Opinion | In Modi’s India, Truth Tellers Are Now Enemies of the State

It is worth noting that in September, before the charges were filed, Ms. Roy accepted the prestigious European Essay Prize for, as the prize jury put it, her use of “the essay as a form of combat, analyzing fascism and the way it is being structured.” It is not the first time that the word “fascism” has been used in the context of the Modi regime and its methods.

Among many others, the kinds of people facing unjust accusations in India include the Kashmiri human rights defender Khurram Parvez, who documented atrocities by Indian forces and militants in the region and now faces multiple terrorism-related charges; and the student activist Umar Khalid, accused of inciting violence after he led peaceful protests against a discriminatory citizenship law introduced by Mr. Modi’s government. Then there were the 16 people, including activists, journalists, poets, a professor and an older priest, accused of crimes such as fomenting an uprising against Mr. Modi after some of them spoke out against his government’s repressive methods. The priest, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, contracted Covid while in custody and died in 2021.

Even before Mr. Modi, political violence was common in India, lower castes were doomed to live on society’s margins and women faced routine sexual violence. But while previous governments had the guile to at least pay lip service to the rule of law, officials in Mr. Modi’s party have openly encouraged mob violence. Last year, 11 men imprisoned in a high-profile gang-rape case were freed and welcomed with garlands by party officials.

It’s a modern version of the same old struggle between the powerful and those who dissent. But in the digital age, the powerful in India are aided by government-aligned media outlets, online smear campaigns and troll armies, whose lies are eroding truth and morality and fueling more violence. The dissenters, meanwhile, are armed with little more than the strength of their moral clarity.

By jailing or silencing journalists, writers and other critics, India not only chips away at its democratic credentials; it loses the kinds of minds that gave the culture its stunning art, rich literature and philosophy, ancient temples, chess and the Kama Sutra.

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