Day 34: Ambedkar's Warning and How Democracy Can Work
For example, as I read about Indian Republic's formative years, I can figure out why democracy worked in India while it failed in many Asian and African countries. I remember a friend and a fellow blogger arguing, in the backdrop of the political troubles in Bangladesh, that democracy will not work in Bangladesh as the people are not yet ready for it, and the country needs a period of enlightened dictatorship for a period of time. It did not sound right, and I did say so - but given the recent history of Bangladesh, such rationale was hard to refute.
I can draw two lessons from reading about the formative years of Indian republic. One, to establish a democracy in a nation like ours, which would have gone through many years of repression and unjust rule, one needs to start with forgetting the past and focusing on the future. The Indian constituent assembly included many people who had opposed Congress for many years, and they were included in Nehru's first cabinet too. Exceptional men, like Dr. Ambedkar or Shyamaprasad Mookherjee, the founder of Jana Sangh - who collaborated with the British rulers - were included and their views carried as much weight as that of anyone else. This is possibly the first step in democracy - an intent to find the common ground - which would not have happened in many new democratic experiments. No wonder that an essential ingredient of the democratic process in South Africa was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, led by Bishop Tutu, which sought to bury the past - and that was quite a past with one of the most Brutal regimes in History! In the context of Bangladesh, this is possibly where things need to start - the country went through the most horrific abuses under their Pakistani rulers and their collaborators, and a lot of politics in Bangladesh is still about the past rather than being about the future.