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Suresh, Mayur, Deepa, Das Acevedo and Mohsin, Alam Bhat (2022) 'Authoritarianism in Indian state, law and society.' Verfassung und Recht in Übersee, 55 (4). pp. 459-477.

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While India possesses features conventionally associated with liberal democracies, it has lately been understood to suffer from “democratic backsliding”. Commentators have used descriptions like “authoritarianism”, “electoral autocracy”, “ethnic democracy” and “totalitarianism” to understand the current moment in Indian history. The framework of “autocratic legalism” illuminates the dynamics of centralization of power but there are also elements in the Indian experience that complicate this framework and reflect potentially unique features of the country’s democratic decline. These features can be attributed to the political rise and entrenchment of the Hindu nationalist ideology, profoundly facilitated by the electoral dominance of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi since 2014. This article argues that India’s spiral towards authoritarianism is also characterized by a range of disturbing and insidious developments beyond the centralization of state power, which are more concerned with majoritarian power seeping into everyday legality. The article considers three examples of such majoritarianism in everyday legality: the use of “anti-terror” laws against minorities and political opponents, policies driving towards the dispossession of minority citizenship, and the mobilization of the mob in ways that blur the lines separating the state from Hindu nationalist actors. These examples demonstrate how in India, autocratic forces are not merely interested in undermining (meaningful) democracy—all in the name of democracy. Instead, autocracy flourishes as a diverse and relatively disaggregated set of actors undermine democracy in the name of an ostensibly truer, Hindu, Indian nationhood.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Regional Centres and Institutes > SOAS South Asia Institute
School Research Centres > Centre for Asian Legal Studies
Departments and Subunits > School of Law
ISSN: 05067286
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2023 16:51

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