top of page

Impact of “majoritarian democracy” on tribal “minority population”

The words “majoritarianism” and “democracy” are often confused upon and that why before going into the whole issue of majoritarian democracy lets first tries to differentiate between these two terminologies, which will make our understanding of majoritarian democracy more clear.

To put in the words of Prof Nicholas Tampio, “In majoritarianism, only majority has a voice, but in a democracy, everybody has a voice: To have a democratic society you have to listen to people who you disagree with.”

To put in simple words the meaning of word “majoritarian” as an adjective means something that relates to or constitutes a majority. Thereby the phases “majoritarian politics”, or “majoritarian democracy” can be defined as a political scenario under which any decision whether in relation to politics, society, or economics of an organized society is made by a numerical majority of that society. Or to put in little different way, it can be defined as a traditional political philosophy that stresses that a majority usually branded by religious, language, social class that also includes other recognizing factors of individuals in a society are subject to a level of superiority in a society because of which they have a say in every affair of a society.

In democracies like India, the crucial link that helps a party to form government in centre or state is “trust” of the people. Whereby the people of India based on this yardstick of trust gauge the various developmental works done by the government. However in recent trends related to the functioning of democracy in both centre and the state, it can be seen that this crucial missing link of ‘trust’ is often lost. This phenomena is also evident in the most ‘stable democracies’ in the world practising representative democracy in a form that has given rise to one community (be it in a ‘majority’ numerically or socially) wielding absolute power over another, or money enabling one class of affluent individuals use the electoral system to keep out less affluent groups.

As rightly pointed by Dr Ajay Gudavarthy, that majoritarianism becomes a certain kind of convergence of dominant social vision of dominant social elites (Hindu/Brahminical Hindu), which gets eventually acceptable to a range of social subaltern groups (the Dalits and the OBCs). And the important point to note is that here majoritarianism takes a populist turn as this convergence is on the basis of consent rather than coercion.

This problem can also be seen as the one which is deep rooted in the system. India follows “first pass the post system” in electoral counting. With the ‘first past the post, the winner who takes all’ electoral system is that the successful candidate has no incentive (indeed every disincentive) to look after the views of those who did not vote in favour of the winner. If the demographic or socioeconomic composition of the population is heavily weighted in favour of one group, majoritarianism inevitably follows.

India is country which is known for its “unity with diversity”, due to number of people belonging to various religion, race, gender etc living here. India can be described as country which is pigeonholed by more ethnic and religious groups as compared to other countries of the world. Many intellectuals viewed that India is a captivating country where people of many different communities and religions live together in harmony.

Indian Population is polygenetic and is an astonishing merger of various races and cultures. Besides, numerous castes, there are eight "major" religions, 15-odd languages spoken in various dialects and a substantial number of tribes and sects.

Among these people are the people whom we often designate as “tribal”, due to their unique or primitive style and way of living and culture. Indian constitution contains various provision of the preservation of these communities and saving their unique habitat and culture such as PESA.

However with the recent rise of majoritarianism, the rights of these minority groups are often ignored and they are left to live in dilapidated condition by snatching their homes from them. The tribal often relates to one particular place in which away from the whole world they live their own life practicing their own sets of culture.

Now the government in the garb of their various developmental projects are intruding in these habitats of tribals and are destroying them, living tribals with no options in form of place where to go. To name some of these developmental projects are building of dams, coal mines etc.

Worldwide, the human rights of indigenous people and peoples are explicitly set out in the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other widely adhered to international human rights treaties and Declarations.

In recognition of the fact that indigenous and tribal peoples are likely to be discriminated against in many areas, the first general, fundamental principle of The Tribal People’s Convention No. 169 is “non-discrimination”. Article 3 of the Convention states that indigenous peoples have the right to enjoy the full measure of human rights and fundamental freedoms without hindrance or discrimination. In Article 4, the Convention also guarantees enjoyment of the general rights of citizenship without discrimination. Another principle in the Convention concerns the application of all its provisions to male and female indigenous persons without discrimination (Article 3). Article 20 provides for prevention of discrimination against indigenous workers. In addition to this the act also provides for the process of consultation for these tribal people so that the difference of culture gap between the government and the tribal can be bridged and better understanding can be achieved.

But now a days we have seen that the rights of the tribal peoples are kept on the back seat or are often manipulated to achieve various objectives of the people which are for “majority” population well-being and even the constitutional safeguard in the form of PESA is not proven to be helpful in this regard.

These various Projects of government, no doubt helped a lot in achieving the goals like power generation, flood control and supply of irrigation water to the fields and making India moving towards development, but alongside it has some repercussion too such as in terms of physically uprooted sizable number of people who lost their home and hearth and shattered their culture and kinship linkages built over several centuries and generations.

The most apt example of this would be state of Orissa in which most of the development projects were constructed in areas dominated by the tribal which resulted in the displacement of people from their homeland. And the point here to highlight is that most of the rehabilitation measures extended by the project authorities have so far remained very nominal.

With these so called developmental projects the displaced people who generally belong to the most disadvantaged communities of the Indian societies such as tribal people, are pushed into impoverishment, marginalization and further backwardness and are often found to have pushed below the threshold of poverty.

Most development displacement- resettlement studies have focused on the deteriorating living conditions and pauperization of these “minority” people which is coupled with inadequacies of rehabilitation and resettlement and lack of basic amenities, loss of livelihood, breaking of kinship ties and above all the most important one “nonrestoration of the pre-displacement economic condition” of the displaced.

Statistical data released by various organizations indicates that a large portion of the project affected families belong to the tribal group. Since the tribal belts are generally invariably rich in mineral deposits, they are affected much by the ongoing power, mining and industrial projects. Conservative estimate reveals the percentage of tribal among displaced families in the ongoing and pipeline development projects will be as high as 80%. Different studies put the number of already displaced at more than 10 lakhs and those adversely affected in varying degrees at 50 lakhs.

One of the recent examples of this scenario is the developmental project on river “umgot” in Meghalaya, which is also India’s clearest river. The project purposes to build a hydro power plant on this river, which is opposed by the people around the river as it is going to affects their livelihood and also is going to displace them.

With the help of above statistics and examples, it can be seen that how modern politics is kneeling towards the benefits of the majority and often the interest of the minority are neglected upon and how they are left in the state of misery.

-Manisha kumari

30 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

I. BACKGROUND The advancement of internet trend has caused a shift in the business sector. Many business organisations have migrated to the internet realm of marketing and commerce, inc

Introduction Black’s law dictionary defines Double Jeopardy as: – A second prosecution after a first trial for the same offense. In India, protection against double jeopardy could be an elementary rig

INTRODUCTION Indian Parliament, in the preceding year passed three bills related to agriculture and farming, together known as the Farmers Bill. The Bills include The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commer

bottom of page