A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

Economist turned diplomat John Kenneth Galbraith first called India a functioning anarchy. Arundhati Roy says we are no democracy at all; merely voting in an election every few years doesn’t make us a democracy.

The columnist Tavleen Singh contends it is a feudal democracy, which is why something as horrible as the Bhopal gas tragedy should happen and justice not be done for a quarter of a century.

From her column in the Indian Express:

“Feudalism through the ballot box is similar to real feudalism in that as a system it relies on keeping the majority of the populace poor and illiterate. The good thing about poor and illiterate people is that they can be relied on not to protest even in the face of horrible injustice. Not because they like it that way but because they cannot afford to do anything else.

“More than 4,000 people were gassed to death by Union Carbide on December 3, 1984 and our political leaders have behaved as if it were just another industrial accident. Worse still, the victims have accepted this in virtual silence. Social activists led a few protest marches but these were sporadic since most victims were too poor to do more than get on with their lives.

“This would be unthinkable in a country that had real democracy and people who were literate enough to understand that their rights as citizens went beyond voting in elections….

“Today, the roots of democratic feudalism have spread so far and wide that most Indian political parties revolve around personalities and not ideas or ideology. Even apolitical observers cannot fail to notice that nearly every political party from Kashmir to Kanyakumari is the property of some family and always there is an heir waiting in the wings”

Read the full column: The price of democratic feudalism

Cartoons: courtesy Jayanto Banerjee (top), Shreyas Navare/ The Hindustan Times

Also read: Is Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension a foregone conclusion?