Saturday, October 20, 2018

Identity Politics, Future of Democracy and India

                         With Professor Fukuyama in London, Oct 12, 2018 

Last week I attended a lecture by noted American political philosopher and author Francis Fukuyama in London.  The celebrity author was speaking on “Exploring Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition”.  It was a ticketed event but the hall was packed largely with young people but a fair amount of senior elderly academics and a few wanderers like me had also found their way to the venue. We all wanted to listen to one of the most eminent political thinkers of our times. For me, it was a rare privilege to listen to Professor Fukuyama in person whose all books I have read religiously and often followed his lectures on You Tube.  

            Those who have been following Professor Fukuyama would have found his observations during this lecture on expected lines. However, the conversation and Q&A sessions offered an opportunity to listen to his perspective on several newer areas. The professor offered an over view of challenges facing democracy in contemporary era, which varied from rise of populism to attack on institutions but the worst could be rise of right wing identity politics in recent times. He defined it in terms of an individual’s beliefs, perception and outlook being shaped by his or her racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic identity at the cost of individual identity as a citizen of a state. He also dealt with threat to institutions in the wake of rising trend of leaders distrusting their own institutions and officials and creating confusion and unpredictability by relying on their own individual discretion. He also emphasized on divisive impact of identity politics that could derail the governance agenda and fragment societies. Both during the lecture and discussions subsequently, he explained the relevance of individual dignity in democracy and reluctance of some to accept the same level of dignity that was universally available to all in democracies. I am sure the lecture would soon be available on You Tube and hence I am avoiding greater details.

Prof Fukuyama certainly offered a lot of food for thought for someone like me who has been deeply interested in governance and democracy from ever since I could think of.  I did make a brief  observation during Q&A session and tried to bring in an Indian perspective on values, norms and traditions of people-centric governance with restraint on political authority, that constitutes the core of democracy, from Mauryan era in India (I have  written it on my blog earlier).  On my query whether the professor thought it was time for the democracy to transition to the next higher stage of evolution, the humility of one of the greatest minds of our times was simply touching. He said he would like to listen from me as he had not seriously thought on what could be a better form of government than the prevailing democratic one. I was indeed lucky to exchange a few words with him later. I am hopeful of presenting a futuristic perspective, whatever it may be worth, on the direction in which democracy can potentially proceed in pursuit of a greater people-centric vision of governance, combining some of the Indian and the Western ethos, values and traditions.

We as people and society in our times have enormous potential to create such physical and social spaces that can enhance the quality of our existence, productivity and ability to collaborate and compete with each other. A more secure, harmonious and stable world is certainly possible where each can have a better all round existence as well as be in a more harmonious relationship with our respective  societies and external world beyond that. The other alternative is a catastrophic destruction  with easier access to destructive technologies in the context of increasing space for conflict and eroding capability of institutions to address these. I shall soon be coming out with detailed and specific ideas in this direction.  

Subsequent post-lecture interactions with many of the academics and very large number of young people from across the world was quite interesting. A cross section of young students from different parts of the world were so courteous and discussion was so animated that some of them walked me up to the King’s Cross Station from where I had to catch a train. From perspective of youth, it was so heartening to see that they were making friends across their identity of race, religion and language, defying the so-called wave of parochialism that was being talked earlier. Many of them had seriously read Professor Fukuyama as well as other political philosophers and it was treat to listen to them. Their commitment and sincerity towards a fairer world reminded me of my own younger days when my friends I used to be equally passionate and sincere in believing that the world would soon change to be fairer and more humane with our own contributions in some manner.

Interactions with senior academics and even a few retired professionals suggested that people in the West were indeed worried at the prospect of erosion of democracy, freedom, liberty and even economic choices. While, conceding that world was never a perfect place, many expressed apprehension over growing might of non-democracies in the world and parochialism within their own societies, which together could cripple freedom of thought, expression, innovation and even overall progress besides undermining quality of all round security. Erosion of democracy at home and economic strength of democracies in a globalised world could negatively impact both the quality of freedom and choices. One academic (not naming him as I don’t have his permission) was emphatic that dictators with unfettered powers and absolute belief in their individual wisdom create an army of cronies who have the same illusion about themselves, except when dealing with their own superiors. Such people can create havoc in the rest of the world if their state wielded far too much of power.

When we talk of identity politics, and that too of a confrontational type, probably there would be few parallels than what we can visualise in the Indian sub-continent. These substantially vary in India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries depending upon the basic character of these societies and states. In secular and multi-cultural India, identity-politics has always been there but fairly subdued. Even these should not be tolerable given the original character of Indian civilization and outlook of modern Indian democracy. The partition of India must have been one of the most horrific episodes in the entire history of mankind driven by hatred for identity of large majority of non-Muslims in the sub-continent. Almost entire minority Hindu and Sikh population from newly created nation of Pakistan was either exterminated or forced out. In 1951, India had a registered number of over 14.5 million refugees from Pakistan, with actual numbers estimated to be much higher and reported deaths of over one million or more, mostly on the Western side of Pakistan. There were casualties, even though in few thousands of Muslims even on Indian side with total migration of nearly 0.65 million Muslims from North India to Pakistan, which too were certainly not acceptable for a secular India. However, steadfast commitment of India’s founding fathers to their secular vision of the nation and a particularly powerful Home Minister in Sardar Patel ensured that Muslims in India remained safe.

I remember during my younger days, one senior Muslim politician telling during a private discussion that how much conviction and strength the founding fathers of modern India- both Hindus and Muslims by identity- had displayed in secularism that they did not waver even in face of people coming in large hordes with most brutal and  vulgar tales  of mass massacre, loot, arson and violation of their women from what constituted Pakistan. It was equally brave on part of Indian Muslim leaders to avoid temptation of surrendering to identity driven hysteria at that time. Ironically, despite horrendous experience of partition and rejection of two-nation theory, identity of a different kind – in the form of Caste  - did seep in to Indian politics. Caste has been discovered as the most potent tool  for political mobilization during elections.

Experience with history suggests that identity is integral to one’s existence and it is a highly emotive issue that defies any logic or rationale. Most people are least likely to compromise on it and even a perceived affront to one’s identity has potential to be interpreted as a personal attack. It can unify, substantial, if not most, members of a community or group. With sustained effort and under certain circumstances, it can be potentially used to generate even a mass hysteria that can be destructive not only for democracy but entire society. Most of the terror movements and organisations, varying from Zealots and Sicarii to Hashishins (Assassins) to modern day radical groups have been driven by aggravated levels of identity consciousness.  

