ACCORDING to Indian media group for freedom of information, literary circle in India has declared threat to media persons from Modi chauvinism and self-government strategies. With Hindu nationalists trying to eliminate all indices of anti-national thoughts from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media. Journalists are increasingly the targets of insult campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who malign them and even threat with physical paybacks. Prosecution and legal action are also used to quip journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which agitation is punishable by life imprisonment.
No journalist has so far been convicted of sedition but the threat encourages self-censorship and some kind of action can be made public in future. The Indian government has also introduced new foreign funding rules to limit international influence. From this purpose now coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult, and there will be no protective mechanisms as was in past this policy created trouble for journalists who were raising their voices for Kashmir oppression. On the first day of a wave of protests in Kashmir in July 2016, the internet was cut by the military and was later often interrupted to prevent communication between protesters and prevent coverage by the media and citizen journalists. In Kashmir journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government’s tacit consent.
So this will be not be the first time where media persons are targeted but unfortunately in Bangalore, Indian lady journalist had to pay the price of her life for being outspoken and raising voice against Indian societal decline and callousness against acquitted people. Famous journalist Gauri Lankesh was killed outside her residence in Bangalore and people are protesting and mourning the death of a lady who raised voice against violence. In big cities and small towns across India thousands of people are protesting at the murder of a gutsy woman who fought for the marginalised, who called Dalit victims her sons, and who protested against injustice and venal politics in the face of death threats. Gauri Lankesh was on the hit list and for a long time she received hate and threatening mails and letters from Hindu extremists. She was disparaged on two fronts. She dared to take on the powerful Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), currently ruling India and she criticised them and their cronies for attacking minorities and creating a culture that enabled lynching, mob violence and hate crimes. On the other side she openly defended Dalit rights while irritating caste believers Hindus.
In India for the past two decades, the voices of Hindu extremists have become louder and dominating. They have become bolstered with the culture of impunity which seems all-pervasive. When minorities are killed, they are often falsely accused of trading, eating or carrying beef, by cow vigilantes. According to locals silence by government on the issue of gow-maata, has encouraged the fanatics to lynch, attack and kill people. And now critics of Hindu nationalists’ fanaticism are being murdered to fright all nonconformists into silence. Two years before Lankesh’s death, the eminent intellectual MM Kalburgi was also shot dead outside his home. That same year, Govind Pansare another vocal critic of extremist Hindu groups, was murdered. In August 2013, the Dalit campaigner and atheist Narendra Dabholkar killed. All of these slain Hindus were fighting for the idea of India. They were battling to save Hinduism from bigots and charlatans but hey had no idea that this battle in India is difficult in front of hard core extremist Hindus following saffron policies.
Off and on during his three years old tenure, Modi policies have come under huge critique which is eminent from within India also. Episodes of mob killings, lynching of men on beef cutting, malicious activities of Shiv Senna on visit of Pakistani artists, sports persons and intellectuals depict BJP’s intolerance towards minorities and Muslims specifically. A notable opposition came from within India in which representatives of civil society returned their awards to government which is a clear blow to Modi. Modi because of communal riots in Gujrat during his tenure as CM was banned to visit USA, UK and other European countries. Last year in 2016 when he visited UK he wasn’t given a red carpet welcome. A large number of people including Muslims, Sikhs and other Indian minorities gathered and protested his arrival in UK.
Around 200 literary figures signed an open letter demanding Modi to provide “better protection” for writers, artists and also give freedom of expression to people living in India. It is a matter of a great concern for India now that, Hindu fundamentalism is increasingly broadening its influence everywhere and has already established a firm base of radicalism in educational sector, bureaucracy and media. The hate campaign unchecked by the extremist forces is keeping the minority anxious in defending their basic human rights and cultural identity. It is not just literary circle or academia that is affected by Modi policies but the same story of denial of basic rights is narrated by soldiers and middle class Hindus. Now definitely, killing of intellectuals is a serious matter and voices against tyranny must be analysed otherwise it doesn’t take long time for oppress to become a suppressing force.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.