Thursday, July 23, 2009

Of Religious Leaders and Directed Democracies.


My first tryst with voting and democracy was when I was in the 5th Grade. We used to have elections for the for the Student Council members. As a fifth grader I was eligible to vote only for the head boy and the head girl. One week in advance, all the probable candidates would queueup and speak about themselves and explain to us why they felt that they were the best candidates. The whole process was pretty boring. Everyone used the same phrases in their speach and invariably ended it with “Elect and select the best, but do not forget so-n-so”. It was, but a good experience. I somehow felt important on the day of the elections. I felt as if was a part of some important process.

My first brush with democracy was “ideal” if I could put it that way. We never had any candidates who were in the bad books of the teachers, standing for elections. The students who were selected were always “Scholars” (It was a term for studious children in my school). Even the Sports captain was someone who scored marks and did well in sports. Everything about the election was in one word “Perfect”.

And I wondered as to why we had such “Clean” Candidates coming up and occupying top positions in the Student Council of my school, while we have criminals occupying prominent positions in the Indian Parliament. The reason was simple; the system in my school could not be termed just as “Democracy”. “Directed Democracy” was a more appropriate term; something similar to the kind of “Theocracy” that is practiced in Iran. The candidates were handpicked by the Principal, vice Principle and the supervisor. There were always two candidates fighting for a given post in the student council. There were hardly any real issues to be spoken about during these elections let alone debated about. It was as if one candidate was a mirror reflection of the other. And I wondered a bit more…. Is this system better than democracy?

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Freedom is not worth having, If it does not include the freedom to make mistakes”. Iran’s concept of democracy would never allow its people to make “Mistakes” or in others words allow them to have an opinion which differs from the opinion of their Supreme Leader. Whatever the Supreme Religious council says is more like Law and if major issues are to be sacrificed for petty religious matters, it is acceptable. The system could be better termed as “Pseudo Democracy”. The people are given a false sense that they are in control of the government, when the truth simply is that the supreme leaders could change or influence the election results anytime they want too. As a student, I was repulsed by this kind fake show of democracy in my school. In fact it would not be wrong to say I was in very angry with the very fact that my teachers did not trust my judgment in choosing the right candidates for the student council. I started believing that socialism and communism were better alternatives to democracy. I fail to understand what good the common people of Iran see in the system that they have.

What has happened in Iran now has only reinforces my belief. Any protests against the new regime have been struck down with brutal force using militias like the basij. For now, drunk with power, the Iranian leaders believe they have brought down the protests and have started trading charges with the west stating they have instigated and financed it.

For now a dumb tyrant who can do no more than a little lip service to the people of Iran is occupying the top civilian post in Iran. His concept of nationalism is very similar to the hundreds of tyrants who have come before him. His sensational comments and rigid concept of Islam will do no good for the People of Iran.

But I am sure his fate going be similar to that of the previous tyrants. He just needs to pick up the history books of Iran to understand this.

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