This post about political animals at ‘India Retold’ reminded me of George Orwell’s allegorical fable- ‘Animal Farm’.

Published in the 1940s, Animal Farm is meant as a warning of the dangers of Communism. Through this tale about a farm where the animals drive out the oppressive humans and establish their own rule, George Orwell criticises the cruelties and hypocrisies of the Soviet Communist Party in Russia.

The Russian people had thrown out the semifeudal system of the Tsars but had replaced it with the tyranny of the Communist Party under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. So ordinary Russians were not much better off.

In Animal Farm, with the help of the dogs, the pigs appropriate most of the power in the new system of governance. However, this power soon corrupts them, and instead of working for the good of all the farm animals, they think only of themselves, eliminating anyone speaking out against them.

Animal Farm is a criticism of the Communist system, but many of the objections put forward by George Orwell can also be applied to the Democratic system as it functions in many countries today.

If we consider the Indian democratic system, we see that though theoretically, power is in the hands of the people, in reality, it is in the hands of just a few. And in many cases, it is not even in the hands of the elected representatives, but lies with the bureaucracy. And this power corrupts those who have it.

In Animal Farm, the animals establish Seven Laws that must be obeyed. These are later secretly changed by the ruling pigs to suit themselves.

One of the laws is – All animals are equal.
This is changed to- All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

This reality we notice in our Democratic system also, where the laws that ordinary people have to observe can be broken by the rich and influential, by those who are ‘more equal than others’.

In Animal Farm, George Orwell shows how language can be manipulated as a tool for control. The animals accept Major’s vision of the New Order, but after his death the pigs distort the meaning of his words to justify their behaviour and keep the other animals in line.

This is the same thing that happens in our Democracy with words like secular, fundamentalism, religion and social justice taking on completely new meanings today to suit those who are in power.

Whatever the system of government- be it communism, socialism, monarchy or democracy- power corrupts those who wield it.

So it is up to us, the ordinary citizens, to be ever alert, ever vigilant that our government is doing its job. That our elected representatives are looking out for our best interests and the best interests of our country. That the rights of the underprivileged are being upheld just as those of the influential are.

Our responsibility does not end after we cast our votes.