India Only ‘Partly’ Free: And it is Not Hamara ‘Internal Matter’
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… yahan par we’re nothing if we are NOT a free country. And we mean fully free. Not partly free.
Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editors: Mohd. Irshad Alam, Abhishek Sharma
Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, India has fallen fast, and fallen far short of its democratic ideals, says Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria on CNN. One of the world’s most respected journalists, one of the few to whom Modi himself gave a 1-on-1 interview, after becoming PM.
But no, we don’t need to believe Zakaria!
Democracy watchdog Freedom House downgrades India from “free” country to “partly free” because of a sustained decline in civil liberties. India’s ‘freedom score’ was 77 in 2018, 75 in 2019, 71 in 2020. It is 67 now! The Report was important enough to be quoted by America’s Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken the day it was released.
But we don’t need a democracy ka certificate from anyone.
India Criticised for Demonising Farmers, Violating Press Freedom, But This is Our ‘Internal Matter’....
Inside the British Parliament, MPs criticised India for violating the freedom of journalists to report on the farmer protests and for demonizing protesting farmers by calling them terrorists, Khalistanis, etc.
In January, 100 British MPs asked their Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss the farmer protests with PM Modi.
18-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg shared a pro-farmer protest ‘toolkit’, which the Delhi police claimed promoted hatred and sedition. But what does this girl from Sweden know? No wonder her effigies were burnt on Delhi’s streets!
When Singer Rihanna tweeted - why aren’t we talking about the farmer protests - Kangana Ranaut called her a fool and called the farmers, terrorists. Naturally Kangana, being Indian, knows better than Rihanna!
And Meena, full name Meenakshi Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, she too has tweeted in support of the farmer protests and about rising militant nationalism in India. She even called out the detention of Dalit activist Nodeep Kaur. Has Kamala Harris told her niece to stop? No. Could it mean that Kamala may agree with Meena? Possibly. Is there a message there for us? Yes!
Yeh Jo India Hai Na, humein duniya dekh rahi hai (the world is watching)! And if we ignore what’s being said and pretend that none of this criticism matters, what a mistake that would be!
In 2015, Barack Obama, then US President, praised Modi in the TIME Magazine - that Modi understood how India’s diversity of backgrounds and faith was a strength he had to protect. But in 2020, the Editor of Time magazine revised its opinion and wrote – Modi’s BJP has rejected pluralism, specifically targeting India’s Muslims. And that Modi’s govt has stifled all dissent.
Can we really say to the Time magazine - chup karo yaar, you don’t know India?
GoM Report on Need for Surveillance, Targeting, Neutralising of ‘Anti-Govt’ Press, But This is Our ‘Internal Matter’....
In June and July 2020, in the middle of a pandemic that was killing thousands daily, in the middle of economic collapse, and a near-war situation in Ladakh, a group of Ministers, senior Central ministers prepared a report about how to control the narrative about the government in the media.
It suggested the need for increased surveillance and targeting of writers and journalists who depart from the government’s narrative and the need for a strategy to neutralise people writing against the government.
Doesn’t this sound like a plan, a toolkit, to muzzle all criticism of the government? And it’s not me asking this question.
The Editors Guild of India, which includes India’s most respected journalists is asking this. Why this report, at a time when “various press freedom and democracy indices in India, are already showing a rapid slide.”
The Editor’s Guild says the report “illustrates the government’s increasingly draconian attitude against any critique and inquiry by the press.” And these are not outsiders, these are not foreign journalists, not MPs or pop-singers from other countries, not a teenager from Sweden.
And since we are on toolkits, let’s recall what Justice Dharmendra Rana said while granting Disha Ravi bail in her toolkit case, when he called her detention neither logical, nor legal.
He said - Citizens are the conscience keepers of any democratic nation. They cannot be charged with sedition and jailed just because they disagree with State policies.
Creating a WhatsApp group or editing an innocuous ‘Toolkit’ is not an offence. In fact, disagreement, divergence, dissent, can only infuse objectivity in governance. An aware and assertive citizenry, rather than an indifferent or docile citizenry, is a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy.
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… yahan par we are nothing if we are NOT a free country. And by that, we all mean fully free. Not partly free...
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