In India, the steady subversion of equality


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Equality in democracy


The sharp turns away from democracy seen recently in the country must jolt citizens into stopping the descent.

Equality in democracy

  • The central edifice of a democracy, or what makes it a revolutionary idea, is equality, or that it accords an equal status to all its people.
  • The promise of the far-sighted Indian Constitution was of equal rights to all.
  • If any benefit was accorded to smaller groups, religious or linguistic minorities or Dalits, it was in order to achieve substantive equality.

Faith as a differentiator

  • The basis of citizenship under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, allowing for non-Muslims from three countries to fast-track their citizenship, was the most serious push to introduce religion into citizenship.
  • Impact on marital choice: In terms of marital choices, laws in the country in States where the national ruling party holds sway have drawn harsh attention on inter-faith couples.
  • The Gujarat law criminalising inter-faith marriages has been called out by the Gujarat High Court.
  • But the ordinance introduced in Uttar Pradesh (Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020) is now a law.
  • Food has been criminalised: Stringent laws on cattle end up penalising those who have a certain diet, namely beef. The mood in the country created and abetted by people close to the powers that be, has led to lynchings.
  • State governments and the Union government have mostly ignored the Supreme Court’s directions in 2018 to set up fast track courts, advice to take steps to stop hate messages on social media, or compensation to victims, or bringing in an anti-mob lynching law.
  • Circumscribe where on can reside: The Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provision for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, popularly known as the Disturbed Areas Act, circumscribes where one can reside.
  • The act was brought in an atmosphere where there was communal rioting and forced displacement, to ostensibly protect communities from distress sales, the twist accorded to it over the years firmly makes the forced separation of communities. evident.

Hostile environment

  • Scholars like Thomas Blom Hansen and Paul Brass have unhesitatingly pointed to the role of violence that has historically been acceptable in Indian society and politics.
  • Scholars like Christophe Jaffrelot have pointed out that there will not be a seamless transition to an “ethnic democracy”.
  • The Indian nation is one formed on the promise of shared and participatory kinship, which recognised Indian nationalism as being distinct from the faith you practised at home.
  • Prioritising any one identity will have disastrous consequences and history provides enough evidence of this.


The mobs read together with actions of the Union government and that of State governments mark a sharp turn away from the democracy India claims it is. That must jolt us into recognising the distance we have already travelled down the wrong path. That may be the first step to try to wrest the descent into the darkness of an apartheid state.

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