Saturday, March 18, 2023
HomeOpinionIndians will regret their silence over Modi’s ever-growing list of political prisoners

Indians will regret their silence over Modi’s ever-growing list of political prisoners

Across India, anyone who dares or could dare to express political disagreement with the Modi government risks going to jail on trumped up charges, in which trial and bail are difficult.

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Offence is the best form of defence, goes the old adage. The Narendra Modi and Amit Shah-led government applies this adage very seriously.

In 2018, there was a violent attack on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra. Mass protests followed, some of which also turned violent. The situation was a political hot potato, particularly since individuals allied with Hindutva forces were accused of inciting the violence. These included ‘Sambhaji’ Bhide, a former RSS worker admired by no less than Prime Minister Modi. Another one was a former BJP corporator from Pune, Milind Ekbote. This happened while Maharashtra had a BJP government.

To go after these Hindutva forces would have been politically difficult. To not go after them would have meant being on the defensive. Why be defensive when you can be on the offensive? When in doubt, always blame “Maoists”. Far-Left activists from all over India have been blamed for ‘inciting’ the Bhima Koregaon violence. One prisoner is a 79-year-old poet, Varavara Rao, who is not being given bail even after contracting Covid in jail. The prosecution is the persecution. And there is no end to it. Branded ‘Maoist sympathisers’ or ‘supporters’, they continue to be arrested — the latest is Delhi University professor Hany Babu.

This is what India has come to: poets and professors and activists are being put in jail on what are widely considered to be trumped up charges to shield the violent edge of Hindutva violence.

The same pattern is seen in the case of citizenship protests. Modi and Amit Shah seem very unhappy that some Indians had the gall to come out on streets against the “chronology” laws that could strip many Indians of their citizenship. They are now being hunted like someone killing mosquitoes with one of those bug zapper rackets.

Not even Sikh men merely serving food to anti-CAA protesters or putting up langar are being spared. From terrorism to dacoity, all kinds of charges are being drawn to use prosecution as an opportunity for persecution. A good doctor in Uttar Pradesh, Kafeel Khan, is in jail because he dared to speak against the Home Minister of India in the context of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). His bail hearings keep getting deferred again and again. The process is the punishment, because even an executive-minded judiciary may find it difficult to convict people for merely exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and protest.

The Modi government did the same in Kashmir after it unilaterally made drastic constitutional changes to the status of Jammu and Kashmir on 5 August 2019. Top leaders such as Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah spent months in house arrest, and many continue to be under house arrest or in prison, including former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. All of this just to make sure there are no voices protesting the constitutional changes.

Also read: This is no Emergency. Modi and Shah are using democracy to subvert democracy

Humko feedback nahin mila

Indira Gandhi did not lose the post-Emergency Lok Sabha election in 1977 because she put political opponents in jail, subverted democracy, suspended constitutional rights or censored the press. In fact, the people actually cheered her for making the trains run on time (Modi can’t even do that). All accounts of the Emergency will tell you that public opinion turned against Indira Gandhi because of Sanjay Gandhi’s maniacal programme to forcibly sterilise young men and reduce population growth.

We need to ask how and why a populist Indira Gandhi government reached the point where it started altering people’s bodies against their wishes. For one, it reached that point because the people who could have told her it was a terrible thing to do — the opposition and the media — had both been silenced. Khushwant Singh famously asked her when she lost the election, ‘What happened?’ And she replied, “Humko feedback nahin mila.” (We didn’t get the feedback.)

This is how authoritarian governments fall. To his credit, Narendra Modi is remarkably sharp in identifying where public opinion is turning, or could turn, against him. He eats humble pie and goes back on ideas that could make him lose votes, whether it is a law to make land acquisition easier or the refusal to put cash in the hands of farmers.

Also read: Legal autocrats are on the rise. They use constitution and democracy to destroy both

All is well when dissent is in jail

And yet, it has to be noted that the list of political prisoners in India is growing at an alarming rate. The idea, much like during Indira Gandhi’s time, is to muzzle the voice of the naysayers. This is how the Modi narrative can succeed, because it ensures that any narrative against him is not heard on India’s smartphones and streets. This is how the BJP can produce a false consensus that he is the only option Indians have when they go to vote.

The deeper we get into the Modi era, the greater the sense of ‘anti-incumbency’ — and hence, the greater the government’s desperation. India’s economy was brought to a halt even before the Covid pandemic struck. When even data fudging can’t hide economic stagnation, then it is not enough to deflect attention by using Hindutva and creating a threat for Muslims with detention camps and CAA-NRC. When China calls Modi’s 56-inch bluff, he needs to silence his critics to prevent his voters from saying goodbye to him. This is what Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and China’s Xi Jinping also do. It’s a form of government popularly called dictatorship.

Indians have decided that putting civil rights activist Anand Teltumbde or Dr Kafeel Khan or peasant leader and RTI activist Akhil Gogoi in jail is a non-issue. When the personal liberty of Congress leaders is taken away, such as that of Saifuddin Soz or Ajay Kumar Lallu or P. Chidambaram, even the Congress party doesn’t go beyond token tweet-protest.

