Bio-medical metaphors should of course be handled with great care when analysing socio-political realities, but the analogy of autoimmune disease usefully highlights the key point of radically questioning the definition of democracy as the rule of the sovereign people: that one of the key political problems of democracy as we know it is to strengthen its immune system by cultivating various types of different antibodies that can protect it against its self-consuming diseases.
This is another way of saying that the 'spirit' and language and institutions of democracy - the way in which we think and act democratically - is urgently in need of democratisation. The particular suggestion here is that the inherited meaning of democracy as bullying others in the name of self-government and equality needs to be confronted and replaced with a different, more contemporary - and more visionary - understanding of democracy as a special type of polity structured by non-violent power-sharing, openness and a plurality of different ways of life that are considered equal.
Fortunately, the task of democratising our understanding of democracy is helped by the fact that actually existing democracies are contradicting and eroding their own leading fiction that a sovereign political body called demosis capable of acting and ruling in unison. Thanks to a whole range of power-dividing and power-sharing techniques, all actually existing democracies are having the long-term effect of eroding the originally democratic – fictional – presumption that an imaginary body called 'The People' can rule and be ruled in turn.
The declaratory part of the Indian constitution- preamble is very eloquent in ascribing the formation of a sovereign and democratic state to 'We the people'. The pertinent question is whether 'We the people' participated in the making of the constitution. If the composition and function of the Constituent Assembly is any indication, then it clearly amplifies the fact that not 'We the People' but a few representatives played a prominent role in making of the constitution using 'We the People' as a cliche.
The voice of the representatives was considered as the voice of the people not vice versa. This stands contradictory to simple democracy which is defined as 'of the people, by the people and for the people'. This is a constitution 'from above' not 'from below' taking demos (we the people) for granted. To further this argument we confront another question whether demos in India is an undivided homogenous unit identified as body politic.
In reality it is not so; it is highly heterogeneous, divided and crises- crossed on caste, religion, gender, poor and rich. How these divergent voices are heard in the imagined 'We the people'? In this imagined demos is heard the voice of those upper crust of the Indian society who are in power and not the voice of the excluded and marginalized from the body politic.
After independence the various social upsurges, movements and protestations and above all the rise of civil society adds credence to the main thrust of the argument that voice of the imagined 'We the people' is not necessarily coeval with these fractured and divergent voices. Rather it is this increasing discrepancy between the two and tendency to play the cliché 'we the people' on the part of the ruling class that has given rise such politico- socio-economic volatility in India.
The ruling section constituting politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and corporate sector presupposes that they are themselves the legitimate body politic immune from the penetration from these divergent voices. This illustrates the tradition of 16th -17th century monarchs holding their body as the body politic of the entire empire. Any act of threats to this body of kings was considered sacrilegious and threat to the people.
Similarly, using the 'We the people' as a convenient self perpetuating cliché the ruling class has been able to castigate any voice not in conformity with this imagined voice as a threat and democratic disarray. This remains the problematic in Indian democracy. The long tradition of a harmonious society maintaining unity in diversities disappeared with the divisive politic used by the powers that be in Centre and states in India among various communities on caste, religion, language and region.
The ingrained proclivities of the rich few to perpetuate themselves in power by using the common cliché 'We the people' has enabled them to play one section against the other. The 'We the people' during these last decades has been reduced to mere vote bank. Nothing was done during these years to make 'We the people' the real architect of Indian democracy.
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