Decolonized Democracy – The Shillong Times
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Decolonized Democracy – The Shillong Times

By Dr Samhita Barooah

Elections have become T-20 games these days. Everyone is busy balancing the equations with religious, class, regional, ethnic and traditional lineages. Today, our home voting practice began with staff seeking time off from work to vote for the first time in their lives. One is 18 and the other 22, rushing home to vote for the first time. A friend went to his hometown during the 1st phase of voting. His sick mother, his caregiver and his young daughters could not vote. Only one vote was recorded. Another neighbor came home to Darrang to vote. Voter information is defined by the symbols they would vote on. Who to vote is a big question for the Assam Assembly elections!

The people of this state voted for personalities more than for the symbols they represent. This is true of many leaders whose personalities appealed to voters more than their partisan affiliations. The Assamese community is more concerned with the behaviors, attitudes and humility of the leaders who stand for election. It doesn’t matter what’s in the manifests. Whether land is traded or industries privatized or jobs dwindle for ordinary people in the commons. It really doesn’t matter.

Voting is a matter for those in power. The absorption and hoarding of power applies to Assam rather than to power sharing. Political power is still a patriarchal passion centered around men and anyone whose identity does not threaten men. Men are also struggling to make these power-driven patriarchal dreams come true. Working men are happy with using electricity, gasoline, bank loans to start something on their own. Now an e-rikshaw driver recently took a loan from a bank and bought his own e-rikshaw to feed his recently emigrated family from Sibsagar district to Guwahati town. He disappeared for 2 days with his brand new e-rikshaw after a week of driving. He was found in the outskirts of Guwahati drugged and without his e-rikshaw and clothes. His case was registered with the local police station but so far he has not found justice. He was asked to pay bribes at different stages. When he approached the media to cover his story, they said that right now elections are more important than these kinds of stories. Media priorities are therefore also set! As he struggled to get his e-rikshaw back, he couldn’t go and vote. His wife and children were also unable to vote. Many of the city’s daily migrant workers were unable to vote. They contribute to the urban economy without their right to vote.

Students in university hostels are not motivated to go and vote because they have to undergo self-quarantine and Covid tests if they leave their campuses for anything. Beggars in the streets still could not get their voter card to go and vote. Most eligible bedridden and crown affected voters will not be able to vote unless there are other options. Digital voting via mobile phones will soon become a new normal with the growing demand for mobile technology and physical distancing measures. It is crucial that voters know the symbol of the candidates.

If cash, free education, scooters, bikes, laptops, food, homes, direct cash transfers, gas hookups, Covid 19 vaccines, and health security cards are exchanged against votes, these votes may not last long. Democratic election is about a variety of strategies to solve critical problems. Today, voting is limited to delivering benefits rather than electing deserving leaders who must be visionaries rather than opportunists. But people are so easily satisfied with the industries, the auto economy, and the fast labels that they’re in awe of the sugar-coated superficiality.

Religion is another huge collector and divider of votes. The politics played around religion is once again very problematic because it is a very personal perspective. But when the peculiarity of any religious denomination determines the educational program, the salaries of the employees, the positions of the 4th power, the measures of security and job satisfaction, the personal choices of music, food, dress , friendships, relationships and the use of property, then political power structures become repressive. Unless religion and money are separated from politics, no election can support true democracy.

The decolonization of democratic practices is the need of the moment. People are confused with judgments of faith, language, culture, race, caste, tribe, class, physical characteristics, gender, sexuality and many other intersecting layers. The consequences of cultural hatred, conflict, community polarity, and extreme repulsion from opposing forces must be resolved through friendship, empathy and acceptance of diversity. The feeling of nationalism and sub-nationalism is a motivating factor, but one has to look at such feelings from the decolonized mentality.

Until now, the Assamese identity has been viewed as an assimilating identity to be accommodating, accessible and inclusive in accepting its diversity. But over the past decade, internal ageism, political competitiveness, and the leadership crisis in any forum for political affirmation have colonized people. This colonization is linked to the majority power of class, caste and religion of the neo-conservative patriarchal nationalism of the idea of ​​India. Earlier elections were held due to conflict, peacebuilding, natural disasters, rising prices, lack of development gadgets and job security. This year, even the Covid 19 pandemic cannot solve the hate issues. Decolonization needs to liberate people, not enslave them to money, loans, forced relationships, consumerism and the auto economy with a few sporadic industries here and there. Democracy is a right to liberty, equality and social justice, but every year elections strip people of it and suffocate them with sanctions and compliance reinforcements to consistently prove their nationality.

Decolonized democracy is still a long way off in Assam and elections have yet to bridge this gap.

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