The Battle For Dharma in Feudal Democracy


From The Editor's Desk

(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)

In a feudal society, people are treated according to their social, political or economic status. The idea of social justice varies from person to person, and laws become tools in the hands of the rich and powerful to further their ends and oppress their enemies.

If the haves in such a scenario commit crimes, such as killing someone, patronizing criminals or illegally buying and using weapons to establish dominance, they will do so with the expectation that the laws should be leniently applied to them, and they should be condoned for their misdeeds.

If you impose democracy upon such primitive feudal communities, what will happen? The poor and the less privileged will suffer enormously, and chaos and confusion of values will reign due to misinterpretation of laws, unfair laws, and unequal justice.

Feudal democracies are for the rich and powerful, by the rich and powerful and with the rich powerful. The less privileged may cast their votes, and the leaders may promise to improve their lot, but in the end their interests remain secondary.

The most influential and powerful people in such democracies remain powerful, as they corner most benefits, protect their interests and their friends and family members and enjoy immunity from punitive laws, while they invoke the same laws to intimidate and coerce others into silence or submission.

When laws become unequal and when you believe that certain people and classes of people are above the law and exempt from punishment, you can expect that democracy becomes a mere shadow, and the order and regularity of society a distant ideal.

The social structure in that feudal democratic rule will be nothing but a layered caste system or class system, justified by tradition or custom, which aims to consolidate and legitimize power in the hands of a few while limiting opportunities for peace and happiness to the majority.

In a democracy, all people are equal, at least from the perspective of law and governance. Laws are the only protection available to the citizens of a democratic nation from oppression and injustice.

Therefore, none should be considered above the law. The laws should be respected and equally and impartially applied to all. Criminals shall not be allowed to escape punishment even if they belong to prestigious families, their forefathers were royalty or served the nation, their relations hold powerful positions, or they can buy freedom with money and power.

There will be no redemption for the world, especially for the developing countries, if they allow inequalities and unfair laws to prevail, or if they misuse and misinterpret existing laws to favor a few. Historically, countries where laws are strictly enforced are proven to be rich and prosperous while those where it is not done happen to be poor and backward.

Therefore, democratic nations should ensure that for the order and regularity, no one should be placed above law or exempted from punishment for civil or criminal misconduct.

Secondly, judiciary must be given complete freedom and authority to interpret the prevailing laws strictly according to the established principles and practice and deliver justice. Once a judgment has been given, individuals and vested interests should not be allowed to obstruct its enforcement or politicize it. Jurisprudence must be left to the courts alone, not to the politicians, police force, feudal lords, diplomats, journalists or the influential voices of society.

In today’s world, in democratic countries everyone has an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns, but no government can be run according to the cacophony of discordant voices.

The purpose of any government is to govern according to prevailing laws and established practices. One may show humanity in decision making, but it should be done without personal motive, favor or partiality.

The laws in a democracy are part of a social contract between people and its government. Its purpose is to protect the weak and the helpless from the powerful and wicked. This fundamental aspect of democracy and principle of social justice should never be lost sight of.

The laws and the constitution are the only protection people have from the government and those who are in government. Therefore, people have a special responsibility to uphold those laws and not denigrate them. If they do it, it will be against their own interests.

One of the principal Upanishads of Hinduism contains this ancient wisdom, "Dharmo rakhsita rakshatah." It means, if you protect Dharma (law), Dharma will protect you. It is precisely what we have stated above.

Laws should not be selective. They should not be interpreted according to convenience or political ideology. They are not meant to protect only the privileged sections of society or oppress others. The equal enforcement of laws without fear and prejudice is vital to the order and regularity of society. Only then you can live in a country with peace, security and stability.

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