Fallacy of today’s concept of majority

Fallacy of today’s concept of majority. Pushpa M. Bhargava & Chandana Chakrabarti, The Hindu, Sept. 3, 2002.

MAJORITY RULE is a principle of democratic governance provided the majority is not defined in terms of creed, caste, sex or any other circumstance of birth. No one is born a Hindu or a Muslim, or a Christian or a Sikh: there are no definitive and decisive genetic markers that would identify, on their own, whether the parents of a child were Hindus or Christians, Brahmins or casteless, rich or poor, educated or uneducated.

In a true democracy today, majority must be defined only on the basis of acceptance or rejection of a programme of action that would be in the interests of the nation as a whole, that would most help secure for the country’s citizens rights as, for example, enshrined in the U.N. Charter of Human Rights. A democratic country is that the Constitution of which commits the nation to secularism and equality for all its citizens without discrimination, and guarantees its governance to be totally delinked from all divisive activities such as religion.

Constitutionally, India is one of the best democracies in the world; its citizens are expected to be committed to, amongst other democratic values, scientific temper which, by definition, demands that one rises above religious dogma and learns to think, live and work within a framework of reason and without bias or prejudice. Unfortunately, in our country we have been, more often than not, ignoring the constitutional, moral and ethical obligations of a democracy, and misconstruing and misinterpreting the concept of majority rule as a principle of democratic governance. The terms, majority and minority, have been given meanings and used in contexts which would be alien to a true democracy. Thus, we have minority educational institutions, a minority commission, and one kind of “majority” (of no consequence in a real democracy) wishing to cleanse the nation of all those who don’t belong to it, unless such “minorities” are willing to live de facto, as second, third or fourth-class citizens under the dictatorial rule of the so-called majority.

The rise of organisations such as RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and, as a reaction, organisations such as Jamiat-e-Islami and the fundamentalist Muslim organisations in Kashmir, and the many policies of the earlier and the present (BJP-led) governments in the last three decades or so, are proof of the above contention. In this respect we are tending towards being no different from theocratic states such as Pakistan, Israel or Iran, or authoritative ones like the erstwhile USSR and its satellite communist countries.

Before it all gets out of hand, we and the rest of the world must recognise the fallacy of the terms, “majority” and “minority”, with the meaning that is being increasingly given to them out of context of the principles of democratic governance. In the world of today, no matter what we do, we can never do away with “minorities”, for if we remove one kind of minority, other kinds will immediately spring up on the centre-stage.

Les us assume that we get rid of all religious minorities in the country. To think that India will then be a homogeneous nation — one unified Hindu raashtra — is, to say the least, the height of stupidity. The Hindus themselves are far from being a homogeneous community. Replete with divisions and subdivisions, the Hindus have no less heterogeneity than there is between various religions, so much so that even today, amongst the true (die-hard) Hindus, it is considered a sacrilege to have marriages across divisions of caste, creed, sub-caste, linguistic groups, familial profession, social status and so on.

Therefore, if we were to be a “pure” Hindu nation, “cleansed” of all of our so-called obnoxious, unpatriotic non-Hindu minorities, we would still have majority-minority equations of other kinds. What about Brahmins versus non-Brahmins? One has only to look at the history of Tamil Nadu in the last century in this regard. What about the Hindi-speaking versus the non-Hindi-speaking? What about the Kapus and Kammas of Andhra, and the Yadavs and non-Yadavs or the Thakurs and non-Thakurs of the North? One does not have to go back long in history to recall the Bengali-Assamese divide. The north Indian and south Indian divide is only too well known.

Major imbalances

Then there are those (a minority) who live on the hills and others (the majority) who live on the plains. In fact, it might amuse the majority of the plains that the hill minority, the pahadis, refer condescendingly to the people of the plains as desis, and chide their naughty little girl if she does not behave, that she would be married off to a desi! Unfortunately, under the weight of all these majority-minority equations lie buried and forgotten the real divides that cut across all communities and religions, that separate the rich from the poor, the haves from the have-nots, and the educated from the uneducated. What is most worrying is that those obsessed with cleansing the country of certain religious minorities have neither the time nor the inclination to address these major imbalances.

What is true of Hinduism would also be true of Islam and Christianity. Pakistan, a Muslim nation, has consistently witnessed rioting between Shias and Sunnis; Pakistan does not even recognise the Sufis as Muslims. Ireland, a Christian nation, has seen a major conflict between Catholics and Protestants spanning half-a-century.

We don’t need to cleanse the nation of its minorities as perceived by organisations like the RSS and VHP. What we really need to cleanse is our minds and the way we slot fellow human beings, and to ensure that equal opportunities are provided to all our citizens from birth to optimise individual development.

PUSHPA M. BHARGAVA & CHANDANA CHAKRABARTI

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Fallacy of today’s concept of majority. Pushpa M. Bhargava & Chandana Chakrabarti, The Hindu, Sept. 3, 2002.

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