Formal democracy and its institutions can only become effective if they are nourished through #DemocracyInEverydayLife, says Rajesh Tandon, on our 68th Republic Day.
While playing together in school, boys disagree on many things about the game. How are these disagreements expressed? By shouting at each other? How are these disagreements dealt with? By shouting down those who disagree? By rejecting and bullying them? By ’beating’ them up? Or, by listening to their opinions carefully, understanding the meaning of disagreements, and discussing calmly how to resolve them?
When an adolescent girl tells her parents that she wants to study engineering in a college away from home, how do they respond? Do they tell her there’s no need to study, no need to go away from home? What is the point of her studying engineering when she will be a housewife anyway? Or, do they listen to her reasons and aspirations, discuss how she will manage on her own, and look after her safety?
We complete 67 years of our Republic today; celebrating our constitution which lays the framework for democratic governance. On the occasion of National Voters Day (25th January), we encourage millions of youth in the country to participate in electoral democracy.
Is democracy merely about electoral behaviour, about having the right to cast a vote every five (or four) years?
As citizens we study, play, work and live together, every day, in society. But, we are all different. We differ because of our upbringing. We differ on account of religion, caste, economic status, language and genders. Even when we have the same religion, socio-economic status and language, the experiences and opinions of women and men are different. In the same office, various colleagues may have different opinions and analysis of the same problem. In all generations, youngsters disagree with their parents and elders in the family and community, because experiences and views differ.
As aware, active and engaged citizens, when we acknowledge and deal with these differences democratically, we make democracy function in our lives, every day, in various ways.
• Listening to different opinions and views is a democratic act.
• Respecting different views, even if expressed by a few, is a democratic act.
• Valuing other’s knowledge, even when ignored by authorities, is a democratic act.
• Encouraging others to share their views, and speak up on what they like and do not like, is a democratic act.
• Encouraging conversations across people with different views and opinions is a democratic act.
• Facilitating agreements to be, act, work and live together, despite differences, is a democratic act.
• Constantly questioning my attitudes towards differences in views of others, and different others, is a courageous democratic act.
We are the largest democracy in the world today, with half our population below 25 years of age. This is the largest group of youth in any country, any time in history. The future of democracy in India depends a great deal on how youth engage in the coming period. Given all the socio-economic challenges being faced by us, it is important that Indians, in particular the future generation, continue to believe in and support democratic forms of governance and live democracy every day. Learning to practice democratic citizenship, especially by millions of youth in everyday life, needs nurturance.
For it is only when we appreciate, listen, respect, value, encourage and facilitate democratic values and principles--in the political system, and in families, communities, and in society--will India become a truly democratic nation.