Fragility of democracy

India and the United States are said to be the two largest democracies in the world. The American democracy is well over two hundred years old while Indian democracy is still in its pubescent stage. Both countries have suffered occasional attacks on the democratic system but on looking back it appears that the checks-and-balances system has worked far better in the US than in India. In the US, the ‘system’ is still independent of the highest executive of the State – the President.
The media in the US has also refused to be cowed down by a domineering President who never conceals his contempt for the media as an institution. Only a couple of days ago, the correspondent of a news agency continued to put ‘inconvenient’ questions to an increasingly angry President. In the end, he was thrown out, his entry into the White House was banned and his press accreditation card was taken away from him. In India the Press gave a poor account of itself, first, during the declared Emergency of Indira Gandhi and now, during an undeclared emergency under the present government. The media in India dared not put up a fight for retaining its freedom and impartiality or be cowed down by the frowns of the Establishment.
In the US, the federal agencies undertake probes even into complaints of misdemeanours of the President. The President can, using his powers, remove the head of the investigating agency but cannot stop the investigation. In India the head of any investigating agency taking the first step to inquire into any alleged irregularity involving the high and the mighty are accused of corruption and peremptorily sent on compulsory leave. And the media, glorified as the Fourth Estate of democracy, is always eager to kowtow to the powers that be, to curry favour with those that can bestow favours and impose ‘self-censorship’ to black out anything that may, by any stretch of imagination, irritate or enrage the peddlers of power.
Media in the US is fiercely independent. In India a tradition of subservience has grown. Long forgotten are the days of the freedom struggle when the ‘nationalist’ newspapers which were a part of the freedom struggle would bravely face the onslaughts of the alien government but carry on their fight. The attack on democracy begins with attacks on the intelligentsia and the Press. The objective is to suppress all opinions that are critical of the government. Unfortunately, a large section of the media in India cares little about its professional freedom. This is the pity.

Sunday, 11 November, 2018