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Democracy in India

Facts for Prelims (FFP)


Source: PM INDIA

 Context: The Indian PM  recently addressed the Summit for Democracy, highlighting India’s commitment to democracy and its contributions to global democracy.


What is Democracy?

Democracy is a system of government where power is vested in the hands of the people, allowing them to participate in decision-making through voting and representation.


The debate:

Western narrative claims that democracy was invented in ancient Athens before being rediscovered and spreading around the globe in modern times. India’s historical references to democratic practices challenge this narrative.


India’s Evolution of Democracy:

EraKey Developments
Vedic Era (6000-1100 BCE)Mention of representative bodies like Sabha, Samiti, and Sansad in Rigveda and Atharvaveda
EpicsRamayana and Mahabharata emphasize governance for people’s welfare and ethical governance. Bhagavad Gita offers ancient guidance on duties and morality
Mahajanpada and Gantantra (7th-8th Century BCE)Mahajanapada governance models reflect people’s collective governance. Texts like Ashtadhyayi highlight democratic institutions
Jainism (7th Century BCE)Promotes pluralism and tolerance through Anekanatavada. Advocates peaceful co-existence, aligning with democratic principles
Buddhism (Since 500 BCE)Bauddha Sangha exemplifies early democratic practices.  Encourages open discussions and elections for leaders
People’s Leader (Ancient India)Election of Mahasammatta (Great Elect) for governance. Buddhist principles influence rulers, ensuring democratic values
Kautilya & Arthashastra (350-275 BCE)Arthashastra emphasizes citizens’ welfare and the ruler’s responsibility. Advocates serving, not ruling
Megasthenes and Diodorus Siculus’ Records (300 BCE)Greeks note democratic governance in Indian states. Highlights India’s aversion to slavery, an essential aspect of true democracy
Ashoka’s Governance (265-238 BCE)Emperor Ashoka promotes peace and well-being through democratic governance. Systematic ministerial elections ensure people’s participation
Fa Xian’s Records (5th Century CE)Observe Indian respect for people, Rule of Law, and public welfare. Highlights democratic principles in Indian governance
Khalimpur Copperplate (9th Century CE)Gopala’s election by the people showcases principles of justice and order. Reflects democratic transition in governance
Shrenisangha System (876 CE)Electing administrative officials, including guilds and town leaders. Illustrates democratic administration in India
Uthiramerur Inscriptions (919 CE)Affirm democratic elections and local self-governance. Highlights early democratic practices in South India
Vijay Nagar Empire’s Governance‘Sarv-sammati’ principles promote participatory governance. Emphasizes self-governance at the village level
Padishah Akbar (1556-1605 CE)Introduces “Sulh-i-Kul” to combat religious discrimination. Showcases inclusive governance and religious harmony
Chhatrapati Shivaji (1630-1680 CE)Advocates for democratic governance and equal rights. Outlines duties for the Ashtha-Pradhan, ensuring participatory governance
Constitution Of India (1947 Onwards)Establishes a modern, democratic Republic. Ensures equality and universal suffrage
Elections In Modern India (1952 Onwards)Experiences numerous national, state, and local self-government elections. Reflects India’s deep-rooted democratic ethos and peaceful transfers of power


About the Summit for Democracy:

The Summit for Democracy, launched by the US in 2021, is a platform for democracies worldwide to share experiences, strengthen democratic institutions, protect human rights, and combat corruption. It aims to promote collaboration among democratic nations and advance initiatives for democratic renewal, including efforts to enhance technology for democracy and defend free and fair elections.