Democracies have been the best possible form of government to optimize pottential and output of any society or state. The under -performance or crisis of democracy stems more from its distortion  rather than its so-called inherent flaws. When elections or political campaigns become tools of verbal and psychological war between contentious group identities, governance gets down to lower priority. Exploitation of contentious identities not only fractures the idea of “people” as an indivisible entity in a democracy but also destroys social cohesion and integrity, without which no society can progress. A house divided is certain to fall. In evolving democracies, it retards the very process of institution building.  Elections are certainly not a war where rival groups have to capture power as a booty for themselves. Political groups and persnnalities are more obliged to offer their services to undertake responsibility of governance in the larger interest of people, society and state without undermining their indivisible identity.  Impartiality of governance processes with a degree of empathy towards the people as a whole are the biggest strength of representative democracy. It becomes a casualty in a fractured society marked by aggressive parochialism.

Hence, debate on democracy has to focus  on both integrity and efficiency governance structures and processes which require harmonious societies where religious, ethnic or linguistic identity of citizens have no relevance.  Democracy in the West has been saturating and India has the opportunity to demonstrate both strength of its civilizational heritage and vibrance of its inherently multi-cultural  and liberal identity evolved over the centuries or even millennia. This will be possible not by preaching but by performance as a society, economy and state. We need to build a culture of excellence that extends  to all institutions cutting across all barriers whether these are government sector or private sector or media or NGOs or even University and reserch instituttions or health sector. We certainly require a culture of genuine or great leadership at every level and in every sphere. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

What Differentiates A Democracy?

September 28, 2018

Amidst ongoing debate on the crisis of democracy, it becomes pertinent to pose a question: what differentiates a good democracy from the rest of the political systems? All democracies have not attained the same level of maturity and hence there would be multiple answers. Nevertheless, some of the essential features that differentiate advanced democracies from the evolving ones are the security of physical and social spaces and supportive or helpful approach of the functionaries of the state. In a democracy, people enjoy a higher degree of sense of psychological security that the state would treat them fairly and justly. Ironically, this trust has not gained much ground in most of the democracies in the developing world or at best this has been inconsistent.

Another aspect of an advanced or good democracy is the higher degree of trust enjoyed by elected representatives and un-elected state functionaries that they would act fairly, with integrity and to the best of their capability to protect all legitimate interests of the people as a whole or society or state. It’s a different matter that such trust quotient has started declining even in some of the most established democracies, which is a key challenge today.  Authoritarian systems, despite providing certain efficient public services fail to offer this sense of security to their people that a) the State would act with fairness;  b) the due process of law would be observed; c) their dignity, life and liberty are secure; and d) they can vent their criticism of functionaries of the state or express their views on any political issue. Today, many of these aspects are getting increasingly compromised subtly even in some of the advanced democracies and missing in varying degrees in most of the democracies in the developing world. If such a trend continues, there is a serious possibility that we could soon come to a stage where the difference between democracy and non-democracy could be reduced only in degree but not in substance.

Different watchdogs and similar institutions in different parts of the world, committed to the idea of upholding, promoting and building democracy, have been measuring and evaluating the quality of democracy and freedom in different parts of the world based on well-devised criteria. Many of these are fairly good indicators of prevailing levels of freedom and democracy in the societies they have surveyed. However, if the challenge is building high-quality democracy or enhancing capacities of democracies to provide optimal quality of governance, such evaluations or measurement of democracies offer very limited perspective. Basic freedom and rights of individuals and a high degree of media freedom, administered by an independent judiciary, are critical but not adequate or strong enough in themselves to sustain democracy. Democracy requires building such conditions and institutions which can thrive and evolve on their own to provide optimal conditions of life by mobilizing the collective energies of people. Optimal conditions of life include round security - including personal, economic, social and collective, apart from the dignity and equitable access to opportunities.

Hence, Democracy, at its most advanced stage of evolution, implies not merely selection of their representatives through popular choice but also a right to select the most suitable incumbents who can work without fear or hindrance in the collective interests of the entire citizenry. The spirit and objectives of democracy get defeated if people cannot select optimally good candidates who in turn are not able to create optimally good institutions.

Further, democratic political processes are expected to throw up wise men and women with integrity and commitment to represent people to optimise overall governance capacity of their society. Societies that have moved in this direction are certainly doing better than the rest. Political leadership requires not merely capacity, skills, and commitment to building institutions, but also broader acceptability and credibility to lead. In fragmented societies, where people divided based on their identities - ethnic, linguistic, religious or social etc- probably it will be nearly impossible to have broadly acceptable leaders. If the objective of democracy is to provide optimum choices to people to select the best possible government, the very mobilisation of opinion in politics on these lines strikes at the roots of democracy, undermining their overall governance output. Hence, the threat to democracy from populism is something that can potentially destroy institutions and create space for another form fascism or totalitarianism.

Further, any society can grow and evolve optimally only to the extent that they synergise individual liberty, freedom and initiative with larger social or group interests. This has been one of the key strengths of democracy that drove societies in the developed Western countries to higher levels of economic, educational and scientific advancements. Authoritarian systems suppress individual liberties of an overwhelming majority of the people for the so-called larger social or collective interests, democracies trust individuals to exercise their freedom in a manner that contributes to larger social interests while preserving their interests.

 In the contemporary era, human sensibilities disapprove of the idea of tyranny of the majority over the minority or vice-versa. Hence, democracy is expected to envision the larger interests of people as indivisible for purposes of governance. If multiple groups start vying for promoting their respective identity and interests at the cost of others, democracy may appear a war among contending groups through non-violent means. In reality, it is difficult to define peoples’ interests in indivisible terms, especially in larger heterogeneous societies. Issues like rule of law, good criminal justice system and good regulatory and enabling capacity of states in certain basic areas like healthcare, education, civic services etc are something that cuts across requirements of people across all dividing lines. Beyond these, people in different categories are indeed different and equity warrants that they are treated accordingly.

