This New Year morning, Indians committed to the principle of pluralism would, in all probability, be looking back at the year that has gone by. For 2019, especially the months that followed the re-election of Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to power, had witnessed a systematic assault on some of the foundational tenets of the Republic. This is not to suggest that the nation that preceded New India had been an ideal formation. Indian democracy was not without its flaws. A deeply iniquitous society cannot claim to be perfect. But it remained at its core, notwithstanding periods of confusion and strife, wedded to the values of the Constitution, that sacred document that is the beating heart of this polity. There is evidence to suggest that the tryst is now in peril. The threats — the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, the implementation of the latter remains shrouded in confusion, are but two examples — stem from a radical, toxic template that an elected dispensation wishes to force down the throat of the nation. Herein lies one of the conditions peculiar to the Indian democratic experience. What is providing steam to a deeply contentious project is — the irony is palpable — the power of the electoral mandate. It cannot be denied that Mr Modi and his party have won a decisive majority in the parliamentary elections. Brutal political dominance is now being put to use to further polarize a nation through policy.
It must be conceded that placing citizenship at the altar of faith, stripping a state of its statehood without consulting its people, eviscerating institutions integral to the functioning of a democracy, targeted vandalism by thugs in uniform and such other realities that have coincided with Mr Modi’s second term have been made possible by discerning shifts on the ground. While thousands of Indians have taken to the streets in protest, especially against the dire intent of the CAA-NRC, it is equally true that large segments of the population remain enamoured of Mr Modi’s vision for India. The primary objective of the constitutionalists would thus be to reclaim the territory — ideological and political — that has been ceded to bigotry. This work cannot be left to the Opposition alone. Disseminating the Idea of India should be the New Year resolution of every conscientious citizen.