We understand the obvious benefits of voting which include being noticed and counted in the decision making. However, not voting doesn’t limit the damage to not being noticed or not being counted. It is a lot more damaging than that.
Indians of Hindu faith are increasingly and frequently facing the result of non-participation in local elected bodies. It’s becoming very difficult to correct misrepresentation of our faith. Take the case of the California school text books, where “India” and “Hinduism” are being redefined in a non-representative way.
In the past, I experienced dismay when my children came home from school in anger and disgust when their faith was described in negative terms. It has been hard to mobilize Hindus to support those few who are leading the struggle to correct this misrepresentation.
By not participating in the democratic process we abdicate our space to others who are eager to fill it. Be that an innocent “other” or a highly motivated person who disagrees with everything we believe in or cherish. It could be a person who is given to extreme political ideology or he could be a religious demagogue.
By not participating in the electoral process we perpetuate the polarity of society. This is true because nature abhors vacuum. If we leave our political and social space to a stranger whose beliefs run counter to ours, we are creating a distortion in our political space. We are forcing the whole process to become unrepresentative.
I started with the example of California text books. By not fixing the physical anomaly of misrepresentation of our religion in text books we allow this anomaly to lodge in the minds of our children who undergo conflicts of faith every day when they switch between school and home.
Are we punching our weight in the elections to the U.S. Congress or State Assembly? It’s not important who represents us in these bodies. But it’s important that whoever does, understands the value of our votes and serves our needs.
Vijay Rajvaidya is the Managing Director of India Currents.