While recent instances of religious intolerance and bigotry may have shocked many, data on Indian attitudes and behaviours - particularly among young people - show that these attitudes are the mainstream, and not the fringe.
For some time now, Indians have held fairly conservative views about how the country should be governed in broad terms. The World Values Survey, a conglomerate of various country-level polling agencies, has surveyed sample populations around the world on their views on various social values for nearly forty years. In the latest round (20102014), the Indian sample demonstrated a lower commitment to democratic principles than most other major countries. India, along with Pakistan and Russia, featured below the global average on the importance accorded to democracy. Indian respondents had an even lower regard than Pakistani respondents for civil rights that protect peoples liberty against oppression as being an essential part of a democracy. Indian respondents expressed greater support for a strong leader and for army rule than most other countries and the global average. The share of Indians who thought that a strong leader was very good for the country was higher than in any other country even Russia (World Values Survey, 2018).
Elections are just a waste of time. We should have a strong leader, a saintly and noble man who we can trust, and then he and the army can run the country in the right direction, Mahesh Shrihari, a thirty-three-year-old accountant based in Bengaluru in southern India, told me. Shriharis grandfather was a Gandhian who had spent time in jail during the struggle for Independence. His father, Ramalingam, had been a lifelong Congress supporter, until he discovered the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare who captured middle-class Indias
imagination in 2013. Ramalingam then lost all interest in electoral politics. Shrihari, however, is a dedicated supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has only ever voted for him Ill discuss anything with you, he told me, religion, spirituality, science, feminism. I am up for a good debate. But I will not hear a word against Modi from anyone. That is the end of the conversation for me because I know the person is not worth wasting time on.
India ranks poorly on relative commitment to democratic principles on other international opinion polls. In a 2015 Pew Research Center global survey, the importance that the sample of Indians gave to freedom of expression was lower than all the surveyed countries but Indonesia; by 2019, the share of Indians who said that it was very important that people could say what they want without government censorship was the lowest in the world, lower even than Indonesia, and lower than in 2015. India joined Tunisia and Lebanon at the bottom of the list of countries that believed that it was important for the media to be able to report and people to be able to talk on the internet without censorship.
In 2019, India was below the median of countries that believed it was very important for human rights organisations to operate freely in their country without State interference, as compared to European nations, which valued this highly.
NGOs [non government organisations, or charities] are out to defame the country. They take money from foreign countries and from the Church and they instigate poor tribal people against the government, Manu Koda, a twenty-fouryear-old from Raipur in eastern Indias Chhattisgarh, told me. Koda, who now lives in Kolkata, studied in a missionary-run school that functions as a charity in Raipur, and when the country went under the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in March 2020, a local NGO arranged for dry rations for his mother and grandparents back home, he told me. But those were the only good ones, he insisted. His friends in college who were affiliated with the militant Hindu right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and a well-known Hindi nightly news anchor, had convinced him of the evil of NGOs. He was now part of a Facebook group that called itself Fans of [News Anchor]. Koda regularly saw pictures of NGO signboards posted there, with lurid tales of kidnapping and sex abuse in the captions. He did not need more evidence.
The country was also below the median in its commitment to the free operation of Opposition parties. India was at the bottom of thirty-four countries surveyed in the share of respondents who believed that a fair judiciary that treated everyone equally was important. Only four countries had a lower share of respondents who said that it was very important that honest elections were held regularly with a choice of at least two political parties.
Yet, Indians remain believers in their government. In a 2019 Pew survey, a median of 64 per cent across the nations surveyed believed that political elites were out of touch, disagreeing with the statement, Most elected officials care what people like me think. This opinion was particularly widespread in Europe where a median of 69 per cent expressed this view. Seventy-one per cent shared this opinion in the US. In contrast, just 31 per cent in India felt this way. Indians were also particularly likely to agree the State is run for the benefit of everyone. Most Indian respondents believed that voting gave people like them some say about how the government runs things. Indians in 2019 were among the most satisfied in the world with how democracy in their country was working.
