ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Democracy and Violence

At the grass-roots level of democracy, many gram pradhans are becoming powerful by grabbing land and resources meant for the welfare of the people they represent. Fear of these musclemen has led to the shrinking of the space for dissent and discourse in democracy. The murders of Superintendent of Police Narendra Kumar in Morena, Madhya Pradesh and more recently, Deputy Superintendent of Police Zia-ul-Haq in Kunda in Uttar Pradesh by the mafi a are indicative of how far these goons, many of them patronised by political parties, are able to go.

The shape that democracy has been taking in India of late is changing the very meaning of democracy. The pressure, brought on by greed, to control resources is leading to ugly and violent clashes in all parts of the country. It has been observed that state-led democracy and violence are deeply interlinked. As democracy deepens and local self-governance spreads to villages and panchayats, concomitantly, violence in the society also escalates. This usually occurs when state-led development projects reach the stage wherein panchayats are involved. Invariably, a tussle begins for a share in the contracts linked with these projects. The rivalry between opposing groups rises sharply as elections for the posts of gram pradhans approach leading to violent and murderous clashes, since the faction that wins will have an edge in manipulating and looting the money meant for development works like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), etc.

According to a senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh (UP), such clashes in villages cause nearly 15 to 20 deaths every year. One such incident was reported from Moradabad where the goons belonging to a political party killed a gram pradhan. In another incident, Bholey, the gram pradhan of Maluhisarai village in Sitapur, lost his life in a violent skirmish over development projects. His slain body was found in the fields of the village. Similarly, a 31-year-old youth, Alam, son of Nafisa, the pradhan of a village in Muzaffarnagar became the victim of electoral violence.

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