Democratic existence in a country like India cannot only be imagined purely in terms of the ideals of liberty, free speech, fraternity or secularism. The large majority of the populace do not carry out their everyday life by being conscious of their democratic rights as citizens. Citizenship for them may only mean availing themselves of the benefits of governmental initiatives like health care or public distribution system or the right to vote in elections.

Citizenship is one of the modes of existence in India for them. But it is an important mode. It may be because of this that a large number of people came out to protest when they felt a threat to this mode of existence in the wake of Indian parliament passing Citizenship Amendment Act in 2019. It was a fight for the right to exist and not for upholding the ideals of liberal democracy. It is also possible to see another major protest against the Union government – the farmer’s protest against the now-scrapped central laws – also as a fight of this sort. It may look simplistic but most powerful and enduring fights are often fights which are necessitated when our existence as bare beings are threatened. These may be some of the most visible examples of struggles that we have seen for democratic life of this sort, but there may have been many more unnoticed ones. It is here that totalitarianism would find its limits, and fail to establish itself. 

by Ashokan Nambiar C.