But alongside this belief in the State comes a muscular majoritarian notion of what the state should regulate.
A study of four Indian statesGujarat, Haryana, Karnataka and Odishafound that two-thirds of respondents felt that the state should punish those who do not say Bharat Mata ki Jai, a nationalistic slogan that Muslims say militates against their religious beliefs, in public functions, and those who do not stand for the national anthem. As levels of education rose among respondents to the survey, so did support for restrictions on free speech; close to half the respondents with a college education or more supported restrictions on freedom of expression. Three-fourth of respondents expressed what the survey described as a majoritarian form of nationalism. Only about 6 per cent subscribed to a strongly liberal nationalism and a further 17 per cent took a weak liberal nationalist position. The highest proportion of respondents with this majoritarian nationalist position were those with a graduate or postgraduate education. These positions included the belief that the state should punish those who do not respect the cow, considered sacred by some Hindus, or eat beef. About two-thirds of respondents supported the view that the State should punish those who engage in religious conversion.
Younger people do not have much more progressive beliefs; a 2017 survey on the attitudes of young people found that six out of ten respondents supported banning movies which hurt religious sentiments, even more so among Muslim youth, 70 per cent of Hindu youth were opposed to allowing anyone to eat beef, and one-third of young people opposed inter-caste marriage.
This is not a liberal country, nor do most Indians likely see liberalism as a virtue. Under 17 per cent of respondents in a nationally representative survey described themselves as modernthis included just 16 per cent of the youngest respondents. A majority of all respondents, young or old, rural or urban, uneducated or graduates, described themselves as traditional (as per Lok Foundation/ University of Oxford - CMIE Lok Survey Pulse II).
There was once perhaps an assumption that education and urbanisation would automatically drive change towards more liberal values in India. But it no longer seems as if these transformations are inevitable. The education level or wealth of respondents had little impact on the likelihood of experiencing social bias according to a recent survey. Moreover, there was little difference between the experiences of rural and urban respondents; 28 per cent and 27 per cent of rural and urban respondents, respectively, indicated that they had faced social bias. These findings suggest that urbanisation and improved access to education may not automatically reduce social bias.
Extracted with permission from Whole Numbers and Half Truths: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About Modern India by Rukmini S., published by Context, an imprint of Westland Publications, December 2021. You can buy the book here.
- Where Have All the Liberals Gone? - The New York Times - May 15th, 2022
- Liberals Should Be Worried About the Conservative Comedy Scene - POLITICO - May 15th, 2022
- Bill Maher Laments About A Liberal World That Seems To Be Going Mad In Real Time Takes - Deadline - May 15th, 2022
- The Looming End to Abortion Rights Gives Liberal Democrats a Spark - The New York Times - May 15th, 2022
- Ontario Liberals accuse PCs of favouring own party in government appointments - Global News - May 15th, 2022
- GUNTER: Yet more Liberal falsehoods surrounding the convoy have been debunked - Toronto Sun - May 15th, 2022
- Danger for the Liberal Party coming from the right as well as the teals - Sydney Morning Herald - May 15th, 2022
- What Labor and Liberal Facebook ad spend tells us about where the election campaign is heading - ABC News - May 15th, 2022
- Lib Dems already campaigning for Tiverton and Honiton byelection - The Guardian - May 15th, 2022
