Hello Leonie, it’s so nice to meet you. I’m Ram Anand, a member of the Lok Sabha, which is one of the two houses of parliament we have here in India. Why don’t you follow me inside, so I can tell you more about our political system?!
The Governmental System
India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic constitutional republic, according to its constitution. With 395 articles, 10-12 schedules, and 90 amendments, it is one of the longest and most detailed constitutions in the world. As a result of India’s existence as a British colony, the constitution is heavily influenced by the British model as well as aspects of the US Constitution for example the separation of powers (Checks and Balances). The following graphic shows the governmental system of the Union government. Click on the info buttons for more information on the selected institution or position.
The Current Prime Minister (December 2021) is called Narendra Modi. He is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a Hindu nationalist party, which also provides the current President Ram Nath Kovind. Especially with Modi’s anti-islamic stance, claims of India developing into an autocratic system have become louder in recent years. (More on that further down)
Apart from the Union government, India also has state governments deciding over such topics as public health, law and order, sanitation, local governments, and entertainment. Foreign policy, defense, Communications, or Taxation, however, are solemnly decided by the Union Government.
After showing Leonie around and explaining her the basics of the Indian government, Ram proposes to sit down for a talk in his office. Leonie uses this chance to come back to a comment Ram Anand has made earlier…
As is the case in many autocratic countries, India struggles with upholding its constitutionally granted rights of freedom and religion, leading to the harassment of those not in favor of the autocracy’s leaders, such as journalists and NGOs. According to the Freedom House report, these incidents have increased significantly under Modi. Critics of the government’s handling of the Corona pandemic, for example, have been arrested in 2020. 1
This even affects the academic room. Many academics are afraid of discussing topics such as the relations with Pakistan, as they are being pressured by the BJP government, although universities and science centers usually are places for ethical or socially critical debates. Moreover, many NGOs concerned with human rights abuses, etc. can hardly access foreign funding anymore, which is in the interest of those they criticise. In recent years, there also have been restrictions against the freedom of assembly, namely assembly bans and internet blackouts.1
Discrimination against the Muslim population
While this has been an existing problem in India for a long time, due to its mainly Hindu population, the recent “Citizenship Amendment Act” of 2019 which grants persecuted religious minorities Indian citizenship, but excluded Muslims, has increased the occurrence of discrimination against the Muslim population. Especially since the government seems to have moved forward with their plans of a national register of citizens, which could be used to disenfranchise Muslim voters by classifying them as illegal immigrants. Another sign of this is the lacking 5% of seats occupied by Muslims in the Lok Sabha, although they make up 14% of the population. 1
There also have been claims that the demolishment of the old Parliament building, which was inspired by the Mughal Empire, is an attack on the Muslim community, although the lack of space in the old building is handled as the official reason for the relocation.
The government has suspended mobile and internet services multiple times in the last years to curb protests. Additionally, access to the internet is severely limited by the lacking infrastructure in rural areas in combination with the relatively high prices. Furthermore, there are content restrictions especially in the field of human rights, that lack transparency as for the reasons for their deletion.2
Corruption in justice system
There have been more occurrences of corruption in the lower courts of India. Also, the police seem to have a similar problem with corruption, additionally to being understaffed and backlogged. There have been reports of torture, abuse, and rape by law enforcement and security officials.1
When it’s time for Leonie to go, Ram Anand brings her back to the entrance. With his greeting and everything she learned today in mind, Leonie starts on her way home.
- c.f. India freedomhouse.org [online] https://freedomhouse.org/country/india/freedom-world/2021 last access: 16.12.2021
- c.f. Freedom on the Net 2021 India freedomhouse.org [online] https://freedomhouse.org/country/india/freedom-net/2021 last access: 16.12.2021