Most contemporary democracies, from developed to developing world, do extend special support to identified vulnerable groups varying from economically and physically challenged to other special groups like the aboriginal or tribal population to socially vulnerable groups. However, the extension of privileges or special status based on religious, ethnic or linguistic identity, rather than any need-based welfare objective identified with the welfare state, is a different issue. In many of the evolving democracies in both Africa and Asia, such discrimination seems a reality in practice. These puncture the idea of indivisibility of collective identity and interests of people as a whole for political gains. Freedom House, V-Dem or other institutions, which are committed to studying, evaluation or promotion of democracy, do consider it an aberration or a form of political corruption or vote-buying. Mature democracies have done better in reconciling such conflicting group identities and eliminating space for political exploitation of such identity-based discrimination. Strong institutional safeguards further help them in this direction, which remains a challenge in many of the evolving democracies, where at times institutions appear mute spectators to different forms of political gerrymandering, undermining both the quality of freedom and governance in these democracies. The counter-narrative to this proposition is forwarded by those who claim that most of the established democracies are fairly homogeneous societies, where smaller minority groups just didn’t matter in elections.

Democracy’s another strength, at least on paper, lays in its ability to build up the high quality of human resources and throw up equally high-quality leaders in every field.  The principle of egalitarianism in the era of welfare state empowers people by giving them a fair and equitable opportunity to grow and evolve. If this process is genuinely strong and sturdy, with an element of fair competition, then both the quality of population and quality of incumbents in leadership roles improves. This should automatically push up the very trajectory of all-round growth or progress of democratic societies to a much higher level compared to those in the authoritarian societies. At least, in theory, there are greater incentives and opportunities for people to excel in a democracy compared to non-democracies. However, one of the prime challenges confronting democracy at this stage is the saturation of some of its existing practices and procedures to take democracy to a higher level of governance.


 “Democracy” has travelled a long way from its medieval era ideals of minimal government interference and natural rights espoused by ‘social contract’ philosophers like Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau. Libertarian goals of freedom of speech, thought and expression as espoused by John Stuart Mill and others or the Bentham’s concept of ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’ or so many similar ideas on democracy and Justice explained philosophers like Tocqueville, Rawls, Schumpeter or Putnam etc cannot explain contemporary understanding of Democracy entirely. Even Abraham Lincoln's  description of democracy as ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’ appears inadequate to describe democracy in our times or at least the popular expectations from it. The idea of democracy has gradually evolved to a stage, at least in the model societies, where people expect their government, elected through a process of free and fair polls on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and supported by a large number of professionally managed autonomous institutions, to provide an optimally secure, egalitarian society with equitable access to economic opportunities and uniform access to ‘Rule of Law’. Democracies in different parts of the world are able to provide these to varying extents, depending upon the level of their evolution and maturity. At the same time, most democracies, both in developed and developing world,  are struggling to  address different forms of distortions and challenges, which threaten the very future of democracy as the most desirable  form of government.

    Individual initiatives, ideas and leaderships have played crucial role in evolution of Democracy to its current stage. However, it has not been a unilinear, consistent and well-defined process. Democracy has come to this form of elaborate structures of representative institutions through an exercise  of continuous trial and refinement and yet we cannot say with certainty whether the existing structures and formats of Democracy, anywhere in the world, have reached their optimum capacity or these  are adequate to meet popular aspirations. Further, contemporary representative democracy, despite all its common essential features, also has certain distinct traits in almost every region and every part of the world. These have been shaped by local contexts including socio-economic and cultural realities. Consequently, in certain societies or socio-cultural milieu, democracy has advanced to provide a higher level of governance as well as social harmony, whereas in many others, it is still struggling to take firm roots. Those from democratic societies shall always find representative government with free press, individual freedom and autonomous judiciary as the most credible form of Government. Its imperfections and flaws may appear only as aberrations requiring remedial measures. Hence, it is important to analyse understanding of democracy in contemporary context.

         Democracy in our times has different meanings in different contexts or societies for different people. In many parts of the developing world, it may just be a process of election and some degree of media freedom with some semblance of rule of law like mechanism, which need not be consistently and uniformly upheld. Whereas in some of the advanced democracies, it may be a comprehensive charter of obligations to ensure universal access to optimally good conditions for life. Financial elite in most countries, may interpret democracy as freedom to pursue their business and commercial interests with minimum interference, or if possible all the support from  state apparatus both within and beyond the country. In certain cases, it may be simply be opportunity to navigate their way to greater wealth by. For political elite it seems all the  opportunity to pursue political power, or if possible, unbridled power without any institutional interference. For media and civil society groups, it may mean anything depending upon their orientation, from influence, name, clout or in certain societies even easy wealth. Masses may different expectations. From economic security to transparent public services. However, the lowest common denominator would be all round security to live with dignity where state defends individuals from both internal and external threats besides providing fair and reasonable opportunities.  Elections and public accountability appear the best route to ensure such a system and hence these are integral features of democracy which are now upheld through elaborate structures of representative government.

        In the post second world-war era, when most of the post-colonial countries were adopting democracy, and in many of these places, democracy is still struggling to take firm roots, some  of the advanced nations of the West were transitioning to a welfare centric model with highly transparent and efficient public services, at least in most parts of the Western Europe, and particularly Nordic countries, North America, Japan and New Zealand etc. Consequently, all political systems - democracies or otherwise- have been under varying degrees of pressure to replicate citizen-centric welfare model, with efficient public services. It’s a different issue that most of  them have been struggling to varying extents of resource crunch or deficient institutions or pressure from alternative forces who wield far direct or indirect clout and derive their strength or power or influence from perpetuation of weak institutions. Nevertheless, most of the democracies even in the developing world have made varying degrees of attempts to move in the direction of welfare state model. However, their success has been limited. For example, all larger  stable democracies like India, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil etc have introduced different forms of social security or financial assistance or unemployment subsidy or old age pension to their vulnerable population in respective categories.  Nevertheless, these are not comparable with the quality of impact that their counterpart schemes have made in advanced democracies. State support in social and healthcare sectors has come under pressure even in the advanced countries. A large majority of democracies in the developing world are struggling to provide universal access to some of the basic necessities of life like nutrition, healthcare, quality education, consistent and uniform access to even rule of law or rights guaranteed on paper etc. At the same time, they are also struggling to establish credibility of even their electoral processes and governance institutions.

