The Platform

Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) during march in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.

Throughout India, the extremist Hindutva ideology has become normalized with many of the country’s politicians espousing it.

Once lauded as a beacon of democratic governance in a world increasingly tipping towards authoritarianism, India now teeters on the brink of its own democratic collapse. This crisis is not a sudden upheaval but a series of complex transformations and policy shifts that force us to reassess the future of democratic values in the subcontinent.

At the heart of this unraveling is the meteoric rise of Hindutva ideology—a potent distillation of Hindu nationalism aimed at establishing a Hindu-majoritarian state. Far from a fringe element, Hindutva has insinuated itself into the corridors of power, shaping policies and altering the nation’s sociocultural landscape in unsettling ways.

This erosion of democratic principles in India is deeply entwined with human rights infringements that strike at the core of societal equality. Violations, such as suppression of free speech, curtailment of religious freedom, and marginalization of vulnerable communities, fuel pervasive concerns about the state of democracy and social justice in the country.

The ascendancy of Hindutva throws into sharp relief the tension between its majoritarian impulses and the pluralistic ideals enshrined in India’s constitution. The result is an increasingly fragmented society where religious minorities face systemic inequalities, further corroding the vision of a diverse and inclusive India.

The polarization borne of Hindutva’s ideology fractures the society along religious lines, breeding tensions and discrimination. This divide undermines the very foundations of democratic dialogue, eroding the collective trust necessary for democracy to function.

One cannot discuss this democratic backsliding without highlighting the muzzling of dissent. Critics of the government or its ideological stance find themselves harassed, legally embattled, or, in extreme cases, subjected to violence.

Legislative measures, such as the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, exacerbate these tensions by introducing the potential for disenfranchisement based on religious identity, effectively marginalizing already vulnerable communities.

And let us not overlook the compromised independence of India’s judiciary. The appointment of ideologically aligned judges and subsequent interference in judicial processes call into question the institution’s capacity to serve as democracy’s final arbiter.

The role of the media, ever pivotal in a functioning democracy, is also under siege. From disinformation campaigns to self-censorship, journalistic integrity faces threats that undermine the public’s right to factual, impartial information.

The institutional framework of Indian democracy—the judiciary, the election commission, the media—is in a state of precarious imbalance. Their compromised autonomy directly impacts their ability to enforce democratic norms.

This democratic atrophy has had profound effects on India’s rich tapestry of religious and cultural diversity. The insidious marginalization of religious minorities and the push for cultural homogenization are antithetical to the pluralism upon which democracies thrive.

Discrimination isn’t meted out equally; it disproportionately affects marginalized groups such as religious minorities, Dalits, and indigenous communities. These segments of the population bear the brunt of violence, socioeconomic marginalization, and other forms of systemic injustice.

India’s standing on the global stage has been tarnished by this democratic erosion and associated human rights violations. Notable incidents like the Ayodhya dispute or the National Register of Citizens have only amplified concerns among international observers regarding India’s trajectory.

The stifling of academic and cultural freedoms, evidenced by censorship and artistic suppression, adds another layer to the unfolding crisis. Engaging in honest dialogue across societal divides and reinforcing legal protections for minority rights become imperative to stem this decline.

Revitalizing India’s democratic apparatus involves reinforcing checks and balances. This entails safeguarding judicial independence, ensuring transparent electoral processes, and holding government institutions to account.

In this complex narrative, the media has an indomitable role: to act as a bulwark against disinformation and to foster informed civic engagement. Upholding journalistic standards becomes not merely an ideal but a necessity in these tumultuous times.

In sum, the propagation of Hindutva ideology, erosion of democratic values, and a litany of human rights violations have woven a complicated, distressing tapestry that puts at risk the social and political future of India. The interplay of these corrosive elements provokes serious introspection about the path that India is charting, forcing us to confront uncomfortable truths as the world watches.

Muhammad Wasama Khalid is a Correspondent and Researcher at Global Affairs. He is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in International Relations at National Defense University. His interests include history, politics, and current affairs. He has been published in Global Village Space, Global Defense Insight, Global Affairs, and Modern Diplomacy.