POL112 - Chapter 7.docx

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Political Science
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Justin Bumgardner

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Nehan Afreen POL112 Chapter 7 - What Sustains Democracy -Globally while democracy was weakening, Indian democracy in Asia was an exception, a curiosity and a system that was often compared unfavorably with the unity and energy that was said to be delivering a forced march to modernization in China. In June 1975, when a High Court ruling invalidated her election to parliament and banned her from office for six years, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi suspended the constitutional democracy that her father, Jawaharlal Nehru had nurtured, and built from independence nearly three decades earlier. Instead of stepping aside and challenging the questionable ruling judicially the autocratic prime minister claimed a conspiracy to subvert social order and economic development in India, invoked emergency powers and ruled by legal order. Her two thirds parliamentary majority signed her claim to amend the constitution thereby weakening the judiciary. India, as a country was just too big to be pressured successfully. For over a year, Mrs. Gandhi seemed secure reducing the world’s biggest democracy to a Pseudodemocracy. But neither India’s civil society nor its opposition parties accepted such a fate. Mrs. Gandhi was defeated badly in elections she had called in March 1977. This proved that she has been misled like many other dictators –blindly trusting her party men and adulators. -India’s past with a intense struggle for independence portrays its strong cultural, social and political support for democracy. It stands as an exemplary democratic country which does not demand richness, industrialization, urban or even heavily literate society to develop and sustain a democratic regime. Political culture -The most imp reason behind its sustainable democracy is that from the outset its political and societal elites and population believed in a democratic framework. This can be attribute mostly to its traditions based on political and religious tolerance along with extensive argument and debate. Nearly two centuries of British colonial rule introduced competitive elections to representative bodies at the provincial and national levels, encouraging the formation of political parties and movements thereby conferring rights to millions of Indian voters. However, the political bodies demanded more unduly seizing the freedom while building national identity. -A democratic political culture values democracy as the best form of government and thus affirms certain basic rights and obligations such right to vote and participate in politics As a result if people are allowed to participate they would endeavour to equip themselves with some information and knowledge besides the hope that their participation can make a difference because of their efficiency. Thus follows a certain healthy suspicion of authority. One of the puzzling elements of democracy is that sustainable self-governance must be respectful of government authority yet also distrustful of it. Page 1 of 5 Nehan Afreen POL112 -Moderation, accommodation, cooperation and bargaining are prevalent in a democratic culture. Democracy is a system of regular conflict between competing interests and ambitions, but it can only survive it is resolves these conflicts peacefully and lawfully. Thus a need for pragmatism and flexibility, an ability to transcend or even at times suspend ideological beliefs and ethnic solidarities. It also requires tolerance of political, ethnic, racial and other differences and a shared commitment to democracy. -As democracy emerged under colonial rule, India was fortunate to see these democratic norms take root, first among the elite and then among the mass public. The independence movement brought forth leaders with a remarkably democratic temper. In the last three decades of colonial rule, constitutional reforms greatly enhanced the powers of elected provincial councils and the scope of the franchise, gradually drawing new segments of society into the political arena. Founding leadership often plays a hugely important role in shaping the political culture of a new democracy. Just as George Washington legitimated the new American democracy with his personal charisma, affirming values of moderation, inclusion and limited power so Nehru during his lengthy tenure made enormous contribution to the development of Indian democracy. The more militant campaign for freedom also practiced, preached and extended democratic norms under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. His strategy of satyagraha (mass civil disobedience to resist tyranny), his emphasis on consensual resolutions to conflict, his philosophy of devotion to truth, tolerance for difference, complete and total non violence relentless but peaceful defiance of injustice, courage, humility, personal responsibility and sacrifice he contributed tremendously to the democratic practice and culture. However Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence had no lasting effect on his new nation. Nevertheless, it cannot be forgotten that India is a continental country of great diversity and ongoing democratic innovation. His influence can be seen in the continuing ability to forge political coalitions across a myriad of social divisions, in the steady incorporation of marginal groups into the politics, and in the extraordinary energy and pluralism of India’s civil society. Civil Society -Indian diversity has acted as a threat and salvation. To survive as a democracy, the country has had to learn to manage and accommodate its breathtaking ethnic, regional religious and caste divisions. It's tremendously rich civic life has been a major foundation of Indian democratic persistence. India’s manifold professional associations, trade unions, grassroots groups, Gandhian social movements, and independent mass media have fuelled a vibrant civil society. -The civil society encompasses groups with widely divergent interests and values, and is itself a theatre of political conflict. The components of civil society do share, by definition, some crucial characteristics - they are independent of the state; organized, relating to the public realm; and hold the ability to mobilize resources and act collectively. A civil society checks and limits the abuses of state power, its organizations provides channels beyond political parties and election Page 2 of 5 Nehan Afreen POL112 campaigns, for citizens to participate in politics and governance, to air their grievances and to secure their interests. Thus it takes some load off the state and enhances the legitimacy of the overall system. The prevalent human rights groups and other grassroots movements have targeted various forms of injustice, subordination on the basis of inherited caste status, while protecting natural resources for people’s survival and tried to end gender discrimination. An example is Narmada Bachao Andolan. -Its pluralistic mass media has exposed corruption at high levels and despair and suicide among the indebted rural poor. A renewed assertion of freedom by the press coincided with an explosion in the size of mass media. Civil society groups have also pushed specific reforms to improve democracy. A recent campaign in India has helped to pass Right to Information acts (similar to the U.S Freedom of Information law) in nine states and in the national parliament in 2005. The acts compel each govt department to appoint a public information officer, who must respond within thirty days to requests from the pubic or the media. Thus the investigative energies of ordinary people have been utilized. -These grassroots efforts, which have frequently pulled together elite professionals, retired civil servants and the lower caste poor, have mobilized an army of “citizen auditors" to secure the wages, food and government services to which people are entitled, and to combat illegal practices, such as police harassment and slum relo
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