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Democracies in danger

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18.08.2019

By Ngaire Woods

OXFORD ― By abruptly revoking the special, constitutionally protected status of Jammu and Kashmir, India has become the latest major democracy to act against a minority community for short-term political popularity. Kashmir will henceforth be ruled more directly from the government in New Delhi, and Hindu nationalists are thrilled. Carefully maintained constitutional arrangements are in tatters.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has committed to leaving the European Union with or without a "backstop" protecting the border arrangements between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. His hardline position ignores the concerns of Northern Irish constituents entirely. It is geared toward rallying his pro-Brexit English base, even if that means threatening the fragile peace and prosperity in Ireland.

In the world's other great democracy, President Donald Trump has upended America's relationship with Mexico and other Central American neighbors, and rallied his base by repeatedly demonizing Hispanics. The U.S. Hispanic community is now paying a harsh price for such rhetoric, as evidenced by the massacre in El Paso, Texas, this month.

The shredding of longstanding protections for minority communities is part of a wider trend in democracies around the world. Three worrying features stand out. First, politicians are imperiling the "public square," and the ability of citizens to argue, demonstrate, and debate without the threat of violence. Political leaders are deepening social divisions by pitting an "us" against a "them" that includes foreigners, neighbors, immigrants, minorities, the press, "experts," and "the elite."

In India,........

© The Korea Times