Chandigarh, June 24: The Empire where the sun never sets. That used to be said of the British Empire, perhaps amongst the most repressive ones so far as the subjects were concerned. Today’s referendum has reinforced the fact that this oldest democracy in the world whose ruling face in other countries was tyrannical is also among the most mature. It is participatory democracy in practice going by the fact that this most crucial decision about exiting the European Union has been taken by majority vote.
Prime Minister David Cameron campaigned in favour of remaining in EU. He has announced his resignation to make way for his successor to take over by October. The country had earlier given the option to Scotland through referendum to break from UK. Majority vote from Scotland was against it. It is democracy in action.
This is the democracy that ruled over scores of countries for long by introducing the most oppressive laws and putting people behind bars and just killing them as happened in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on April 13, 1919.
The tragedy is that the countries that were under the Union Jack continue to be governed by the same oppressive laws. India claims to be the biggest democracy by way of numbers but the same tyrannical laws and vicious instruments of the state have not been abandoned, rather made more cruel by enacting legislations like Armed Forces Special Powers Act and TADA.
In pre-independence India, reference to killings in fake encounters could be very rare despite the fact that it was normal for security forces to open fire on protesters. Democratic India has this distinction too. The sedition law adopted by the British India government is part of that colonial heritage and is applied even in ordinary cases. The British regime might have been selective in booking people under sedition.
There is no estimate as to how many people, men and woman, have been killed in fake encounters in North-East, the states like Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh where people are struggling for their rights under ultra-Left organisations, Punjab and Kashmir. A person can even be lynched in case his eating habits are not liked by the neighbours. There is little respect for human life. Democracy did not even set on the area that is now known as Pakistan that was part of India till 1947.
UK saw intensive campaigning from those for and against as referendum on the issue whether the country should continue to be part of the EU or not. It is equally strange that here are the people who ruled over other countries with an iron fist. Once the immigrants from any country got citizenship, they have the equal rights.
As results were declared, there was talk of second referendum for people in Scotland.
Here was a referendum in which even US President Barrack Obama supported Cameron to remain in EU but people were not convinced. Refugee influx has added to the apprehensions of the people as civic services come under acute pressure. Government institutions favoured continuing the present arrangement.
According to a BBC report “the public discounted so readily the advice of experts points to something more than just a revolt against the establishment. It suggested far more people felt left behind and untouched by the economic benefits of five decades of EU involvement being trumpeted.”
What worked as a catalyst was the perception that leaving EU would free up £350m a week extra to spend on the National Health Service. In India, the thrust by the centre and the state governments is on privatisation of both health and education sectors that has spelled doom. Health care has gone out of the reach of the common person.
It was through participatory democracy that UK had taken the decision to join the European Community. EU made physical borders virtually redundant.
This is a lesson to be learnt by countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh that once was Hindustan ruled by Britishers, the very people who have taken participatory democracy to a new level.
Let India begin by abolishing sedition laws.