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Importance of being a Jacinda Ardern for India and other developing countries

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*

The world needs new ideas and not rigidities of ideas. It needs pragmatic leaders and not opportunists. Pragmatism should not be considered as opportunism or vice versa. Also important to understand is, we live in a complex world. Resolution to problems facing societies will come through participatory polity and inclusion.
Of course, forces of rigidities, profit for few and extreme right will always be there to further complicate issues and create new problems, but societies which embrace new ideas and have higher tolerance level, as also inclusive polity, will survive more and live better than those where people can be murdered in the name of Gods or religious texts, or where we continue to harp on 'past wrongs' and attempt to correct them by removing them.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has formed her cabinet after her victory, and what an innovative and pathbreaking it is! Her new foreign minister is a Maori woman. Maoris are indigenous people and New Zealand even has a separate Maori Parliament, where Maoris decide about their own issues. There are five persons from Maori community in the cabinet, which is pathbreaking.
It is reported that Maori communities constitute about 16% of the total five million population of the country. Eight of the cabinet ministers are women which reflects Ardern's idea of inclusion and importance of women to propagate social justice ideas. What is heartening is inclusion of LGBTQ members in the cabinet. There are three members from this group.
Giving six important ministries is extraordinary, to say the least. All the ministries given to diverse communities is an example of how we can overcome prejudices. You cannot really overcome prejudices by lectures but by setting up examples and inclusion.
Ardern has shown extraordinary qualities of statesmanship which is lacking in the world at the moment. Like her counterpart in Canada, Justin Trudeau, she has shown how multiculturalism can be a strength to any society and must be celebrated. It is equally important for the political leadership world over to be careful about their utterances and reject hate mongering.
Indeed, a secular state is the only guarantee for the rights of the marginalised and minorities anywhere. It is time people start rejecting the idea of a theocratic state, which seeks to promote one particular religion and makes others villain. For liberal democracy to survive, the precondition would be to have an inclusive society and complete neutrality of the state.
No doubt, one cannot deny 'majority' influence on the power structure. It is natural. But it is essential for the both majority and minority communities to build trust, which cannot grow in the event prejudices and false narratives continue. Wrongs of past are often used in different ways. 
There are those who continue to harp on hate and division, but there are also those who feel ashamed of historical wrongs and make honest efforts to bring in minorities and marginalised into social-cultural and political structure.
But one thing is for sure. The western world will have superiority over us not because they have a mighty air force or armed forces but because of their robust institutions, which uphold liberalism, tolerance to acceptance of diverse viewpoints, knowledge systems, minimum role of religion in daily .life and administrative structure and secular state apparatus.
In India and some other developing countries where democracy has taken shape we still lack all this, as we have prejudices based on caste, colour, gender, food habits, languages and religion. As long as they persist, western world will continue to dominate. We lack powerful institutions, whether it is media, judiciary, independent bureaucracy, independent police and a diverse civil society.
Ardern and Trudeau kind of leaders will succeed only when people with minorities and immigrant background support their policies
Today, our political leadership seeks to hammer them all. Civil society is considered anti-national, intellectuals are thought to be as a threat to the nation, media has become the ruling party propaganda peddling fake news, while the judiciary has virtually become part of the executive. Least said about police the better, as they are used to protecting the powerful, even as criminalising the poor, the marginalised and the minorities.
New Zealand or Finland might be smaller countries but they provide us with a lot of new ideas which can make us better. Canada is three times bigger than us, and in terms of human resources, it is smaller than the combined population of Delhi and Mumbai. But these countries continue to show us the way. Their leaders guide us how they celebrate diversity and multiculturalism.
It is also essential for immigrants and minorities to understand and try to respect and be part of the broader liberal culture. In the name of community identity, many times, migrants and minorities, whether forced or voluntarily, live in ghettoised locations and become ritualistic and conservative. While following one’s tradition or religious practices is not wrong, attempt to look differently all the time in the name of identity will not find acceptance.
Ardern and Justin Trudeau kind of leaders will succeed only when people with minorities and immigrant background support their policies and join hands with other liberal nationals, who believe in multiculturalism. That alone will bring promote liberal societies.
For India and its neighbours, we have to learn the value of secularisation as that only is the guarantee for bringing together diverse groups. Hatred in the name of religion and ethnicity will only bring destruction. In the war for 'supremacy', nobody will be a winner. It is time to understand this.
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*Human rights defender

Comments

Jabir Husain said…
Inclusiveness of minority is a healthy sign of any society!

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