Dangers to Democracy in India?

India is often cited as being the world’s largest democracy. It scores well on international democracy ranking measures such as Freedom House or Polity IV. Turnout rates have risen and much of the electorate has become savvier in using the political system to achieve benefits for their group. This political empowerment has resulted in the proliferation of parties at the centre and the state level. However, these positive developments cannot conceal the fact that India’s democracy has been tarnished by the Indian state’s behaviour in its ‘peripheral’ regions. In addition, since the election of Narendra Modi, many academics and activists have raised concerns about Hindu Majoritarianism and its challenge to democracy and to the rule of law. How do we assess these claims and how do we know whether the claims made about the anti-democratic effects of ‘Hindu Majoritarianism’ are any different to the rule of previous governments? This lecture assessed Indian democracy across many different areas of social and political life, adapting and bringing together the literature on Horizontal Inequalities with that on Ethnic Democracy. This framework has wider significance beyond an India centric ‘Hindu majoritarianism’ discussion, given the worldwide rise in populist nationalism and the language of majority ‘rights’.

Professor Katharine Adeney is Director of the Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies (soon to be renamed the Nottingham Asia Research Institute) at the University of Nottingham, UK and Founding Editor of its online magazine iapsdialogue.org. She is an expert on democracy and nationalism in South Asia, in particular the countries of India and Pakistan. She is author or editor of three books: Federalism and Ethnic Conflict Regulation in India and Pakistan (2007), Coalition Politics and Hindu Nationalism (2005 - with Saez) and Contemporary India (2010 - with Wyatt). She has published widely, including in the journals Democratization, Political Studies, Publius and India Review. She has recently completed her term as co-editor of the Comparative Politics ISI ranked journal Government and Opposition and is co-editor of the new Palgrave book series on the Politics of South Asia. She was lead consultant for the Forum of Federations programme in Pakistan, which ran between 2009-2011. You can follow her on Twitter @katadeney.

This video was recorded during Katharine Adeney’s public lecture on 23 May 2018.

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