         A democratic political order derives strength from its society, its wider social values and of course quality of leaders.  Hence, the quality of democracy in any society is directly dependent upon the extent to which the values like social harmony, individual liberty, individual integrity, industriousness and enterprise are shared and respected by people. Their incorporation in the structures and processes of governance institutions also depends on quality of leaders. Brilliance and follies of leaders also play a significant role.  Without stellar contributions from Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and of course Martin Luther King, the United States of America may not have been able to achieve what it has. Similarly, without the rise of Mahatma Gandhi and unwavering commitment of founding fathers of independent India, the shape of the world’s biggest democracy may have been difficult to visualise. Leaders can sometimes persuade people. Hence, it is always a combination of large number of factors that contribute to rise or absence of democracy in certain societies. This also explains uneven and at times inconsistent evolution of democracy, at times in the same region among people of same socio-cultural and economic background. 

We shall continue our discussion more regularly  and I do request champions of democracy to put across their views and suggestions.  

Thursday, September 27, 2018


          Victory of opposition candidate Ibu Solih in the recent Presidential election in Maldives must be hailed as one of the  remarkable events in the history of democracy in our times. We are passing through an era, when democracy has been receding in most parts of the world and watchdogs of Democracy like 'Freedom House' to 'V-Dem' have been expressing concern over decline in civil liberties and political freedom at a wider scale. Under these circumstances, electoral outcome in  Maldives is a certainly a boost for democracy. Sadly, certain sections of  our own media have hailed  the electoral outcome as major boost for India, given pro-China inclinations of incumbent President Yameen. I feel that the world, and particularly  we Indians, need to see the development more from the perspective of aspirations of Maldivian people. We need to salute the brave people of Maldives who have endured everything and yet asserted in no uncertain terms that they stood for democracy, freedom and individual liberty. It is no longer possible for any autocrat to take them back to regressive era by hoodwinking them in the name of Islam or whipping up national jingoism. 

        Building Democracy is a long and arduous process, which can lose direction at any stage. Maldives had transitioned to multi-party democracy almost a decade back in 2008. It was one of the rare cases where an incumbent President - Abdul Gayoom, who had virtually ruled the country for nearly three decades, agreed to hold multi-party polls and gracefully accepted peoples' verdict to exit from power. The incoming Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)  too showed accommodation by refraining from any political revenge against the outgoing President, despite a previous history of acrimonious relationship between the two. However, institutions of democracy had not yet matured and President Nasheed was ousted in 2012 under the most unfortunate circumstances. Following weeks of protest by opposition parties, he had resigned and later alleged that he was made to resign virtually at gun point. Subsequent Maldivian Government pressed terror charges against him forcing him to jump bail and take refuge in the United Kingdom. He  was not alone in doing so as many other opposition politicians either fled the country or were put behind bars. 

            President Yameen has certainly been guilty of pushing this beautiful nation of multiple islands on a course of disaster. He had seriously derailed the process of institution building towards a sustainable and robust democracy. He also vitiated the entire political ambience by virtually forcing all his serious political rivals in to exile or in prison. For this, he interfered with autonomy of judiciary, curtailed political and civil liberties of people. He even undermined professional integrity of civil service and police institutions, by routinely interfering in its processes, used entire might of state to intimidate actual or even potential dissenters. He undermined even integrity of parliament by frequently changing and virtually subverting its procedures to pre-empt any No-Confidence Motion or pushing through parliamentary approval for Free Trade treaty with China in November 2017 with barely 1/3rd members present and voting. It was extremely sad and sorry situation for democracy in the country. 

        He had started antagonising longstanding friends of people of Maldives to bolster his own political fortunes. Maldivians have been practising a liberal version of Islam with their language Divehi having Sanskritic origins. He sought to introduce more orthodox and  somewhat Arabic version of stricter Islam. Worst was his efforts to walk into close embrace of China, ignoring even security sensitivities of India and violating even Indo-Maldivian Friendship Treaty.  He was risking long years of relations of trust and goodwill with India that had been assiduously built by President Gayoom and continued by President Nasheed. We must complement the incumbent Indian Foreign Secretary Mr Vijay Gokhale who remained unfazed, even under the gravest provocations and the Indian Government  continued to assure all concerned in Maldives of  its neutrality in internal matters of the archipelago nation. It must have been little disappointing for certain sections of opposition MDP, who kept demanding an Indian intervention. Right thinking Maldivians would  certainly realise now that unlike the extra regional powers, who may just use Maldives for their strategic and military goals, India has a long term and abiding stake in political stability and well being of people of Maldives. 

       President elect Ibu Solih has a difficult task at hand. Unless he  demonstrates mature leadership qualities, the process of democracy building may lose direction once again. He has to rise over personal aspirations and political differences to build rule of law, which  must be asserted in no uncertain terms. There is no space for condoning heinous crime but optimum degree of  political reconciliation and accommodation can help the process of transition towards an endurable democracy. Maldives would need at least another decade or more to stabilise its democracy and build a governance structure that is more suited to its own requirements.  Further, it is a small country with a somewhat egalitarian structure. It is more important  for leaders in the Government to preserve and improve upon the quality of social solidarity  and avoid temptation of royalty like trappings of power.  In such a society, it is difficult to conceal things and hence individual credibility of leaders become important. At the same time, there is need to reduce coercive character of Maldivian police systems. There is negligible amount of crime among Maldivian people. Probably they can take a leaf or two out of the concept of community policing to reduce the very space for crime instead of being used by the incumbents in the government for  political purposes. May be creation of strong inbuilt incentives and deterrents for any deviation from rule of law can help. Simultaneous measures to bolster both autonomy and integrity of judicial processes can  help prevent recurrence  of mistakes committed during President Yameen's era. Issues at stake would probably be building an amiable ambience of trust and goodwill between the ruling party and the opposition to avoid individual or political confrontation. 

      India and Maldives have shared a strong bond of history, culture and ethnicity. Successive Heads of the  Government in Maldives have always been receptive to India's diplomatic and security concerns, barring a brief aberration by President Yameen, who too occasionally reiterated the same stance at least in words. During its early days of pro-democracy movement in Gayoom  era, MDP leaders often used to visit Delhi and engaged  members of both media and  civil society groups. This was the time when Government of India was believed to avoiding any contact with them, given strong relationship with the then President Gayoom. During one of the interactions at India International Centre, the then leader of MDP- Mohammad Latheef - had made it categorical that even though the Government of India was avoiding them, while other non-democracies were willing to engage, MDP was avoiding  the latter as they had nothing to offer  a pro-democracy movement. He maintained that their group was fighting for democracy and their inspiration was Mahatma Gandhi. Hence,  they would wait for Government of India to engage and listen to them, instead  of having a truck with non-democracies in the region or beyond. 

