Home Editor's picks Sabarimala: Consent of the Governed vs Divine Right

Sabarimala: Consent of the Governed vs Divine Right

Agents of social change should generate consensus by understanding societies actual needs and then implementing solutions to these problems through correct non-manipulative channels.

Ramesh and Suresh get into a conflict over a piece of land. Unable to resolve their conflict they mutually decide to approach Chandrakant, a wise elderly man known for his impartiality. They explain the situation to him. Chandrakant listens patiently and gives his verdict in favour of Ramesh. Suresh, though disappointed accepts the verdict and the conflict is resolved. The question here is, why is Chandrakant’s judgement acceptable to both? Is it because he is elderly or because he is wise? Actually, it is neither of this. The reason his judgement is acceptable to both is that both Ramesh and Suresh gave him consent to be the arbitrator, they reposed their faith in him.

In a democratic setup, the relationship between a government and citizens is maintained on a similar principle – Consent of the Governed. In a democracy, citizens have given their consent to public institutions (Parliament, Judiciary, Police etc.) to govern them. In order to govern, the state uses 2 methods,

  1. Create laws and policies which the citizens consensually abide by
  2. Use of force/ penalties where citizens don’t abide by the law

A Citizen’s faith is crucial for the government to pull off its policies. Just go back to our demonetization days. Whether demonetization succeeded or failed is another discussion but the unshakable faith which citizens had in PM Modi helped him pull off something which would otherwise have produced widespread resentment. But in cases where rogue elements do not abide by laws, the state reserves the right to use force, again a right which is given by its citizens. Basically, the state has to balance between these 2 stated methods, it cannot expect 100% compliance and hence it has to use force but then neither can it only resort to force all the time against the wishes of the people.

- Ad - - article resumes -

When there is an imbalance in A and B, society is pushed into turmoil. If the state is not able to use force where required, the crime rate will increase and if society’s faith in its institutions goes down, it will increase disobedience and create excessive strain on law enforcement. Hence the balance is important. Let us take 2 recent examples – firecracker ban and Sabarimala. In both these cases, there has been widespread disobedience and if the state wants to implement these policies against the will of people, a disproportionate amount of force will have to be used. The Kerala government is doing just that, it is using force to coerce this judgement on people. This will create further mistrust between government and the governed and is a very slippery slope to walk on.

But what is it that is giving ordinary citizens a motivation to disobey at such a mass scale? Let us go back to the initial example. When Ramesh and Suresh approached Chandrakant to be the arbitrator, it is because he has earned that right based on his past conduct. Also, there were 2 implied conditions,

  1. Impartiality
  2. Arbitration is limited to this particular case

Same is the relationship between state and citizens. Citizens give consent to the state to govern a part of their lives, leaving the remaining part to their discretion and secondly the state is supposed to be impartial. In the above 2 judgements, both these unstated tenants have been broken. Ordinary citizens believe that the state is overstepping its mandate and entering places where it should not be interfering in. Also, people no longer believe that the laws and policies are impartial and this is the basis of current disobedience. Both these are not good signs and can have major undesirable effects on our future.

Let me again refer to the Wikipedia article linked above, “This theory of consent is historically contrasted to the divine right of kings and had often been invoked against the legitimacy of colonialism. Article 21 of the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government”.”

It is very important to understand the subtle yet very important difference between the 2 philosophies – ‘Consent’and ‘Divine Right’. In a democratic setup, the will of people should be the basis of government and not some misplaced notion of divine right where the courts and parliaments can impose their sense of righteousness on the people. No matter how lucrative it is, the law has to resist the temptation of moral policing. This works in a colonial setup but not in a democracy. However, recent judgements seem to have been delivered on the assumption of ‘Divine right’- where law insists on guiding people in a direction which it deems fit. This short-cut approach to social change also suits the NGO’s and third parties who don’t want to take the burden of society’s aspirations but love to impose their moral code on society.

