The crucial test of a true democracy is how it protects and respects the rights of minorities – both religious and political, Vice President Hamid Ansari said while addressing the students and faculty of University of Warsaw.
“A majority, no matter how overwhelming, does not invalidate opposition. The one crucial test of a true democracy is how it protects and respects the rights of minorities, be they religious, or political, especially in face of populist currents,” said Vice President Ansari.
“It is when democracy stops working, when conflicts are not peacefully resolved that violent separatist movements and religious conflicts emerge,” he said.
He went on to describe democracy as a “self- correcting” and “self-improving” mechanism that flourishes when divergent voices can be freely heard without fear of an official or populist backlash.
“Democracy is a self-correcting and self-improving mechanism. The solution to addressing the gaps and failings of democracy is indeed more democracy,” the Vice President explained.
He stressed on the fact that “operating a democracy is always work in progress”.
Narrating the example of India, VP Ansari said, “In India, many discontents are manageable precisely because there is a democratic framework. For the last 70 years we have worked democracy to the best of our capacity, not yet to the best of our ability. It is a receding horizon.”
He then listed out the challenges faced by a democracy like India. But at the same time he also praised the Constitutional mechanisms that have maintained the democratic form in India.
He highlighted that periodic elections, an independent Election Commission and an independent judiciary with sweeping powers of judicial review, have helped foster a culture of democracy in India.
“In a contemporary sense, the democratic consciousness of independent India is a reflection of the legacy of our struggle for independence from colonial rule,” he said.
“Our people have used this legacy as the yardstick to judge the subsequent performance of governments, political parties and institutions,” the Vice President said.
(With inputs from PTI)