the center of democracy in every aspect or regard. It is their character that gets reflected in the character of the government or the institutions in use for all round governance. Is there or should there be any connection between religion of people and the government or governance? Is not religion something very personal? And yet people get manipulated into voting on considerations of religion. People do get manipulated in many more ways, caste being one of the major ones. But here we shall restrict our discussion to religion.

Indian Constitution doesn’t allow any space for religion in Indian polity. And yet religion dominates our polity the most. The newspapers and the great editors openly discuss and analyze division of votes depending on religion of the voters and the candidates. Here democracy dies a natural death. But hypocrite as man is first and foremost, we continue to sing paeans of democracy and abuse it in the same breath. So much so that we start believing and expecting that people belonging to particular religions won’t and shouldn’t vote for particular candidates or political parties. In one stroke, we render democracy a big farce and try to take pride in being world’s largest democracy at the same time.

Of late, religion appears to be playing a greater role in the Indian polity. That doesn’t bode well for anyone. There is not as much religious hatred on the ground, as is projected in media and in social media. The rogue leaders and rogue forces exploit religion of man for petty gains, at times making the masses even kill each other for religion. The infamous Delhi riots in recent past are a burning example.

Peaceful coexistence is to be the first and ultimate human goal. Mixing of religion with politics becomes the bane for it. The two are vastly different areas of human endeavour and must be treated and kept that way. Fair and good governance – devoid of any religion based prejudices – should be the only consideration for politics and voting. But reality is just the opposite. Any analysis or planning for an election starts with the number of voters belonging to various religions – how to get their votes or how to split their votes. It is not a man voting, but a man belonging to a religion voting!

As long as religion continues to have a major say in our politics – either way – we are not a democracy, whatever else we may be!

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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