Talibanization of India

The CM of Karnataka (B S Yeddyurappa), Sri Rama Sene Chief (Pramod Muthalik) and the CM of Rajasthan (Ashok Gehlot) follow the footsteps of the Thackerays. Muthalik barges into a pub in Mangalore with his hooligan friends and they assault the girls for wearing Western outfits and dancing with their friends. (link) “We will not allow pub culture in Karnataka” says BSY and before you start thinking that this is a well known phenomenon that exists in the right-wing group, Gehlot, a Congressman, slams “pub and mall culture” and aspires to become a “moral police” of the state.

These incidents are aptly being labeled as efforts of “Talibanization of India” in some editorials (here’s one). Instead of learning to respect individual liberty and preserving the age-old tradition of tolerance and fairness, some elements in India seem to strangle the society with their dogmatic orthodox beliefs. Forcing their own ideals, however corroded they are, on others is exactly what the Taliban has done (and is still doing) in Afghaniztan. Because we live in a society that’s relatively more law abiding, the magnitude of their atrocities are limited, but their ideology is not far off from that of the Taliban regime.

The fact that some of these intolerant whimsical madcaps are democratically elected leaders, often heralded by many locals, makes it more saddening. It reminds us again of the dark sides of democracy. That democracy is not always liberal. Fareed Zakaria has elaborately explained this in his thought provoking political science book The Future of Freedom. The dilemma is this: what if elections are free and fair, but the elected are fascists, racists and separatists – illiberal in general? Zakaria writes:

For the people in the West, democracy means “liberal democracy”: a political system marked not only by free and fair elections but also by the rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion, and property. But this bundle of freedoms – what might be termed as “constitutional liberalism” – has nothing intrinsically to do with democracy and the two have not always gone together, even in the West. After all, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany via free elections.

In a democratic system, there are two potential sources of abuse: one from the elected autocrats, and another from the people themselves. The will of the majority can easily transform into tyranny of the majority. Because the politicians have to rely on votes to stay in the government, populism and pandering is embraced. One might blame the existence of vote banks for such attacks  (mentioned above) on liberty. But it’s important to distinguish between a symptom and the disease. Vote banks, and pandering in general, are side products of illiberal democracy. Their existence rely on things like religious fundamentalism and collectivism. Even Washington is not exempt from this phenomenon, where the special interest groups and lobbyists seem to run the show. “The more open a [democratic] system becomes, the more easily it can be penetrated by money, lobbyists and fanatics” writes Zakaria.

Today, India is genuinely free society and have a fully functional democratic system in place. But the frequency of “Talibanization efforts” have become more frequent and fervent. We need to remind ourselves yet again that protecting liberty and individual freedom should be the hallmark of a free and just society.

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6 responses to “Talibanization of India

  1. Pingback: Talibanization of India | Right Views

  2. Vish – I cannot agree with you more on this topic. Inspite of india being a democratic country it is only so in terms of fair elections, not in sense of protecting the liberty of its subjects. After such episodes ( apart from the so called political goons like Raj thakarey telling people to leave their state – my question is as blunt as it could be, “kya maharashtra tere baap ka hai?”) – people of India have to stop this from occuring and I am sure it will NOT happen.

    LEt me open up a debate, what percentage of indians liked or disliked this episode? Apart from followers of such Ram, sita senas – lot of others in our own community and society do not like Pub culture or westernising our culture..( I think no one is going to hijack our culture)..and hence appaulauded such events. Metro cities, educated people and liberal minded people think it was bad, but lot of rural, less educated ( or read it Orthodox minded, I think education has nothing to do with it as Karnataka CM – Rajasthan CM are educated “Nuts”).

  3. Vishal

    @ Ritesh, the perpetual conflict between traditionalists and liberals is becoming more visible and getting ugly in India. The traditionalists might be a minority, but they are certainly more aggressive and expressive about their beliefs.

  4. TJ

    Vish,

    The methods of protest have been insane to say the least and this is really a slap on the face for the largest democracy in the world. Every sensational event in India is either directly or indirectly fuelled by the support of a political party, which causes such small, albeit aggressive, groups of people to go to extreme lengths in order to stamp their ideologies on the masses.

    We all love our cultures and traditions dearly and try to follow them in different measures during our regular lives. But to have someone force us into accepting a belief or tradition according to their interpretation of the same, symbolizes total anarchy and a backward step in the path towards a completely free, liberal and democratic society.

  5. Pingback: Vande Mataram « A Blank Slate

  6. Pingback: Women and the Talibanization of Shrines in India

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