ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interrogating the Idea of Democracy in India

Crisis of Liberal Deliberation: Facets of Indian Democracy edited by Manas Ray, New Delhi: Primus Books, 2022; pp xi + 604, `1,995.

State of Democracy in India: Essays on Life and Politics in Contemporary Times edited by Manas Ray, New Delhi: Primus Books, 2022; pp xi + 694, `1,995.

How to analyse and make sense of the current state of democracy in India is an important question. Some scholars prefer to see the current set of crises in Indian politics—inclu­ding that of democracy, secularism, rights of individuals, and groups, particularly those of minority communities—as part of a global political trend dominated by a mix of authoritarian, majoritarian, and populist tendencies. Others like to focus on longer-term tendencies within Indian history itself. In this context, the publication of these two volumes on Indian democracy edited by Manas Ray is a timely and important int­ervention. The 40 essays contained in the two volumes are distributed under different rubrics that seek to analyse an impressive range of the aspects of Indian democracy from an equally impressive and multidisciplinary range of perspectives. As Ray proclaims in the “Introduction” to one of the volumes, the goal is not to provide an exh­austive study of Indian demo­cracy—which is in any case impossible in the space of two volumes given the comple­xities of the object of analysis. Yet, he has done an excellent job by putting together this collection of ­papers by some of the eminent and leading scholars in their respective disciplines, and some by young scholars. Most of the ­essays are able to illuminate the chosen aspect of Indian democracy by deploying cutting-edge theoretical developments and analytical tools in their ­respective fields.

Although several papers reflect on the “disturbing trends” and multifaceted crises facing democracy in contemporary India, the volumes together paint a much more textured picture of it, with some papers highlighting interesting paradoxes and contradictions. At the outset in the “Introduction” to the Crisis of Liberal Deliberation: Facets of Indian Democracy (henceforth CLD)Ray frames his analysis of Indian democracy in terms of a set of crises, including the “crisis of liberal deliberation.” Further, his emphasis is on the importance of reading the current predicament of Indian democracy as one shared with several other nations, including some Western nations. Referring to recent reflections on democracy in the works of Charles Taylor, David van Reybrouck, and Ben Margulies, Ray discusses the general disenchantment of the people with electoral democracy all around the democratic world. Yet, at the same time people seem to be clinging—with some vague hope—to democracy as the preferred form of government, while every now and then hobnobbing with authoritarian political leaders as well. The persistence of this sort of optimism, despite periodical disappointments, mixed with the widespread crises of democratic institutions and increasing role of violence produces a paradox, as the editor writes: “the more democratic states are under the sway of violence, the more resolute people seem in their demand for more democracy” (CLD: 5).

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Updated On : 3rd Oct, 2022
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