The Indian Express has gone into overdrive to rubbish the recent speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Parliament that “democracy in India wasn’t the work of Pandit. Nehru….but that it was in ragon (veins) of Indians.” In the last one week, Ashutosh Varshney and D.N. Jha have hogged Express’ edit pages to sneer at the Prime Minister and swoon at Pt. Nehru as the reason India has democracy.
While mocking Modi, they have crossed over to denying India’s past heritage and glory. You can call them foot soldiers of Western powers (for whom democracy originated from Greece) or the lackeys of Left but never forget the vileness of these forces. They don’t mean well for you or me or our future generations.
Varshney defines democracy as one of the elected governments and universal adult suffrage, a typical Western notion. Who are we to tell him that Pandit Nehru’s own mentor, Mahatma Gandhi took a dim view of such a democracy! Gandhi saw better merit in “Republics of Village” – a direct democracy rather than a representative democracy—in which India abounded.
Varshney’s second line of propaganda is that ancient India may have had Councils (Gana or Sangha) through which a King governed but a common citizen had no role to play. Here’s what the eyewitness account of Alexander’s campaign to India in the 4th Century BCE by a Greek historian Arrian states: “(there were) free and independent Indian communities at every turn”.
Greek writer Diodorus Siculus mentions that he mostly came across cities in India which practised a “democratic form of government.” The reference was from an account of no less than Greek traveller Megasthenes who had covered entire Northern India and went as far as Patliputra.
Varshney probably hasn’t heard of Kautilya or his Arthashastra in the 4th Century BCE which mentions “janapadas” (Republic) where craftsmen, traders and agriculturalists had their guilds and wealth earned from trade ran the political process.
Panini, in his Sanskrit Classic “Ashtadhyayi”, mentions the process of decision-making in politics. He provides various terms for voting and decision making through voting. He also mentions that in these Republics “there was no consideration of high and low.” The Buddhist literature in Pali and Brahmanical literature in Sanskrit portray a complex scenario of different groups managing their own affairs.
Indeed, the non-Monarchical governments in India go back to Vedic times. Rig Veda (10/191/2) mentions that “all resources to all stakeholders must be distributed equally.”
As for Pandit Nehru and his democratic credentials, his very appointment as Prime Minister was through as undemocratic a method as you could come across in any world annals. Nobody voted for him, yet he was made Prime Minister after majority’s favourite Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel bowed to the tyranny of Mahatma Gandhi.
And before touting for “democratic” Pt. Nehru, Varshney also ought to have informed the readers that the first Prime Minister of India had indeed jaled Majrooh Sultanpuri for his poem which didn’t paint him in golden colours. No wonder, his daughter Indira Gandhi went a step further and imposed Emergency.
So much for “freedom of speech” and “freedom of expression” which Varshney calls essentials in democracy.