- Is AARP too liberal? That's what its right-leaning rivals say - Newsday - May 15th, 2022
- Can Doug Fords nephew topple the NDP incumbent in a Liberal riding? - Toronto Star - May 15th, 2022
- Utting Research Perth seat polls and Liberal Party briefing wars The Poll Bludger - The Poll Bludger - May 15th, 2022
- Liberal Party unveils one weird political ad to rule them all - Mumbrella - May 15th, 2022
- Scottish Water condemned by Liberal Democrats for bonuses as sewage is released into rivers - STV News - May 15th, 2022
- Liberal Party 'warms up' with final countdown underway - The Transcontinental - May 15th, 2022
- Abortion leak: Is the Supreme Court conservative or liberal? | Opinion - Deseret News - May 15th, 2022
- Will Orban Be Remembered as a Liberal? - The American Conservative - May 11th, 2022
- Francis Fukuyama Predicted the End of History. Its Back (Again). - The New York Times - May 11th, 2022
- Better med care, more say over immigration among Liberal promises to northern Ontario - Sudbury.com - May 11th, 2022
- Abortion laws in Colombia are now among the most liberal in the Americas : Goats and Soda - NPR - May 11th, 2022
- Former Australian of the Year says Liberal MP Fiona Martin selectively quoted him in political endorsement without his knowledge - ABC News - May 11th, 2022
- College Students Shouldnt Have To Choose Between Career Skills And Liberal Arts - Chief Executive - May 11th, 2022
- Globe editorial: The Liberals are eager to talk about regulating speech online but wisely reluctant to actually do it - The Globe and Mail - May 11th, 2022
- GUNTER: The Liberals have sneakily brought back the gun registry - Toronto Sun - May 11th, 2022
- Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Liberals announce Oliver Jacob as their 2022 provincial candidate - Pembroke Observer - May 11th, 2022
- Frydenberg: if he loses, the Liberal Party would be changed dramatically - Crikey - May 11th, 2022
- Jesse Watters: Liberal protests at homes of Supreme Court justices are just a warning shot - Fox News - May 11th, 2022
- Federal Labor and Liberal parties pledge additional funding for CIT accommodation, Canberra's Home of Football - ABC News - May 11th, 2022
- The White Card review the liberal art worlds blindness to privilege - The Guardian - May 11th, 2022
- Liberal MP doubles down on comments that raped women should be denied abortions - The Age - May 11th, 2022
- UPES School of Liberal Studies Wants Students To Be Critical Thinkers - The Quint - May 11th, 2022
- CU Denver - College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - May 3rd, 2022
- Roe v. Wade and an End to the Liberal Romance With Courts - New York Magazine - May 3rd, 2022
- Liberal dark money group with Biden admin ties capitalizes on SCOTUS leak to push court-packing agenda - Fox News - May 3rd, 2022
- I was deputy leader of the Liberals. The party I served has lost its way - Sydney Morning Herald - May 3rd, 2022
- Red stock, blue stock --- MAGA Republicans and liberal Democrats are taking their politics to Wall Street - MarketWatch - May 3rd, 2022
- There are pros and cons to the Liberal plan for $1 transit fares, experts say - CBC.ca - May 3rd, 2022
- Liberal and Elkhart Baseball Split on Wind Blown Day - KSCB News.net - May 3rd, 2022
- Why teal independents are seeking Liberal voters and spooking Liberal MPs - The Conversation - May 3rd, 2022
- N.S. Liberal Party recovered $195K related to internal theft - CBC.ca - May 3rd, 2022
- Kevin Falcon eyes Liberal party renewal with his seat in the house secured - Vancouver Sun - May 3rd, 2022
- Council elections in Scotland: What are the Liberal Democrats for? Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP - Edinburgh News - May 3rd, 2022
- FIRST READING: Liberal voices starting to warn Pierre Poilievre could be their undoing - National Post - May 3rd, 2022
- Will the standard Liberal tactics of accusing Conservatives of being pro-gun and anti-abortion work on Pierre Poilievre? - The Globe and Mail - May 3rd, 2022
