OF MUTUAL RESPECT

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Jul 2018 11:21:15

New Delhi, July 5 (PTI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that the contribution of Asian democracies to global discourse needed to enhance rapidly with their rise in economic and political stature, as he stressed that democratic values were rooted in Hindu and Buddhist civilisations. Modi made these comments in a video message he posted on Twitter for the fourth edition of ‘Samvad’, a symposium being held in Tokyo on the theme ‘Shared values and democracy’ in Asia.’ Mutual accommodation and respect help democracy, the Prime Minister said.

THE concept of shared values has always been the basis of democracy, and Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi is very right in insisting upon the importance of mutual accommodation and mutual respect as main principles of a democratic polity. That is why he stressed the importance of enhancing the contribution of Asian democracies to the overall global discourse. However, even as he talked of those principles in a general Asian context, one could see a hint of hurt in Mr. Modi’s tone and tenor in view of the distorted public discourse in India.

Because the Tokyo conference in a global event, he might not have made specific reference to the Indian condition, but Mr. Modi could not hide his sense of disappointment of whatever is happening in India in the name of the fundamental democratic right of freedom of expression in the country. It is obvious that he realises how the principles of mutual accommodation and mutual respect are being ignored and even insulted in Indian public affairs. That realisation peeps out from his Twitter message. He has insisted that mere economic and political considerations cannot be given complete primacy if shared values are not treated as a cementing factor in any democratic polity.

It is really unfortunate that a very serious distortion has taken place in India’s democratic system in the name of freedom of expression. Most political parties have taken shelter under that pretext to distort and even destroy the principle of mutual accommodation. This absence of acceptance and accommodation is a gift of the parties that are now occupying Opposition benches. When India gained Independence, its rulers -- who had an almost one-sided mandate in their favour -- grew increasingly intolerant of contrarian views. History shows that they went out of the way to malign and annihilate the Opposition by the hook or the crook. And in this manner, they gave the gift of mutual disrespect to the Indian political community. Now, what is in witness is a terrible scenario in which everybody seems all willing to cause insult to the people on the other side of the ideological divide. Such a culture cannot enhance the quality of democratic discourse, the Prime Minister has meant to assert through his message.

For, what is happening in India for the past four years is that the Opposition parties are trying to target the Government for no reason on countless occasions. It has blamed the Government headed by Mr. Narendra Modi for everything under the Sun -- good, bad or indifferent. Even when the Government has achieved good results in any regard, the Opposition blasts those -- of senselessly. It is not missing any chance of creating social disturbance on the basis of caste and creed by raising non-existent issues. So dirty is that approach that the Opposition criticised the Government when it granted a steep hike in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for summer crops and criticised the Maharashtra Government for its loan-waiver for farmers, when its own Government did the same thing in Karnataka. The Prime Minister has hit at this tendency showing disrespect to others.

The most unfortunate part of this culture is that it does not value a calm consideration of contrarion point of view, a respectful thought to the ideas and ideals of other side, a willingness to accommodate the point of view of even the people in the other camp. This culture has led to an almost permanent enmity between communities and caste-groups in the country. Another ill-effect of this culture of deliberate lack of accommodation is that an overall atmosphere of suspicion prevails in the larger society in which almost every good intention is suspect.

The Prime Minister’s insistence on importance of shared values and mutual accommodation and respect stems from this stark awareness of the overall decline in the quality of democratic discourse in India. He did mention the culture of shared values in the Hindu and Buddhist civilisations. This reference has a tremendous importance in today’s context. For, when the Indian civilisation was at its peak more than two thousand years ago, Mahatma Gautam Buddha rose to challenge some basic beliefs and tenets of the philosophical and cultural tradition of the country. In that way, he was a rebel of sorts. Yet, the larger Indian society of that day respected him and accepted him as a seer and even an Avtar!

Mr. Modi has almost meant that kind of an accommodative culture in today’s India. Even though the Tokyo conference has a global importance, its manifestation for India has a deep meaning. The Prime Minister’s message nudges us to think deeply about its meaning and implement the principle concealed in it. It would be only unfortunate if somebody takes the Prime Minister’s urging as a political statement. In fact, he is rising above petty political consideration and is asking all of us to realise the importance of the principles of mutual accommodation and respect. At this precise moment, India needs to understand the deep meaning of that message.