What is the place for minorities in a Democratic Institution?

Democracy Oct 26, 2020

Do you know a reality-show called Bigg Boss? People with same interests come together, form a group, and work to turn the decisions in their favour! Mostly, 4-5 people come together initially and soon they influence others, increasing their group capacity. Once the group has a fairly huge number of people, it becomes a majority group. Others, too hop on the bandwagon and join the majority. They do not consider whether or not they share same interests as of that group. All they are concerned with is a sense of togetherness, a sense of belonging and a sense of in-group feeling. Those who stand true to their personal interests and refuse to join the group, ultimately become a minority. They are looked upon as someone who is different, inferior and powerless. When we compare these structures and events in relation to our society, society is nothing but a reality show in itself!

Minority. It can be any minority in sense. Be it gender-minority, religious-minority, cultural-minority, linguistic-minority, economic-minority, political-minority, castes, educational-minority, racial minority and even geographical minority, they exist everywhere. The more the diversity you come across, the more are the chances of division and distinction between minority and majority. India is Democratic, republic and a multi-fold nation. Conserving the diversity and democracy is a fairly tough task. Now, enter “reservations” in the task.  Reservations and representations of diversities ensure to keep the society democratic in nature. And the problem seems to be solved!

So why are there reservations for the minority groups? To put them on the same level as of others? To give them a source for raising their voices and opinions? To let everyone, know that they exist? Certainly yes. Or at the very least that was the original thought when special Reservations and Representations were added to the Indian Constitution. But today they have become a tool of powerplay. When the plan was to bring on the same page, this has given rise to conflicts where each minority tries to take revenge of what wrong had been done to them. And in the meantime, the main principle of Reservations and Equal Representations is lost.

Sociologically, this is a global phenomenon! There is no society where minorities are absent. Or if there is, isn’t this is something Karl Marx, Max Weber dreamed of? A utopian society? Democracy is built through voting. Vote the person who you think befits the responsibility to nurture the nation, and play your part as responsible citizen. Such a simple process this seems! But, now add Minority rights, welfare for all and equal representation and you will see that “the sensible number of votes” has left the chat! Minorities are often looked upon as something inferior and it has more to do with quantity than quality. Since democracy houses a majority, Minorities indirectly become outsiders and thus, are left behind. And that is why, when it is time of elections, every political party promises these minorities a fair chance. If they ignore to do this, there comes a time where such minorities may rebel and question the authority.

And if you think that Minority struggles are only in developing societies, wait till you read this upcoming information of America. In American society there has been a long historical struggle between white elites and the slave minorities. Initially, when the voting rights in USA began in late 1700s, only ‘specific white elite men’ had right to vote and basically it was a majority-oligarchy rather than Democracy. In the early 1800s, religious restrictions were removed and now ‘all white elite men’ could vote. Then came a period where, economic elite criteria were removed, allowing ‘all white men’ to vote and run the Democratic nation.  The slave minority, Asian minority and most importantly women remained in the backseat. Soon, the USA government ‘granted’ access to people from Asian-American, African-American races to vote. By this time, Natives had the right to vote. One by one, other racial groups such as first-generation Chino-Americans and Japanese-Americans won the voting rights. However, it was only in the earl 1900s where, voting rights were granted to all Native Americans regardless of gender. (However, this only includes women, no representation of LGBTQIA+ community till recent times). Soon, despite of colour, race, language spoken, religion, gender, people of America had right to vote.  And in the upcoming USA 2020 elections, the Hispanic Americans is the largest ethnic minority in the electorate!

Ironically enough, Democracy is defined as “For people, by people and from the people”. But, when Democracy says every individual is born with the right to vote, why did these minorities were given the right? Weren’t they born with the same birth-right to vote as their majority counterparts did? So, you can see that Minority Presentation and Equal Rights and Democracy are often at the loggerheads. Next time you hear the saying, “the more the merrier” ask yourself what about minorities?

This article has been written by Radha Parvate for The Paradigm

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