AbstractsLaw & Legal Studies

Lineages of Indian democracy: A response to Octavio Paz's Vislumbres de la India

by O'Connor, Holly Frieda

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: rights; conflict; civil society; state; nation; India; Octavio Paz; multiculturalism; universalism; Hindu; Muslim
Record ID: 1309319
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4860


Paz identifies democracy as the only viable form of modern governance. But the concept of democracy in India has two distinct meanings: political society considers it in terms of the right to vote and the rule of law, while civil society defines it as a series of solidarity rights. Political conflict arises from opposition between different social sectors. But the division between civil society and the state is not so simplistic. It is also characterised by ethnic, cultural, political and religious divisions within. In response to the political violence that marks India's modern democracy, Paz in his Vislumbres de la India asks 'En que tiempo vivimos?' To attain peace, Paz considers a political order with its roots in the present. He also considers that a democracy which is not secular is not really a democracy. However, secularism means much more than the separation of politics and religion. It should also extend equal protection to all religions under the auspices of the state. This has interesting implications in terms of Hindu Muslim conflict in a democracy in which Hindu and nationalism have become synonymous. Paz also asserts that politics and morality are inseparable. One salient feature of democracy is that it promises equal rights to all citizens. This promise intersects with the question of universal rights. In a society as diverse and multicultural as India, there is an inherent danger in a discourse which proclaims the idea of universality with regard to rights. In light of this problematic, rights are complicated both by political and temporal contexts. But nor are rights simply the result of purely legal interventions. They are a response to social inequalities and exist in many forms, not all of which are referent to the law. To return to Paz's question, this essay asks what, in the present, pertains to a universal conception of rights? Can rights be conceived as universal, or are they necessarily contingent on social and temporal contexts?