Violence is unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by exhibition of physical force. It is a mean of securing obedience or compliance of one’s desires under the threat of physical injury. Democracy, on the other hand, is a civilized procedure to settle problems, disputes and other differences through discussion, argument and ultimate decision or solution by the majority. Democracy all over the world has been considered as a way of life suited to civilized people, who are determined to follow peaceful means to solve their problems and resolve their differences. Violence is brutish, while democracy is civilized. Violence does not allow debate and persuasion, but stands on physical force. It does not allow the right to disagree. Thus violence is against all democratic, debate, discussion, consensus and majority. It does not employ force, coercion or violence which are contrary to the very spirit of democracy.
Democratic Governments are run by elected representatives of the people. These representatives are elected by the people, through a well defined system of elections, which are the most significant characteristics of the democracy. The political parties or the individual candidates who wish to contest the election, approach people (i.e. electorate) with their policies, programmes and promises and seek their vote. The political parties published their election manifesto which is a promise to the people. They publish other propaganda material, hold public meetings, organise rallies and campaign support. Even door-to-door canvassing is done by the individuals and parties to seek people’s support. Thus various means are adopted to convince people in their favor. This is all peaceful method of persuading people so that voters could exercise vote in their favour. There can be no place for force or violence in it. If individuals or political parties force the electorates under the threat of violence to cast their votes in their favour it could not be regarded as democratic. For the success of democracy it is necessary that the candidates and parties seeking elections should ensure that the electors exercise their right to vote without any fear. If violence is used to terrorize people to cast votes in favor of a particular party or individual, it will be a clear negation of the basic principles of democracy.
In democracy, a party which secures a majority in the elections forms the government to run the administration of the country on behalf of the people. If violence is resorted to prevent the majority party from forming the government, there can be no democracy. However, it is a recognized fact that for smooth and sound working of democracy strong and healthy opposition is essential. It ought to function in a peaceful, democratic and responsible manner. It could criticize the governmental actions, suggest alternate policies and displace the party in power through democratic and peaceful manner. But resorting to violence for achieving this objective cannot be justified on any grounds whatsoever. It is a very dangerous game which could be played by others also. Often, it may lead to chaos and bring an end to democracy.
Democracy is based on majority rule. It often happens that due multiplicity of political parties and individuals, no party may get the majority vote of the people. Still one party may get majority representatives in the Parliament/ Assembly. Such governments, though elected through democratic process may turn oppressive. Even in such a case use of violence to overthrow it cannot be justified. If people are not satisfied with the performance of a particular government, they are free to throw it out of power in the next elections. The people could force their representatives through democratic and peaceful manner to change the government, if they are not prepared to wait till the next elections. Similarly, a democratically elected government may turn unresponsive to the needs of its people. It may even be incompetent to solve the problems of people. In these cases also, violence is used to gain political power, democracy is replaced by authoritarian rule. And once the roots of democracy are cut by violence, it becomes very difficult to restore them.
India got ‘its’ independence through non-violence, preached by Mahatma Gandhi. He pleaded that India should evolve a democracy without violence, through mass effort and mass education with the sole aim of service of the lowest so that equal opportunities are guaranteed both to the strong and the weak. According to him non-violence was the basic requirement of democracy. He was of the opinion that both the individuals and the nations follow the path of non-violence. He felt that a state which chose democracy, but did not follow the path of non-violence is bound to turn totalitarian, because it would eliminate all opposition with the help of force. According to him violence both by individuals and the state is the greatest enemy of democracy, which is based on consensus and compromise.
It is unfortunate that violence and direct actions are gaining ground in India for some time past. Many agitations which started peacefully took violent turn subsequently. People feel that democratic means like creating public opinion and national debates take a long time to pressurise the government to yield on a specific issue, while violence, many a time, gives quick results. Thus direct actions and violent agitations are on the increase. But all such actions are cutting the very root of democracy, slowly and steadily. If we take a judicious view, we will be Convinced that whatever the cause, however strong the provocation there is no room for violence in a democracy. It is negation of democracy. Therefore, it is correct to say that violence is the anti-thesis of democracy.