EDITORIAL || Largest Democracy
Between the last time I wrote something for this column and the present, my nation has come perilously close to a war with her neighbour Pakistan.
It all began with the tragic killing of over 40 Indian soldiers in a Kashmir bombing, the responsibility of which was later taken by a jihadi terrorist group based in Pakistan.
My nation got over the sorrow of the loss of her soldiers in a fairly short time (although I doubt that was the case for the immediate family of the martyred) and began baying for blood. The call for revenge became a din, a chaotic chorus that resulted in several nervewracking days for the few who had experienced, or could at least imagine, the horrors that a real war can wage upon a nation.
Eventually, in these troubling days of barrel headed news cycles, the media tired of playing a horseman of the apocalypse as the warmongering politicians moved to the popular topics of bigotry and hatred. As I sit writing this, the elections for India’s federal government has officially commenced.
In India, the voting takes places in multiple phases. In my state of West Bengal, 42 constituencies would be polled in seven separate phases spanning several weeks.
The election process in India is a long and arduous ‘festival’ of sorts that comes along every five years. It is certainly a festival of democracy, but like all social festivals, it is a chaotic event that can have several collateral consequences, many of which seeped in violence and bloodshed.
In a move that must be lauded by rational citizens, the independent Election Commission has forbidden political parties to use the sentiment of the people towards the Army or the Indian Air Force wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman to seek votes. Varthaman had been captured by Pakistan during a counter operation by India, and was returned after 60 hours.
These rules, and others – especially those that forbid politicians to incite religious tension among different castes or communities by their fiery election speeches, are being flouted left and right by (primarily) the ruling elite who are pushing the cause of Hindu fundamentalism to arguably fight the ‘culture’ that produces jihadi terrorists!
In a bold move of defiance in this largely intolerant climate where dissenters are being labeled unpatriotic and pro-Pakistani, hundreds of artists and academics from the Arts and Sciences have appealed for a change, with Nobel-laureate economist Amartya Sen and others chiming in to highlight the terrible economic performance of the nation in the last five years and the assorted issues of joblessness, farmer suicides, religion/caste violence and the other real issues that are being sidelined by the ‘fake news’ brigade, propaganda media and right wing internet trolls, a menace that has pervaded the entire world at this time.
Let us hope that my nation has safe and fair elections this summer. 
(Originally published in Spring 2019 issue of CultureCult Magazine)