       Political movements can have such liberty but not a state, which has to deal with every entity that can promote or help its interest. Maldives as a nation may have to  deal with all concerned who can help its national goals but pragmatism would always require a closer engagement with India and accommodation of the latter's sensitivities and concerns. From the Indian side, the government has always adhered to the norms of political correctness, the problem area has been a few corporate ventures entering the archipelago nation by virtue of bi-lateral diplomatic goodwill. It would be imperative that only those capable of adhering to the highest possible global norms of professionalism get such access. There is no doubt that popular verdict in Maldives has opened up new avenues for both promotion of democratic good governance and stronger Indo-Maldivian bilateral ties. It is time that all concerned join together to build robust institutions that are autonomous and yet uphold principles of 'Rule of Law' and 'Democracy'. India has a moral responsibility to help in the process of building such institutions wherever needed without being partisan or intrusive in any manner.   President elect Ibu Solih has a huge responsibility and heavy expectations to handle. Let us hope and wish that he emerges successful. Maldives can potentially emerge as a shining example of victory of  democracy in our times.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Democracy: From People-Centric Governance of Mauryan Era

The ongoing discourse on efficacy of democracy assumes a special significance today when the biggest democracy in the recorded human history celebrates its 72nd independence day. The entire world has marvelled that despite all its flaws, imperfections and at  times some extremely disturbing social and economic trends, Indian democracy has moved forward and become increasingly stronger. We are a model for peaceful transfer of power through a credible electoral process on such a large scale that the world has neither known in the past nor may see anywhere else in foreseeable future. While, there are serious concerns about the quality of governance provided by the Indian democracy, and we sincerely require urgent remedial measures in this direction, it would be a worthwhile exercise to look back in the past to trace values and ethos as well as examples of good governance.  We cannot, and must not, attempt to go back to the past but the ideals and ingredients of good governance, remain timeless. Our glorious  heritage of ancient era must inspire us to steer our democracy and quality of  governance to usher in greater prosperity, social harmony and higher quality of national security.  

        In our last post, I had briefly mentioned that the genesis of democratic values and ethos of contemporary India could be traced back to people-centric governance institutions and values of Mauryan era. Of course teachings of Tamil sage Thiruvalluvar around same era also played huge role in building a social culture for a harmonious, pacifist trust based society, where integrity among individuals was emphasised as the biggest virtue. 
Mauryan polity of ancient era is very often considered as one of the earliest examples where governance principles and processes incorporated principles of collective security as well as welfare of the vulnerable. Even though it was not an elected government, goodwill and support of the masses was one of the most critical foundations on which the entire political system rested. We must remember that the Mauryan polity thrived in an era that was quite close to that of the ancient Greek democracy. The notable distinction was that Greek city states were much smaller in sizes whereas Mauryan empire covered almost entire Indian subcontinent, extending from Afghanistan to Bengal and beyond, barring of course a substantial part of the Southern sub-continent. 

       When we study available records about Mauryan polity, as offered by Kautilya and Megasthenese as well as other sources, which have been interpreted and analysed by both Indian and Western scholars, it clearly emerges that King did not rule on the basis of divine rights. Kingship might have become hereditary but ‘duties of the King were well defined and he had no discretion to reject advice rendered by the most capable and wise men, who constituted the council of Ministers.’[1] One of the most well researched works on Mauryan Polity, written by Professor  Ramachandra Dikshitar in 1932 for University of Madras, states that the “The views of Council Ministers were not merely an advisory  (p 134) but mandatory, the king could lay down his opinion but could not impose and decisions were not taken by majority but by mature decisions implying by consensus.”[2] 

Professor Dikshitar  identified the following as the principal duties of the political sovereign[3]   
    Enforcement of Svadharma, implying members of every profession or                        sections of society fulfilled their identified professional or otherwise role                  with integrity;

     protection of life and property of all citizens;

    State support to Promotion of trade and commerce, obliging the king to                  guarantee safety of trade and commerce routes as well as protection from          criminals and hostile forces;

Administration of Justice;

Protection of citizens from natural Calamities;

Administration of an effective foreign policy to safeguard all round security of         the empire.

Promotion of arts and education, health and sanitation, medical aid and relief  to the poor, and other charitable acts and deeds including donations and grants to learned men and maintenance of widows, the orphan and the helpless;

Close watch on “Sanyasins”, who were protected and honoured but any                    impropriety in their conduct was not tolerated.

It appears that Mauryan polity, under the wise stewardship of Kautilya,  was way ahead of the idea of reasonable restraint on authority of  sovereign. In fact, sovereign was obliged to promote, protect and uphold the highest possible principles of “people-centric” governance that combined well-being of citizens with, what we understand in modern era, the core principles of comprehensive national security. An elaborate administrative apparatus was in place to look after security and protection of citizens from both natural calamities and man made threats. Considerable emphasis was laid on promoting economic prosperity by creating conditions that were conducive for both agriculture and commerce. It was a highly welfare state in the sense that it had detailed arrangements to look after the vulnerable and orphans. 

      Professor Dikshitar has also emphasized on progressive taxation followed by the State and special care taken to avoid inconvenience to the people, by instituting safeguards against corruption by officials. At the same time, Sovereign was obligated to spend all its resources wisely and with a degree of austerity. At another level, it indicates a dynamic and somewhat mutually reinforcing equilibrium between the state and society, where both state or sovereign as well as people in general were guided by certain code of conduct to maintain high degree of social harmony and political  correctness.

      Professor Dikshitar wrote this piece in 1932. Wide range of sources that he has consulted, lends authenticity and integrity to his work. Virtually all eminent historians on the subject,  also share such description of governance in Mauryan polity, where royal authority was constrained to pursue welfare of the people as well as security of state and society. Interestingly, even at the time of publication of Professor Dikshitar’s research, neither the idea of modern welfare state  (envisaging support for the vulnerable and destitute) nor the idea of national security (enshrining a comprehensive and yet integrated concept of political, military, social, scientific and economic dimensions of governance to optimise strength and security of a state) had gained momentum. 

