GUWAHATI, Dec 19 - �For the first time after independence, India is facing the twin challenges of communalism and authoritarianism together,� remarked Dr Pratap Bhanu Mehta, scholar, columnist, former Vice-Chancellor of Ashoka University, and Contributing Editor of The Indian Express at the 17th Dr Amitabh Chowdhury Annual Memorial Lecture on the topic �India's Second Republic: The Collapse of Liberal Constitutionalism�, organised under the aegis of the Dr Amitabh Chowdhury Memorial Trust today. Analysing the present socio-political scenario of the country, Dr Mehta said that liberal constitutionalism in India has always been considered to be something that lives on a fragile ground. Electoral democracy is increasingly becoming an ethnocracy, he felt.
�We�ve always had communalism in Indian politics. Dividing people on communal lines is a time-honoured electoral tradition; we have had periods of authoritarianism in 1975 � particularly during the Emergency, but the idea that a regime could be justified by fusing the two together, is a relatively novel phenomenon. �Now there are some markers of authoritarianism like an ethnic �dog whistle� eg., when a section of political leaders said �look at the protestors � what they are wearing� during the anti-CAA protests. You�re supposed to judge people, their political intentions, their motives � by the dress they are wearing, so �ethnic dog whistles� have become normalised in Indian politics. Such a situation was normal during the days of Nazi-ruled Germany.
Nowadays, there is also an attack on dissent where the government is always trying to prove that behind every protest there is a secret conspiracy. On the other hand, control of information is also in place,� he said, referring to other markers of authoritarianism.
Dr Mehta further pointed out that in recent times, India has been fast moving towards becoming a Hindu majoritarian nation where the identity of a nation is being defined in terms of Hindutva and religious identity is increasingly being used for granting citizenship.
�Religious categories are being inscribed into our concept of citizenship itself while lynching and vigilantism in the name of cow protection has become normal,� he added.
Saying that he wished that the Supreme Court strike down the law against �Love Jihad�, he said that such laws deny the significance of religion and attempt to �authorise� an act of love by the State through the communal road.
Stating that there are some exceptional judges in the country who are trying to protect the basic spirit of the Constitution, he said, �The beauty of our Constitution was that new India is free to imagine God, history and identity.�
He asserted that liberty cannot be said to be operational without equality and fraternity and that the unity of a nation is not simply the solidarity of groups, but is based on something deeper which is possible only when the dignity of every individual is assured.
�The Preamble to our Constitution says that if you honour the freedom and dignity of every individual then the nation has nothing to fear and it automatically become united. The Preamble to the Constitution was a charter of liberation centering on the dignity of the individual, but it is now collapsing in front of our eyes,� he said.
He added that RTI act which is a great tool for the citizens of India to ask questions to the government is becoming weak slowly.