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Threat of Majoritarianism to Indian and US Democracies
What has happened:
USA has seen massive protests in response to inhumane killing of George Floyd by police. This Black Lives Matter(BLM) movement has seen multi racial participation across cities against racial injustice towards blacks.
Comparisons have been made between anti CAA(Citizenship Amendment Act) protests in India and BLM movement. Anti CAA protests were against perceived demotion of muslims into secondary citizenship in India.
Blacks and muslims are the largest minorities in the US and India respectively. Let us compare their socio-economic, political and historical context.
Comparison of blacks in US and muslims in India:
Blacks are racial minorities in the US with the same religion as whites(racial majority in US). Whereas Muslims are religious minorities in India with the same race as hindus(religious majority in India).
In terms of demography blacks and muslims are similar. Blacks constitute 12% of the US population and muslims constitute 14% of Indian population. Political parties with divisionary ideology do not need their votes for winning elections and hence they may indulge in polarization politics. This political polarisation on the basis of race or religion results in alienation. This alienation ranges from non representation of their interests to deliberate targeting through planned segregation, violence. It results in stereotyping and systemic discrimination as seen in death of George Floyd.
Historically blacks and muslims are different in their respective countries.
- Blacks were slaves from the early 17th century to the end of American civil war in 1864. They had no rights and were seen as commodities. Even after abolishment of slavery, political equality was not provided till mid 1960’s. After the 1960’s, equality was provided with voting and human rights due to the civil rights movement. But systemic discrimnation has remained as seen in police killings.
- Muslims initially arrived in India as traders and later since 12th century CE Islamic dynasties(Sultanate and Mughals) had established themselves in India. They ruled parts of India till the advent of British. Islamic rulers like Akbar promoted harmony between religions. Yet some rulers like Babur, Aurangazeb had pursued islamic supremacy.
This difference in historical context resulted in different narratives used by extreme majoritarianism. White supremacists view blacks are inferior and hence undeserving of equality and respect.
Hindu nationalists view muslims as outsiders with no loyalty to India which is a Hindu nation. Partition is shown as proof of this disloyalty. Further actions of rulers like Aurangzeb is shown as proof of Hindu repression by muslims. Such a narrative results in religious polarization.
This narrative is flawed as this does not consider rulers like Akbar who encouraged harmony. More importantly, muslims of today have no role in any injustices of history and their implication is nothing more than a tool of political polarization.
Further muslim masses and muslim rulers are not differentiated in this extemre majoritarian narrative. Muslim masses were poor even in times of islamic rulers. In current times, Sachar committee report in 2005 says that, along with Dalits and Adivasis, muslims are the poorest community of India. This economic backwardness is another common point of both blacks and muslims.
After the mid 20th century, a democracy is not a proper democracy unless it safeguards minorities. And if the minorities are also poor, the protection becomes even more necessary. A poor minority deserves empathy and justice, not hatred and repression. It is a morally diminished and normatively impoverished society, which adopts the latter path.
- Identity based polarisation is inimical to democratic values and progress of nations but has become a part of politics. Explain. How can such political polarisation be addressed? [15 marks, 250 words]