    The concept of welfare state gained momentum only after second world war, and many believe that it was in the aftermath of Marxist challenge to capitalist democracies. They argue that western democratic states were compelled  to incorporate the principles of welfare and egalitarianism in their governance policies to pre-empt any possible influence of Marxist ideology on the masses. Similarly, the idea of national security as such was first articulated by US Navy Secretary James Forestall during a hearing in the US Senate in August 1945.  Forestall had suggested a much ‘wider and comprehensive concept going beyond military strength to include almost everything linked with war-making potential or capacity of state. These included industry, mining, research and manpower and such other activities which also enhanced quality of civilian life’. [4] The Western discourse on national security also traces  origin of this idea only in the aftermath of emergence of modern Westphalian state in 17th Century. It should not be considered an act of audacity when we claim that Mauryan polity seemed to combine both the welfare and national security dimensions of governance way before these ideas germinated in the West.

           It would certainly be unfair to scrutinise political structures and social order of Mauryan polity from the prism of 21st Century Scandinavian democracies. Even the techniques and principles of warfare or conduct of foreign policy or collective security of Mauryan polity needs to be studied in its own context rather than comparing it with contemporary era. Subsequently, these systems might have degenerated or subverted or lost their vigour or failed to adapt to changing realities. Nevertheless, these do provide one of the finest example of people-centric governance that combined the highest principles of comprehensive security outlook. 

         Robustness and vigour of these institutions and their values can be inferred from their ability to provide stability and harmony in an empire that is massive even by contemporary standards. Barring China, most of the advanced civilisations, especially those in the West, during the same time were divided in much smaller city state like entities. Even though some had secured spectacular military victories, they did lack a comprehensive and detailed governance apparatus  of a welfare like state. It is unlikely that such a system and values would have emerged suddenly with wisdom of Kautilya  and valour of Chandragupta. It is more plausible that the values and processes that Kautilya was able to resurrect and streamline were widely prevalent, or at least known, much before Kautilya himself came on the political scene of the  sub-continent. Kautilya may have codified and refined these further. The concept “Dharma” infused a moral obligation both on the ruler and the ruled, enhancing the quality of social or political contract between the two.

        The concept of un-elected "Dharma" driven polity is neither feasible nor desirable in the contemporary era. However, observance of "Dharma" even by the elected representatives and masses can take our democracy and the civilisation to a new pinnacle. Popular accountability and representative governments by experts are inescapable necessities both for credibility and efficiency in governance. However, custodians of democracy need to appreciate that five key principles that can differentiate a high quality democratic polity could be summarised as : a) Centrality of people as a whole in the process of governance and politics, with their common and composite interests being defined in indivisible terms; b) Rule of law implying obligation on state, and all other entities in public domain,  from any arbitrary and unreasonable action, along with a credible mechanism to enforce, interpret and uphold the same; c)  Accountability of entire governance process to people (who should be represented by wise and virtuous men and women with integrity); d) Integrity, autonomy and efficiency of institutions of governance; e) High degree of social harmony with prevalence of wider values of trust and integrity among people, access to opportunities and instruments to cooperate and collaborate and forge a spirit of partnership. Efficacy of all these instruments and institutions lay in their ability to provide the masses optimum access to all round security and   dignity . 

Some may consider these ideas as utopia but an effort to move in this direction alone can bolster democracy and enable it fight the onslaught of both authoritarianism and populism.  Interestingly, the quality of governance in some of the non-elected regimes in certain areas like public services, maintenance of public order, access to healthcare, elementary education and employment are better than many of the democracies. Un-elected public functionaries are probably more accountable in these polities and they enjoy greater autonomy in their routine professional sphere. Many of these institutions are afflicted by sub-par output in most democracies. 

     If societies lack cohesion and institutions are clumsy, it is easier for smaller network of forces to derail the focus of governance in democracies. In absence of strong regulatory capacity and efficient criminal justice systems, democracy can become an arena for war among competing groups. They may use every possible means, including propaganda, deception and even some degree of violence in pure and simple pursuit of power. Despite an outward facade of democracy, priority shifts from collective  interests of entire mass of people to narrow interests of  cliques and syndicates. Outwardly, these institutions may still feign commitment to wider popular  interest and do a lip service to the same. Governance also seems to be suffering in democracies due to lack of inbuilt incentives, opportunities and support for incumbents, for high quality output with integrity, in different key institutions - like political parties, corporate sector, civil service, judiciary, research institutions, health sector, media etc. Many a times, one finds a gap or a contradiction between institutional goals of these entities and the larger governance objectives. 

        The idea of democracy is driven by the spirit of channelling collective energies and wisdom of people towards composite well-being of all. As societies are advancing, the idea of composite well-being  of the people becomes more complex. Simultaneously, it becomes increasingly difficult to build and manage institutions which can pursue these effectively while adapting and evolving to new realities. Hence, it is not sufficient to have some structures and processes of representation and governance. The underlying spirit of harmony, trust, collaboration and  opportunities or incentives for excellence are equally important. Without these, it amounts to having body without soul. We need serious re-focus and re-orientation of institutions of  governance in democracies. Mauryan polity does provide an inspiring example in its context. Its structures may not be relevant but its spirit remains worthy of emulation. We need to pose to ourselves:  are we ready to move in this direction? 

[1] V R Ramachandra Dikshitar; The Mauryan Polity; University of Madras, 1932  Pages 115-119
[2] Ibid; P-134
[3] Ibid; pp-115-119
[4] Joseph J Romm; Defining National Security: Non Military Dimensions, Council of Foreign Relations Press, New York 1993 (p2)  [18.06.2016]S

Monday, August 6, 2018

Social Values and Traditions that Sustain and Strengthen Indian Democracy

India has always been cited as a shining example of peaceful transfer of power through electoral process anywhere outside the western hemisphere. Given its massive population with multiplicity of linguistic, ethnic and religious identities, and overall enormity of governance challenges, it must be an unparalleled feat by any imagination to have a successful, thriving and vibrant democracy, which, despite all its deficiencies, has provided political stability as well as fairly respectable levels of growth over the years. Ironically, the intellectual discourse on democracy in the Western world, pays inadequate attention to values, ethos and traditions that have sustained and helped democracy flourish in India, despite adversities and constraints.