- FIRST READING: Another Liberal gun policy that neatly ignores where the guns come from - National Post - May 3rd, 2022
- Liberal Protestants and the Polarization of the US - Religion & Politics - April 20th, 2022
- Preregistration is the Enemy of Liberal Education | Opinion - Harvard Crimson - April 20th, 2022
- Rachel Williams named dean of the Division of Liberal Arts at UNCSA - UNCSA - UNCSA - April 20th, 2022
- The Liberal Party wants us to 'look at the facts'. But just whose facts? - Crikey - April 20th, 2022
- Ari Fleischer writes new book on why the liberal media keeps getting the news wrong - Fox News - April 20th, 2022
- Do No Harm aims to keep liberal ideology out of healthcare: Physicians are being pushed to discriminate - Fox News - April 20th, 2022
- Josh Frydenberg could be the next Liberal Party leader. So who is he? - The New Daily - April 20th, 2022
- What the Liberal Democrats plan to do for Cardiff if they get into power - Wales Online - April 20th, 2022
- Why the Liberals face a fight for survival in battleground WA - WAtoday - April 20th, 2022
- The rise of the liberal groomer - UnHerd - April 15th, 2022
- Scott Jennings: Is Andy Beshear becoming a liberal culture warrior taking on trans rights? - Courier Journal - April 15th, 2022
- Justin Trudeau's Liberals Are Returning to the Miserable Status Quo - Jacobin magazine - April 15th, 2022
- France's liberal base is aging fast. Macron now needs to win over angry younger voters - CNBC - April 15th, 2022
- The liberal arts core makes SU students multifaceted. It should be expanded. - The Daily Orange - April 15th, 2022
- Green groundswell in Boothby could end 70-year Liberal run - The Australian Financial Review - April 15th, 2022
- When will Fauci and liberal leaders apologize for the millions of lives damaged with pointless COVID restrictions? - New York Post - April 15th, 2022
- Pike Liberal Arts School officially joins the AHSAA - The Troy Messenger - Troy Messenger - April 15th, 2022
- Float it and see: Outgoing Liberal calls for imperfect federal integrity commission - Sydney Morning Herald - April 15th, 2022
- Matthew Camenzuli ordered to pay costs in legal battle over NSW Liberal preselections - ABC News - April 15th, 2022
- Opportunistic hustle: Liberals, Labor accused of data harvesting with mailed-out postal vote registration forms - The New Daily - April 15th, 2022
- Southampton Green Party and Liberal Democrats unite ahead of election - Southern Daily Echo - April 15th, 2022
- Record number of NSW Liberal members quit amid war over preselections - Sydney Morning Herald - April 15th, 2022
- Liberal MP says shes being targeted by conservatives, urges end to infighting - Sydney Morning Herald - April 15th, 2022
- A Country of Their Own: Liberalism Needs the Nation - Foreign Affairs Magazine - April 2nd, 2022
- NP View: The Liberal plan to smother the energy industry - National Post - April 2nd, 2022
- Pike Liberal Arts and LBW host welding expo - The Troy Messenger - Troy Messenger - April 2nd, 2022
- How Tony Abbott Went Rogue and Helped Blow Up NSWs Liberal Party - VICE - April 2nd, 2022
- How Liberalism Ruined Sex And Degraded Women - The Federalist - April 2nd, 2022
- Putins brutal attack on Ukraine has helped revive the West, but the homegrown threats to liberal democracy fester under a veneer of solidarity -... - April 2nd, 2022
- Liberal Democrats' election promise of cash for Aberdeen road and schools - The Press & Journal - April 2nd, 2022
- Students explore liberal arts with Exploring Transfer Program The Miscellany News - Miscellany News - April 2nd, 2022
- Debt Clock rolls into Ottawa to 'sound the alarm' on Liberal spending - Western Standard - April 2nd, 2022
- Evening Standard Comment: Vladimir Putins invasion is an assault on liberal values - Evening Standard - April 2nd, 2022
- What the Liberal-NDP co-operation pact could mean for tax changes in the budget - The Globe and Mail - April 2nd, 2022
- SATIRE | Penn State to remove College of the Liberal Arts - The Daily Collegian Online - April 2nd, 2022