Atlantic:The End of the Indian Idea - IAMC

Atlantic:The End of the Indian Idea

A crackdown on the country’s press is the latest in a pattern of intimidation against news outlets.


Over the past week, multiple state police forces have opened investigations into the editors of The Caravan, as well as a host of other journalists and writers, for covering protests by farmers opposed to agricultural reforms being promoted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Twitter’s India office suspended the magazine’s account, as well as those of hundreds of other users, after a “legal demand” from the government. (The Caravan’s account has since been restored, but the government is reportedly threatening legal action over Twitter’s apparent noncompliance.) Press-freedom groups have voiced outrage, but it is unclear how much impact they will have.

These latest attacks, part of a pattern of legal cases, personal threats, and intimidation against news outlets and individual journalists, make certain what was becoming evident: The freedom of the press, a constitutional right, is endangered in Modi’s India. The brazen use of social-media networks to censor journalists, the use of the police and courts to silence them, and, more fundamentally, the belief that those who report on protests are somehow undermining the state illustrate how much has changed in India, and how far the country has strayed from its founding ideals.

The authorities claim that The Caravan and other outlets, by reporting on a particular hashtag, sparked or fueled unrest that began on January 26, India’s Republic Day, during which New Delhi police tear-gassed protesting farmers—among them elderly men—as a parade was under way to showcase India’s military might and rich cultural heritage.

The dueling images—a celebration of India’s democracy on the one hand, the crushing of dissent on the other—were carried on a split screen by many news channels, inadvertently offering the perfect visual metaphor for modern India.

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