Some of the model democracies in the world, largely in Scandinavian countries, or Western Europe, or even Japan and New Zealand, are far too small in size, with average levels of prosperity and literacy being quite high. These make it easier to build and sustain community bonds, which lead to higher quality of  social harmony and cohesion and an ambience of trust among people. These automatically enhance the quality of output, efficiency and transparency of governance institutions. It is indeed remarkable that democracy has progressed and evolved in India even in face of poverty, illiteracy and several inherent contradictions in our institutions. A recurrent complaint from some of the brightest civil servants, or even forward looking politicians or corporate leaders,  has been absence of incentives, or even safeguards, for high quality of professional output with integrity. We shall discuss these contradictions separately.  

Against this background, one has to concede that there must be something extra ordinary in the Indian values and traditions that has prevented the country from drifting towards authoritarianism, despite severe dysfunctionality of many of our institutions. Buried deep among these, are innumerable tales of so many nameless and faceless individual heroes, who have displayed exceptional valour, passion and supreme personal sacrifices and commitment to excellence. These are manifest in the best form in our armed forces but the spirit does extend in its own form and context to some of our institutions of excellence like Indian Space research Organisation to Metro Rails and so many others, which are pride of the nation.  Amidst allegations of all round corruption and subversion, there are so many examples in different walks of life, varying from government to non-government sectors to NGOs or Media, where people have stuck to their values and not hesitated from making even the supreme sacrifice in what is perceived as defence of India, Indian values, Indian democracy and integrity of their personal character. They are real leaders in every sense. One can only visualize what can happen if there are inbuilt incentives, support and recognition for high quality output and leadership in our political, bureaucratic, professional and corporate structures.

One wonders from where do these Indians, or at least some of them, derive this energy to work for their society, values and the country, even without incentives? And many of them are willing to pay even the highest form of personal cost? It would be  grossly insulting to assume that the spirit of democracy suddenly sprang in India after its colonial subjugation to the United Kingdom. Many Britons in colonial era found  Maxmuller’s glowing tribute to India’s ancient social values and heritage quite offensive. In his brazen arrogance, Macaulay had  once claimed that books on a shelf of a library in England contained more wisdom than what the entire Indian civilization had to offer over centuries. Of course, subsequent developments based on scientific researches by many experts, including several British men and women, exposed shallowness of such audacity.

The spirit of social trust and fairness, on which Democracy rests, has had a long tradition in India. Fortunately, this has not yet been eclipsed entirely, despite aberrations, subversion and distortions emanating from inconsistent governance of centuries, or poor quality and character of entities that controlled seats of power in Delhi and beyond. Until the advent of the British, India was known for its self-sufficient village autarchies, even though many Indian intellectuals have contested the idea.  While none of the two extremes- complete isolation or comprehensive integration- appear plausible, a high degree of village or local level  autonomy, with suitable variations in different parts of the sub-continent appear most logical image of this era. Until the early years of British colonialism, most villages, or a groups of villages, could be considered virtually independent as they handled most, if not all, their matters on their own. There was no centralised authority with presence in each and every part of the sub-continent. Peoples’ association with the rulers in major power centres, or the latter’s control over the former, was quite loose and largely confined to payment of taxes that varied from one fourth of the produce to one tenth. While, it will not be fair to compare these societies with model societies of advanced democracies of 21st Century, there is little doubt that a large number of these villages and communities upheld or adhered to social values or behavioural norms, that contributed to a trust-based society that we consider both the goal and foundation for a harmonious and vibrant democracy. There were of course many darker aspects including  clandestine crimes like 'thugee' to traditions of 'Sati' and the like. 

In the context of wider social values of trust and integrity, I often quote a story written by the legend of Hindi story writing Munshi Prem Chand in early 20th Century, named “Panch Parmeshwar”.   The story narrates a tale of two close buddies named ‘Algu Chaudhary’ and ‘Jumman Sheikh’ in some remote village of North-Central India. Their friendship breaks apart following Chaudhary’s fair pronouncements in course of an arbitration in a dispute involving Sheikh and his aunt. Sheikh’s widowed aunt had accused her nephew of neglecting her after she had transferred all her assets in the name of Sheikh. Chaudhary overlooked emotions of friendship with Sheikh and delivered a verdict that adhered to established norms of justice.

The story goes on to state that many years after Sheikh had felt betrayed by his close buddy and treated him as foe, he eventually had a chance to take revenge from Chaudhary. Sheikh was nominated arbitrator in a dispute between Chaudhary and the latter's neighbour who had cleverly wanted to exploit bitterness between two erstwhile friends. However, after examining facts of the dispute, Sheikh delivered a fair verdict in favour of Chaudhary to the  surprise of  most. Sheikh admitted that once being nominated as arbitrator (or Panch), one had to represent ‘the voice of the God’ and act fairly. He was better able to appreciate the adverse verdict handed over against him by his former friend years ago and their friendship resumed. While, this may be an exaggeration to claim that everything was absolutely perfect and ideal in those societies but at the same time, one has to concede that people, by and large, must   have been familiar with, and largely observant to, the  known ideas of fairness and justice. The quality of social harmony and  values of integrity  did exist which must have been sharpened by freedom struggle to eventually sustain a vibrant democracy. 

Such values must have been part of a longer tradition of social and behavioural norms, which evolve gradually and do not change abruptly. Security of Indian sub-continent has been breached repeatedly by external invasions. These disruptions must have dislocated political as well as social values, systems and structures. Their natural course of evolution too would have been impeded.  While no political system and authority can entirely neglect people, collective well-being of people was certainly not the primary focus of governance during most of the medieval era almost everywhere in the world. Nevertheless, some rulers in India varying from Sher Shah Suri to Akbar did lay emphasis on building some public infrastructure and introducing administrative reforms that were akin to welfare states. However, medieval era, almost everywhere in the world, is considered a dark age for people-centric governance. This was the time when Churches in Europe had usurped all political powers without corresponding responsibility or accountability to the people. Rulers in most parts of the world used coercion, repression and intimidation to silence people into submission and often claimed divine sanction, to glorify themselves, instead of showing any kind of accountability to the  masses or show respect to even those divine notions that enshrine good of entire mankind.
The Indian sub-continent, however, presents the earliest example of people-centric governance during Kautilya or may be even pre-Kautilya era. Kautilya’s Arthashastra, which is one of the earliest and yet most brilliant treatises on governance and national security, written anywhere in the world, offers a deep insight into nature of political and social system of the ancient India, especially the Mauryan polity.  It offers strong foundation of principled and ethical governance, based on Dharma, that had eventually contributed to exceptional levels of economic prosperity, social stability and of-course sustained protection of the sub-continent from external threats and aggression.  Despite political changes, there had been a fair amount of continuity in India’s economic strength, social harmony and stability with subsequent Gupta era in North or Cholas and Pandyas in South pushing the entire sub-continent to a sustained economic, cultural and scientific  advancement with a high degree of political stability backed by military power. Rulers in the  South were particularly known for their naval prowess, which explains dominant Indian influence in most of East Asia. 

