Another Democracy

India is the latest democracy to be forced to grapple with the political claims of fundamentalist religion. Hinduists are threatening the secular balance of the largest democracy in the world. Money quote:

What has been happening in India is a serious threat to the future of democracy in the world. The fact that it has yet to make it onto the radar screen of most Americans is evidence of the way in which terrorism and the war on Iraq have distracted us from events and issues of fundamental significance. If we really want to understand the impact of religious nationalism on democratic values, India currently provides a deeply troubling example, and one without which any understanding of the more general phenomenon is dangerously incomplete. It also provides an example of how democracy can survive the assault of religious extremism.

In May 2004, the voters of India went to the polls in large numbers. Contrary to all predictions, they gave the Hindu right a resounding defeat. Many right-wing political groups and the social organizations allied with them remain extremely powerful, however. The rule of law and democracy has shown impressive strength and resilience, but the future is unclear.