CHENNAI: Independent India has existed for 69 years now and we have witnessed the rise and fall of governments, regimes and establishments.

For all these years, one constant that remains is that despite the many changes our country witnessed, we have for most parts respected one of the founding tenants of democracy by peacefully adapting to the changes in power, be it at the state or central level.

Change is one of the absolute inevitabilities of a democratic society, be it in terms of governments changing, the economy growing or declining, ideologies being formulated or reinterpreted etc. but this change cannot be resisted whether it is for the better or for the worse.

This is usually a standard set by those in society who have had the privilege of better education compared to most and in fairness, with such privilege does come a sense of responsibility and dare I say obligation, to articulate such nuanced ideas and standards.

Our most prominent founding father told us to “be the change you want to see in the world” and in my opinion and understanding this not only refers to our role as an individual among the collective, working towards a conventional and common idea of utopia but also, to be a crusader for the ideals you hold sacred and work towards creating a society founded on such ideals so long as it is not in contravention of human dignity, decency, sovereignty and the universally accepted standards of morality.

This adage is the bedrock of political movements prior and post Gandhiji and many political leaders, even the questionable ones, were under the genuine belief that they were working towards a better world and creating a better society but were often met with resistance eventually from an independent or collective force that stood to uphold such universal standards of morality.

In my time of working with political offices and politicians from across the country, I’ve come to witness an unspoken reality of the democratic process.

The government in power is more often than not a microcosm of the people it governs. They come into power after articulating their election pitch which may comprise of ideas on development, religion, policy etc, some which provide us with a genuine and much needed sense of hope and at times with a sense of despair and anguish that such views are being put forth by people running for public office but ultimately, the face of the election pitch that connects the most with the electorate is the person who takes up public office.

However, in recent years, the election pitches by local leaders in state and central elections have strengthened the monster that they created over the years which is the woeful levels of public discourse in our country and this highlights a larger problem.

Many of our public representatives are neglecting and at times wilfully refusing to perform their unspoken albeit crucial obligation of raising the level of public discourse and encouraging their people to think critically and freely and this to me is an anti-national act that contravenes the very ideals our forefathers fought for, including the ones they revere.

If our political class is adamant on stagnating the levels of public discourse in this country, it is bound to percolate into the collective consciousness of the people and invariably develop a sense of apathy towards acts that are completely violating the founding principles of our country and constitution.

The refusal of most of our political class to fulfil their obligations of an “ideal candidate” and uphold the sacrosanct nature of their public office is an anti-national act in my opinion as a voting citizen.

We have been a free country for 69 years, but we remain for most parts an intellectually colonised country to this day as a result of our political class’s actions and I find this to be an anti-national act.

When exceptional people rise to overcome the challenges that they faced as a result political apathy and articulate ideas of change, change that is required and ideas that are essential for the democratic process to thrive, they are met with resistance that is similar to the ones history has shown us and the same chapters in history have also indicated that inevitably it is the crusaders for change that prevail and not the questionable regimes and its incumbents.

Today, our country is witnessing the propagation of an idea of India that is favoured by many perhaps the majority who brought our democratically elected government to power, but a resistance to that idea or questioning that idea doesn’t make people anti-national, it doesn’t make such people enemies of the sovereign state and it most definitely doesn’t make such people guilty of sedition. It only highlights the insecurities of the believers and propagators of such an idea and by extension the fabric and constituents of the idea itself.

Anyone who feels the need to immediately react in a violent manner because their belief systems or ideas have been questioned or peacefully challenged, requires introspection into themselves and what they believe because a mutual acknowledgement if not respect for the existence of multiple ideas in today’s world is the bare minimum standard of a democratic society.

The unwillingness to participate, or respect such basic tenants, makes these an immediate and more tangible threat to society.

The time has come for 21st century governance and governments to rid themselves of politico-religious, hyper nationalistic, dogmatic and irrelevant ideologies and focus on more objective and universally acceptable parameters of growth and freedom and more importantly ensure that this attitude percolates to its representatives at grass root levels.

I would like to live in an India where everyone is entitled to have an opinion and express an opinion without disrupting public order or national security, however questionable it may be, but let not the right to express oneself be taken away merely because it threatens or challenges another set of beliefs, which may or may not be held by the majority.

India, through its government, political class, mass media and other avenues needs to drastically improve in its levels of public discourse and empower its citizens to discuss and debate issues that safeguard our democratic society and allow for equal opportunity and growth and ultimately enable us to break from the shackles of intellectual colonisation and realize the true potential of independent India.