State of democracy in India

… a glimpse from the article columns

During the recent spate of farmer agitation in India, the way in which the government has gone about and after protesters and those who dissent is unprecedented in a functioning democracy: they cut off internet access, water supply, electricity supply, erected fences and ditches. You would wonder that the farmers are residents of a free democratic country and therefore would have rights to dissent and protest. Seems that the present government of India takes a very different stand.

Yet, in the past, India is no stranger to popular dissent. A country that is known for its diversity of ideas and opinions, and Indians being highly opinionated bunch, to understand the level of dissent and interpersonal differences in ideas that Indians have cherished, read Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s work “The Argumentative Indian”. One wonders what is going on?

I have collected and read through a few selected articles that have explored this erosion of public discourse and tolerance in India. So much so, that even a tweet in the form of a question by the pop star Rihanna lately has been seen as an adverse comment by the Government of India and several “celebrities” in India have come out in support of Indian government’s stand.

How did this come about?

Vidya Krishnan, a journalist and Nieman fellow at Harvard has argued in her article that based on the several attack on the free press by intimidation through social media (such as twitter takedowns, and even threatening twitter), India’s tolerance for free press is diminishing [1]

Soutik Biswas, a journalist with the BBC (he is their India correspondent), has written an explanatory article “Why journalists in India are under attack”

He writes,

the colonial police and criminal justice system inherited from the Raj continues to see “human rights as an obstacle rather than their first duty to defend”, says Prof Khaitan. India’s Supreme Court, too, has had a poor track record on protecting civil liberties in comparison with courts in many other democracies, he says.

He did not offer an explanation, beyond stating that the rights of the journalists were challenged, and that India dropped two points in the World Press freedom index, a multiple measure to chart a country’s press freedom.

Reporters without border note that,

With no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved. However, there have been constant press freedom violations, including police violence against journalists, ambushes by political activists, and reprisals instigated by criminal groups or corrupt local officials.

The website article-14.com tracks this, see

(to be continued …)

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in: https://refind.com/arinbasu

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