There is one more concept in political philosophy – ‘The right to revolution; of the people of a nation to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests and/or threatens the safety of the people without cause’. Leftists always try to invoke this right to revolution by introducing victimization in society, dividing society and pitting groups against each other. But what we are seeing in Kerala today is a more spontaneous revolution and it is indeed ironical that a leftist government is at the receiving end.

But does that mean that society can only be populist in a democracy? Not at all, social change is required at many levels. But this social change should be brought about by the will of the governed. Agents of social change should generate consensus by understanding societies actual needs and then implementing solutions to these problems through correct non-manipulative channels. But as long as custodians of public institutions refuse to get down from their self-imagined pedestals of moral superiority, the balance between consensus and force will always be tilted.

Help Opindia Reach Every Indian. Share This Post
We need your support to survive in the media industry. Please consider paying us for the content we produce:

To know more about these payments, please click here.


Big Story

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has taken cognisance of the complaint of sexual harassment that was made by one Himanshi Gupta against a senior producer of Kapil Sibal backed Tiranga TV.

2019 World Cup Is Here!

Catch the latest on Cricket World Cup as it unfolds, special coverage by Opindia

Proud to be a brand - Made in India?
Now, Advertise on Opindia

Mangalore: Mohammad Ansari rapes a cow by tying its limbs, villagers catch him in the act, arrested

The villagers also made Ansari touch cow’s feet and ask for forgiveness for raping her. However, when Ansari approached the calf, the animal freaked out and started running.

Mangaluru villagers caught Mohammad Ansari raping a calf, police arrests villagers for ‘hurting religious beliefs’

In the Kunjathbail village in Mangaluru, Mohammad Ansari was caught red-handed by the villagers while he was raping a calf.

Here are 15 famous quotes from Harsha Bhogle during his commentary stint

The famous Indian commentator, Harsha Bhogle, born on July 19 in Hyderabad is celebrating his 58th birthday today.

Abusive actor Ajaz Khan arrested by Mumbai Police for instigating violence through social media

Mumbai Police arrests small-time actor Ajaz Khan after he mocked the police on TikTok

Revisiting Sainbari, a blot on Indian Democracy: When Communists made a mother eat rice with her dead sons’ blood

The Sainbari incident remains the most horrific instance of political violence in the country.
Couple forced out of village; husband pressurised to accept wife’s religion

Hindu boy’s family forced out of village for marrying Muslim girl, police advices boy to convert as villagers threaten to kill

Newlywed Hindu boy and Muslim girl approach SSP for protection as villagers threaten to kill them and local police ask the boy to convert
Salma Ansari's temple plan receives AMU's objection

AMU administration’s jolt to Mrs Ansari’s secularism pitch, says no to temple plan inside ‘Chacha Nehru Madarsa’

Salma Ansari, the wife of former vice president Hamid Ansari, had announced recently that she will have a temple built inside the 'Chacha Nehru Madarsa' that she runs in AMU campus.
Shashi Tharoor supports Sanjiv Bhatt

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor extends support to disgraced cop Sanjiv Bhatt sentenced to life in custodial death case

Shashi Tharoor had tweeted today that he had met with the family of disgraced cop Sanjiv Bhatt

Live updates Karnataka Trust Vote: House adjourned, floor test now expected on Monday

JDS-Congress government of Karnataka is facing their second floor test after assembly elections were held in May last year.
United Muslim Forum in Telangana asks members not to kill cows on Bakr Eid

United Muslim Forum asks Muslims not to kill cows on Bakr-Eid, asks state government to stop Gau Rakshaks

The United Muslim Forum reportedly said that the Muslim community must refrain from killing bovine animals on Bakr-Eid so the possibilities of mischief are reduced.
Subscribe to Day's Top Stories
- Advertisment -

Latest articles

Connect with us

173,678FansLike
159,240FollowersFollow
74,860SubscribersSubscribe
Help Opindia Reach Every Indian. Share This Post