Democracy is a very empowering concept. Even in our hours of bondage, when we were not only under the dominance of a foreign power but at the same time enshackled by our own superstitions and dogmatic practices, Raja Rammohun Roy dreamt of a free society which would be governed by democratic principles. His endeavours were directed towards awakening the citizens to a more liberated and responsible nationhood. Democracy implies governance ‘Of the People; By the People; and For the People’. Since leaders are elected from among the fellow citizens to form a government ‘of’ the people, ‘by’ the citizens themselves so that it can ensure a life of peace and prosperity ‘for’ the common men, the success of any democracy depends largely on its citizens.
Unfortunately in many cases the role and often, the reach of the people end after the elections are over. We, the citizens of a sovereign nation, are not united enough to keep our elected representatives true to their tasks. Rabindranath Tagore, in one of his essays, has warned against the rise of democratically elected autocracies. It has been proved all too true. Those who are elected to serve us as public servants, in effect become our ‘rulers’. This is perhaps because the ordinary citizens abdicate their responsibilities in the hands of those they have elected to power and themselves become powerless to oppose most of the wrong doings. After all every mortal has his/her limitation. If the leaders are allowed to be surrounded by sycophants and even if the intelligentsia (comprising of the intellectuals, opinion leaders and bureaucrats) decide to side with the powerful lobbies for paltry gains, it is evident that they get intoxicated by their importance. If people of influence and stable footing in society fall prey to the machinations, then how can the poor and the marginalised who are ever fearful of losing whatever little they have, resist the might of their oppressors? However, it is often seen that these teaming millions ultimately come together to raise their voices against the wrong doings. Their struggle for existence often makes them see things in much clearer light than their more fortunate brothers and sisters whose visions often get blinded by personal grievances, hatred or greed and desires.
The collective wisdom of the citizens help any democracy to mature into a more effective system. There should be much restraint in our behaviour, and greater sense of responsibility to not only choose the right government but unite to question it if it fails to deliver. All the four pillars of democracy must carry out their own functions with honesty and sincerity, without reserve, partiality or fear, with a complete disinterested sense of duty. But this responsibility does not lie alone with the state officials and law keepers, the judiciary, the free press and media but also on the general public who need to keep a vigilant eye on governance. Rammohun had realised the importance of free press, the only medium for public reach in those days, in ensuring freedom of thought. He therefore fought relentlessly against the curbs imposed on the freedom of press.
Today we are blaming the polity for fuming communal hatred but we too fall prey to their propaganda and forget our commitment to our pluralistic society which many of our forefathers, following in the footsteps of Rammohun, had envisioned for our country. We may put the blame on the system and the politicians for the outbreak of the second COVID wave because of their widespread canvassing by gathering large crowds in rallies and processions. But are we not irresponsible for failing to stick to the protocols of a pandemic ridden world? The major part of the culpability lies with the insensitive, power hungry leaders and the uncaring election machinery in this “dance of democracy’, but the fault lies with us too. Even if we do not flock unmasked to the gatherings, do we not secretly rejoice to witness the popularity of the political dispensation we side with while decrying the gatherings at the same time? Is it not hypocrisy on the part of the so-called more responsible citizens? Democracy is not strengthened by mere criticism. It is made effective by our actions.
Let us be inspired by the patriots who have fought for our independence. Let us strive to make our endeavours more meaningful by coming together in the common cause of letting our democracy thrive. That will be our true tribute to Rammohun and all the others who have dreamed of a strong and free nation. In this connection we are happy to announce that Sadharan Brahmo Samaj is going to celebrate the 250th Birth Anniversary of Raja Rammohun Roy in a befitting manner. The programmes planned by the Sestercentennial Celebration Committee of the Samaj will be announced in this magazine as well. Let us pray that our efforts touch the hearts of millions and help in bringing his dreams to fruition.
EVENTS OF THE MONTH
International Labour Day / May Day
Birth Centenary of Satyajit Roy
Rabindra Jayanti, Birthday of Rabindranath Tagore
Foundation day (2nd Jaista) of The Sadharan Brahmo Samaj
Birthday of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore (3rd Jaistha)
Birthday of Raja Rammohun Roy – Beginning of the Sestercentennial year