We shall discuss the people-centric welfare dimension of Mauryan State that combined certain critical ingredients of contemporary idea of national security in the next post.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

India's Aspiration for a Functional System

I must narrate an incident of 1989 when a group of us from Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi, with active interest in political and civil society activism, had gone to meet the then Prime Minister of India. We were assured by the organisers of this visit that we could convey our perspective on any issue to the Prime Minister and ask any question from him and we would receive an answer. When we reached 7 RCR (Now Lok Kalyan Marg), we found huge crowds, with many singing paeans in honour of the Prime Minister while waiting for an audience. As young JNU students, with some of us being barely out our teens, we had our own perspectives about the prevailing state of affairs in the country. We felt these were not reflected by the ambience at the lawns of Prime Minister’s official residence. Nevertheless, most people had come with some form of petition or representation to address some grievance, reinforcing our belief that our systems didn’t work without pressure or persuasion or intervention from the top.

When our turn came to meet Prime Minister late Shri Gandhi, I politely but firmly queried : “Mr Prime Minister Sir, do you know that every day so many instances of gross injustice keep on happening in this country? What do you do to address these?” He graciously answered with a degree of indulgence towards his young audience: “Whenever such instances come to my notice, I intervene and see that justice is done”. I showed audacity and impatience to add a rejoinder: “But sir, how many instances can gain attention of Prime Minister and how many people can reach Prime Minister of India? Why can’t we have a system where a peon does what he or she is supposed to do, an officer does his or her work and Ministers do their own duty? Why do we need interventions?”

What followed was a little pause and then a longish observation, ignoring even repeated reminders by the concerned staff that Prime Minister was getting late. We had the perspective of the most powerful man in the country on deficiencies of the system and challenges of governance. It contained sincere exhortation to young people to join politics. I vividly remember some of his words:  “good people, young people must join politics…… Fence sitters have no business condemning the system…. If intelligent and honest people don’t come in the playing arena, others will hijack it…. I and my team are trying our best but this is not sufficient …. it is not easy…”  All of us were touched by his honesty and sincerity and rather felt sympathetic towards him. Our suspicions and apprehensions against the highest political authority had substantially reduced, if not removed. Inspired by his exhortation, many of us joined politics but barring one or two, who are now active politicians, rest were soon disillusioned and eventually moved to different professions.

Three long decades have passed since then and many things have improved substantially but an average Indian's aspiration for an efficient and functional governance system remains unfulfilled.  I am sure the questions posed by young people three decades back must be resonating in the minds of even the youth of current generation. There is no doubt that Indian democracy is a shining example of its kind for peaceful transfer of political power but we are nowhere close to our collective economic and social potential as a nation. Political change in itself is inadequate unless structures of governance are transformed to deliver to their optimal capacity or may be stretch and enhance their very capacity itself. We all know that India and China were identical in terms of economic and military strength until early 1980s. Today, Chinese economy is five times bigger than India and their military prowess and defence capabilities is inferior only to the United States. We may console ourselves by citing reasonable progress that we have attained or a few enclaves of excellence that we have built. There is little doubt that the culture of excellence is needed in all spheres including politics, civil service, corporate world, civil society groups, academic and research institutions etc. It is possible and all that we need is the courage and audacity to think in this direction. We certainly need leaders in all spheres and at every level to pursue what could be a national vision.

Success of Indian democracy is critical not only for the fate of 1.3 billion Indians but also for determining the eventual fate of democracy itself as a mode of governance. If a multi-cultural India succeeds with a democratic model of governance to address legitimate aspirations of its people, the globalised world can tide over parochial populism else we are certainly in for a bigger challenge in not so distant a future. We live in an integrated and interdependent world. Poor physical and cognitive capacity of our population, their deficient skills and weaker institutions make us vulnerable in far too many ways. Even gaps in trade and technology can turn out to be lethal tools of predation . We do not have the luxury to progress at our own leisurely pace and console ourselves over tactical improvements.   

In the above context, the current political discourse in the country sounds fairly disappointing. It appears more like a psychological and verbal war among rival camps through every possible means to capture power. Governance and plight of either the people or the country, or even the very civilisation, seems reduced to a much lower priority. Indian democracy has covered a journey of 7 long decades of freedom.  it is time we move from sub-optimal leaking institutions to a framework of governance that can optimise our potential as a nation by transforming both our economic output and social cohesion to bolster the quality and level of  our overall national security.

In absence of high performing institutions that can deliver on promises of governance, all our good intents and great values sound hollow. People in the world’s biggest democracy and the most advanced ancient civilisation do not have to rely on mercy or discretion or even good conscience  of the incumbents in authority to enjoy their right to life, liberty and existence with dignity. At the same time, we do have an obligation to the entire developing world who look up to India as one of their own. We certainly need a more appealing vision and goals of governance  as a nation for our entire civilisation

       We hope peoples’ representatives across all divides can rise above their differences to pool in at least part of their energies to focus on governance challenges facing the country. Politicians need not and must not be burdened with responsibility of pushing and kicking a dysfunctional or non-performing system for their constituents. Democracy also carries no entitlement to manipulate institutions for political profiteering or even building permanent political constituencies. It is only a limited a contractual obligation of governance that  peoples' representatives are required to fulfil. In our context, priorities require pursuit of robust and efficient systems that can work in routine matters on its own and that too with a speed. Merely replicating and borrowing ideas and practices would not help even if these do contribute to building a better perspective. We have our unique challenges of governance and so are our social and otherwise realities. We need ideas and institutions that work best in our context. We certainly need a broader and bigger debate  on this subject.  We can move forward only through a sustainable partnership among all segments of society and polity.  

PS: This is part of the previous post only which has been split and edited  following feedback from some readers. 


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