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SURESH NAUTIYAL, Board Member of the Democracy International from Asia, believes that the direct democracy alone will sustain the Democracies all over the world. Here are the excerpts of his conversation with SUNIL NEGI:
Q: In your life, what triggered your activism for more democracy and citizen-participation? Was there a key moment in your life?
I do not remember whether there was a key moment is my life that brought me into activism. However, the disparity, inequality, social injustice and caste system, racial discrimination, gender bias, violation of human rights and marginalisation of certain sections of society like Dalits (the so-called lowest people on the social ladder), Adivasis (indigenous people) and mountain people, women, etc., were reasons enough to push me into the struggles against all these injustices.
In a nutshell, I would say that there obviously was a boiling point in my life that pushed me into activism for more democracy and citizen-participation. To be specific, mid-seventies was the period that brought me into the mainstream of activism. That was the time when I was completing my secondary education. As I entered the college-life, my consciousness had a higher and expanded level of understanding and within next ten years I was into the thick of the peoples’ struggles. One thing I knew from the very beginning was that the injustices would be done away with only if our struggles stuck to the tenets of democracy and philosophy of non-violence. Also, I believed that citizens’ active participation was very essential to fight against the uneven situations. Later, I made my profession, journalism, the weapon of my activism.
Right now, talking about more democracy in a country like India is a misnomer right now because even after several decades of Independence, most parts and most societies in the country remain on the socio-economic and political margins and they still feel not only neglected and deprived but also humiliated. Neglect and humiliation, deprivation and ignorance, nepotism and injustice, poverty and illiteracy, and inadequacy of potable water, healthcare, housing and good education are the lethal ingredients that obstruct the growth of democracy in India or any other similar part of the world.
This is evident in the fact that most people in the southern world still have to struggle to have two-square-meals-a-day. This kind of struggle for the very survival does not allow them to even think about the basic democratic threads, not to talk about the kind of developed democracy we have in the western world. The feudal system still haunts us in the southern part and remains heavily overshadowed by stale bureaucracy and stinking nepotism. These profane elements hardly leave space for the marginalised to overcome and sustain like independent and free citizens. But, there is always hope and good people, who willingly want to carry the hope to the culminating point!
Q: In your opinion, why do we need to democratise the world?
It is not that democracy is the best form of governance; but for obvious reasons, it is the best available form of governance in any part of the world. Another thing is that it is not about deprivation of several and plenty for a few!
In other words, democracy is about real freedom from all forms of slavery and bondages at social, cultural, geographical, economic, political, ecological and other levels. It is not about mere intellectual orgasm. It is a very serious business and it has the capability to maintain human dignity with a sense of sustainability and capacity to neutralise all authoritarian forms of governance.
I do believe that the humans have the perennially incessant desire to live in a free and independent world and such a system can easily be identified as democratic world. The silver-line is that all humans want to live in democracy. However, over the space of time, several political systems in different parts of the world have existed and sustained — yielding distinct results as different geographical regions and their people reacted to them differently. This also led to different economic and political systems.
However, today, most modern societies prefer democracy with variable degrees because this political system has proved to be the best available system of governance over the centuries be it Gondwana in ancient India or in any other democratic part of the world!
We have no choice but to accept the diversity of the world but why is it that the world still remains largely uneven and unequal at almost all levels? Therefore, there is an urgent need to democratise the whole world. We claim to be very developed, civilised and cultured human beings, but the most societies in the world still are trying to wriggle out of poverty, inequality and injustice. They have little access to the life-saving support systems like water, food and housing – not to talk of the basic facilities like healthcare, good education, bare-minimum form of democracy, and adequate economic and political opportunities!
The point here is that if the world is democratised, a sense of equality, brother/sisterhood, peace, justice and ecological wisdom will prevail without any discrimination on the basis of geography, race/caste, ethnicity, belief and colour of skin, etc. As a result, the societies the world over will move forward with symbiotic efforts, collective wisdom and homogenous goals in mind.
And, one thing is very clear that only green direct democracy will sustain the humanity and the world in future! There will be no place for capitalist or liberalised democracies! I’m saying this because only the green values and principles can ensure balanced, equal, judicious and righteous distribution of resources available at any point of time in future!
Q: The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing. Do you see a connection between the socio-economic crisis and citizens’ participation? What should be done to fight this development?
I do agree that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing – the fact that the gap has ever since widened and it looks impossible to fill the gap. MK Gandhi rightly said that there was enough for the human needs, but not enough for the greed. The Earth is still capable to produce enough for the human needs, but the greed has overtaken tragically and thus aggravated the situation. Secondly, the unequal and discriminatory distribution of resources has widened the divide between the rich and the poor. An example of the greed is that those who have already exhausted the resources in their neighbourhood are eying on the resources of those neighbourhoods who have not exploited them so far for various reasons. The onus is on those who have exhausted their most resources with the purpose to develop them only and continue to consume and exhaust mindlessly the lion’s share of the depleting resources.
And yes, there is a connection between the socio-economic crisis and citizens’ participation in the political processes. If the citizens’ participation in their political processes is not enthusiastic, the socio-economic gap tends to widen further and this we have seen already in the weak democracies or in the countries where there is no democracy.
And now the last part of this question. Yes, we have to fight against all this in a democratic manner and globally. Today, the world has shrunk dramatically and only the direct democratic actions will bring more and more people into the struggles against economic or political crisis. There is more crisis where citizens’ participation is inadequate. Therefore, we have no option but to increase citizens’ participation against injustices. That is the key to success of true democracy.
Q: What is the next political goal you want to achieve?
It is not about my next political goal, but about the long cherished political dream! That cherished political goal is to found a green party at the national level in my country, India and make this party the vehicle of more democracy and change in the long run and in an organic and ecological manner.
Let me also reiterate here that it is not important to get elected to the state assembly or the national parliament but it is important and relevant to bring in a change in the political system which will create space for democratic struggles and movements. And, this can happen only if we wish to dedicate or rededicate ourselves!
Q: What should Democracy International do to realise more democracy and citizen-participation in the world?
Right now, the Democracy International is concentrating its energies on Europe only. This has to change if we really want to change the whole world and democratise it in the manner we want to. The whole world is like a human body. If any part of it is afflicted, the whole body will ache or suffer. The point is that we cannot change the world by changing Europe only! We need to consider the whole world as a single organic unit that needs complete and absolute healthcare!
Also, there has to be local actions with regard to the global issues. Bringing in or reinforcing democracy is a big global issue taking into view the real political scenarios the world over! The Democracy International has no choice but to democratise those parts of the world where the rays of democracy have yet to enlighten and strengthen democracy where it exists already.
The point is that only Europe is not the whole world. We have to nurture democracy in each and every part of the world. Only this way, the goal of democratising the world will be achieved. Also, we cannot rule the world with one stick! We have to devise and customise the concepts on the basis of local needs and requirements and on the basis of local understanding of democracy. We need to take certain steps to enlighten those societies who live without democracy. For example, we have democracy constitutionally in India but for all practical considerations, there is hardly any democracy.
I believe that there cannot be true democracy if poverty, discrimination, social injustice, caste system and feudalism continue to prevail. It also cannot flourish where the society is divided into regions, religions and castes and classes. Actually, we need democracy at several levels — political, social, cultural, linguistic, religious, ecological, et al!