India is home to 1.35 billion people which makes it the largest democracy on planet Earth. The most basic unit of any democracy is its people. These people have different beliefs, ideas, follow various religions, speak various languages, live in different geographical areas, have unique cultures, etc… Every nation has a diversity of religion, race, language, culture, and society to some extent. But what makes India unique is it stands at 9.5 on the scale of 1-10 in terms of diversity.
Naturally, conflicts arise when there are differences in ideas, beliefs, choices. For example, two children might fight over which superhero is more powerful, a father might have a difference of opinion from his young son, on say, his hairstyle or use of social media or career choice. These conflicts become bigger and broader when supporters of each side are large in number and issues are in themselves very crucial and sensitive.
Religion, caste, race, language, culture, and region are the very sensitive issue because these define an individual, for example, what kind of clothing he wears or food he eats, which god he prays, what language he speaks, what is his color of skin, where is his position in the social hierarchy, etc. Basically, these issues define an individual’s identity and normally people do not want any interference with their basic identity.
Democracy in its very essence requires tolerance, cooperation, participation, and inclusion. It’s very obvious to conclude that more diversity of religion, language, caste, and culture leads to more conflict, less tolerance, less cooperation, less inclusion hence less favorable conditions for democracy.
When India got independence in 1947 from British rule it was the widely prevalent and accepted conclusion that India will fail at its attempt at democracy. The stated reasons were high illiteracy, its diversity, poverty, its universal adult suffrage, etc. then how did India’s attempt at democracy become successful? Answer to this question can be found in its history and its national movements for independence.
If we look at India’s ancient and medieval history at a broader level then it can be concluded that India has always dealt with external and internal threats by absorbing them and made them one of its inseparable parts. For example, Indo-Aryan came to India they were assimilated into it and gave India Vedas, Varna system, etc. to which Hindus associate themselves, India also absorbed Buddhism and Jainism (which were considered a threat to Brahmanism which was well established then), the sultanate came and was absorbed, Mughals came and were assimilated into India. Yes, there were conflicts, wars, political and social disorders but if looked at the big picture in long run India has always been tolerant and inclusive.
India has adopted British culture and practices too. British East India Company started consolidating its position in India around the second half of the 18th century. To have better control over India it introduced railways for fast transportation of raw material, introduced western education to have employees of Indian origin but with western-style education and lifestyle. These initiatives which were introduced to exploit India’s resources had unintended consequences. These unintended consequences were the geographical unification of India and brought awareness among the western-style educated middle class. Indian people realized how hypocritical Britain was that it wanted democracy in its own country and colonized other nations. What also united India was the idea of ‘independence’, different groups and communities dreamed impendence differently for example, for Dalit it was freedom from untouchability, for tribal it was freedom to use forests, for the middle class it was freedom for equal rights and dignity, for women freedom to educate themselves, etc. All these led to Nationalism and unity which proved to be the greatest weapons against colonial rule.
Historical claims of India being always tolerant and inclusiveness were about to be validated in 1947. The biggest dent in India’s tolerant and inclusive behavior was its division into two nations Pakistan (Muslim state) and India (secular state) and earlier conclusions were strengthened that India will be further divided will not sustain democracy. This incident was taken as a lesson by Indian leaders and constituent assembly and resulted in a tolerant, inclusive, and most comprehensive constitution in the world ‘The Constitution of India’. India constitution has components from other countries constitution for example we took Parliamentary democracy from Britain, Fundamental rights and preamble from the USA, directive principles of state policy (DPSP) from Ireland, etc. and this signifies that the Indian constitution was designed to keep people of India in mind and their problems. Broadly every group was satisfied with what the Indian constitution was proposing.
Vulnerable groups (of every type linguistic, religious, tribal, Dalits, women, etc) were given substantial and adequate protection, for example, no religion was the state religion, state governments were given adequate power and authority so they don’t feel captured by the center, no language was given national status, reservations were provided to SCs and STs in legislative bodies, education institutes, and Jobs, etc. Such constitutional safeguards and policy ensured that no group or community feel threatened to the extent that it starts to demand another state. As result, India found ‘Unity in Diversity.
It seems Democracy is inevitable in India.