The tendency among ‘educated’ people in India is to describe ‘proper’ behaviour according to a largely western template. This view overlooks the development of Indian civilisation in a manner that has made the best of both worlds – its ancient wisdom and modern technology, the latter largely obtained from the West. Unlike many other civilisations, it has not been overwhelmed or wiped out by the waves of invasions that have occurred over the millennia. Some may describe this as clichéd thinking, but those who live close to the people and are not cut off in ivory towers of privilege, wealth or various kinds of power, get to see the depth of the civilisational impulse in the everyday behaviour of commoners.
This is why Indians took to democracy like fish to water. Instead of succumbing to the disadvantages of poverty and illiteracy brought about by hundreds of years of foreign subjugation, the people evolved as a collective entity, becoming a united nation from the enormous diversity that makes up the sub-continent. Increasingly over the years since Independence, they have faced all kinds of challenges but did not succumb to the seductive lure of simplistic ideologies or populist solutions. Instead, they functioned as well as they could, despite the many difficult circumstances, in the complexities that democracy represents. This is why one can confidently claim that the ordinary Indian is a more evolved individual than members of many other societies and nations around the world.
It is this psyche that needs to be understood by politicians making superficial and self-serving judgements about Indian democracy. An understanding of this phenomenon lies behind Prime Minister Modi’s claim about India being the ‘Mother of Democracies’. Consider how energetically India’s opposition has questioned everything the Prime Minister has done. It may have been largely at an immature and uninformed level, with personal gains in mind, but has it upset democratic functioning?
In comparison, China’s controlled society follows its undemocratically appointed leaders blindly, even if it is being taken speedily over the precipice to disaster. Those who hold China as a ‘successful model’ are unable to see outcomes except in the immediate moment, unable to recognise the long term impact of flawed systems. India’s very existence bears out the necessity of noble civilisational values. The tribal mentality that sees people in terms of racist, sectarian and ideological identities cannot meet the complex challenges of modern society. It is only the philosophy that focuses on the growth of individual consciousness as the means to general well-being that has the answers to present day problems. This approach continues to exist and thrive in India. Its limitless energy will eventually lead the world into the future.