Established fake political facts
- What signal is Obama administration sending by selling more F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan?
- PM Narendra Modi inaugurates 'Make in India Week' in Mumbai
- JNU student leader held on ‘sedition’ charges over Afzal Guru event
- JNU arrests over Afzal Guru event are ill-judged, threatens basic rights
- Live updates from the David Headley deposition before Mumbai court
In democracies, freedom of speech is not only the right to protest, but also the ability to listen, debate and reconcile. The argumentative Indian, however, only wants to be heard. It often takes only a few individuals to hold the state and its constitutional guarantees to ransom. In some cases, the "protesters" not only limit a citizen's fundamental rights but worse, threaten physical harm to the person or property. The premise behind these protests is that an idea that is expressed may hurt the sentiments of their "community". Much of this "hurt sentiment" activity takes place on issues related to religion, caste, and region. The leaders of the protest are often lower level political actors and party leaders bend themselves too far in entertaining these voices, and find silence a virtue.
Why is the political leadership silent in the face of lower level political actors initiating such protests? The obvious explanation is that political parties find no purchase in taking a stand for fear that if they speak, they will lose political support from the constituencies these groups aim to protect. The reasons for this are well known. Political parties (along with political analysts) assume that electoral contests in India are no more than a competition between social identities based on caste, religion and region. This assumption is so deep-rooted that parties announce their candidate nomination list based on caste and religion. More, a candidate's electoral strategy is often limited to some caste combination, usually comprising of his own caste plus the social groups aligned with the party.
Politicians and analysts overplay the effect of caste, religion and regional arithmetic to explain electoral outcomes. Politicians are in the business of winning elections, which bring with it the spoils of office. If a party's reliance on this caste arithmetic were sufficient to win an election, candidates and parties would not lose. After all, politicians and parties would, all else considered, stitch together a winning "social arithmetic" that favoured them, nurtured the groups that support them, and then continuously win elections. This is what happens in parts of the world where candidates and parties rely on established ties with particular social groups.