ASIA/INDIA - General elections announced; a Jesuit: "to start again from the Constitution"

Monday, 18 March 2024 politics   human rights  

New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - The Election Commission of India has announced that the general elections in the largest democracy in the world will hold a seven-phase general election starting on April 19, over a period of 6 weeks. The dates scheduled for the vote, in the different states of the Federation, are: April 19 and 26; May 7, 13, 20 and 25; and June 1. The vote count will be announced starting June 4th. The approximately 968 million Indians eligible to vote will elect members for the lower house of Parliament (the "Lok Sabha") and, accordingly, determine the composition of a ruling majority. In total, there are 543 seats at stake and the participating parties total 2,400.
"Indian citizens are aware that this is a decisive moment for the country and that the outcome of the elections will undoubtedly determine the future, particularly the nation's commitment to its Constitution and the future of our democracy", comments the Jesuit columnist and writer Cedric Prakash SJ.
"India's pluralistic traditions and democratic ethics are at stake. Article 19 of the Constitution (which guarantees freedom of speech and expression), Article 21 (right to life and liberty), Article 25 (which guarantees the freedom to preach, practice and spread one's religion), and all the fundamental rights of citizens must be re-evaluated", he points out". "Today, the poor and vulnerable, the marginalized and minorities, the excluded and the exploited, the Adivasis, the Dalits; small farmers and migrant workers; women and children; people with disabilities; human rights defenders, journalists and all those who promote the idea of a democratic, pluralistic and secular India are penalized", says the religious.
The Jesuit sees "a serious lack of political will to address the burning issues of the national system, such as: the national education policy, the Citizenship Amendment Act, anti-conversion laws, agricultural laws (which favor big corporations and harm small farmers; the four labor codes and the Forest Conservation Law".
Another fundamental problem, he observes, "is corruption, the lack of transparency in politics", while the so-called "communalism", that is, the social polarization instigated between communities of different religion, ethnicity, culture, class, is gaining strength, with the promotion of the "Hindutva" ("Hinduity") ideology, which preaches "one people, one culture, one religion", and is contrary to pluralism. On November 26, 1949, the Indian people - recalls the Jesuit - "approved a visionary and innovative Constitution". In conclusion, Fr. Prakash quotes the speech of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Indian politician, philosopher and jurist, on the eve of the entry into force of the Constitution: "If we wish to maintain democracy not only in form, but also in deeds - said Ambedkar - what do we have to do? The first thing is to stick to constitutional methods to achieve our social and economic objectives, there can be no justification for unconstitutional methods. The second thing is not to put our freedoms in the hands of a single great man, or entrust him with power that allows him to subvert institutions. The third thing is not to settle for mere political democracy. We must also make our political democracy a social democracy". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 18/3/2024)