Also read: Elections have become meaningless in India — the BJP wins even when it loses

The populist leader as a prisoner of his own propaganda 

This silence can only embolden the Modi government and its impunity. Today, it doesn’t matter to us that the Prime Minister of India collects Covid relief donations in a private fund. It doesn’t matter to us that an immense amount of money is going to be spent in rebuilding New Delhi to satisfy megalomaniacal urges at a time of great economic distress. This is how Indira Gandhi was led to believe that forcibly sterilising young men wasn’t a problem.

The BJP looks very closely at myriad surveys, social media sentiment and so on. And Modi clearly has a great sense of the people’s pulse. However, muzzling dissent results in a social atmosphere where people become afraid of speaking the truth even in anonymous surveys. Social media is silenced with the growing threat of FIRs and prison.

The news media has anyway been bought over through carrot and stick. The shrinking space for dissent could result in a situation where the populist leader, hurtling from one failure to another, may not even be able to see his failures. He becomes a prisoner of his own propaganda. Humko feedback nahin mila, as Indira Gandhi said, happens when nobody has the courage left to speak truth to power. And those who do are put in jail.

Also read: Why the Modi government gets away with lies, and how the opposition could change that

Chilling effects on free speech

There’s absolutely no government critic among opposition parties, media, NGOs, activists or even the general public today who is not afraid of government retribution. This has produced a chilling effect on free speech in India: everyone is self-censoring. This is not the freedom our founders fought for.

We are already heading towards a situation where no one will be left to dissent. And nobody seems to be alarmed by it. The descent could be very fast. When Covid-19 is contained and economic distress becomes the main story, Modi will be more desperate than he has ever been. When the equivalent of forced sterilisation happens again, Indians will regret not having spoken up against Modi when he was busy putting political opponents in jail. Democracy needs naysayers.

The author is contributing editor, ThePrint. Views are personal.

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  1. I agree. I have always been putting out my opinions on government policies, good or bad. But lately, I have been thinking twice before sharing anything and recently I have completely stopped sharing anything against the Modi government, as a result of a ton of abuse and threats even mild criticism draws.

  2. I find a lot of persons openly abusing PM and HM on various media platforms. Even then the leftist media is bent upon to propagate that the freedom of expression has been curbed. It proves once again that they are not only the greatest hypocrats but also carry extreme negativity.

  3. Remember before writing anything. Writing against bjp, Namo or rss. Is same as against hindu, against Indian army and against whole nation. The people who reflected him again and put your congress party in garbage are not stupid. So keep your stupid idea within yourself. Their are so many traitors like you are roaming in country freely. People like you should be hanged or ended in tihar jail.

    • Wow what a befitting reply to this cheap Journalist
      I wonder why Mr Shekhar Gupta is hiring such biased and idiots
      Mr Shekhar Gupta please wake up it’s a humble request

  4. These leftist liberals are shameless. They wouldn’t be able to sell their rights to sane adults, let’s see how long they dance with their brainless youth population. Once they grow they’ll also realise your lies and how they were betrayed for 65 yrs. Eaher to see you eat shit in the next election, commie.

  5. Your articles are so biased that it makes one laugh in amazement at the length you can go against the elected prime minister of the country. You never learn to peddling complete untruths. You hide more than you reveal. Rest in peace.

  6. The print is anti Modi and want to fire the small issue. Suggestion to look into your country tand its past

  7. So why are these people not able to get bail. You mean Mr Modi has clout over courts also. Hypocrisy is if the same courts do not convict leaders like Gandhis or Vadras then it is all vendata because courts have not taken cognizance of their alleged misdeeds but where courts take cognizance and do not give bail still it is submission to regime.

    • When the lower courts are deliberating on bail, Arun Mishra of the Supreme Court intervenes, even before the verdict is passed and effectively denies bail!

    • Yes..supreme court has become keep of BJP.Till government wants they cant get bail..shame on such government who has hijacked everything

  8. Indians already having ideologically indoctrinated journalists like you, who are more interested in peddling their own concocted narrative which fits in with their ideology.

    • Ms Swagata Singh: You do not adddress the substantive issues raised in this article but resort instead to a knee-jerk defence of Modi’s fascist, violent, and authoritarian Hindutva doctrine.

      Fact is, just like in the Emergency under then PM Ms Indira Gandhi, people are simply vanishing into jails with no due process – legal or ethical. And then too, middle class Indians like yourself defended the descent into fascism by asserting that democracy was the last thing India needed and a “benevolent dictator” like Indira Gandhi was what the nation needed. That flirting with fascism was an all out process: the media was muzzled, people were rounded up and sterilised, torture and disappearances were the norm, the police had unfettered powers, Sanjay Gandhi went berserk and ran the country like his fiefdom and India descended into violence, chaos and fright.

      Exactly the same thing is now happening under PM Modi – with the added burden of an economy that was tanking, even before th COVID crisis, the COVID crisis and Chinese aggression at the borders. Meanwhile, middle class Indians like you are lulled into believing that all is hgunky dory with a 56 inch chested Gujarati looking after you and making the Chinese shit in their pants. And besides, the Ram Mandir is getting built so one might even get protected by divine intervention right?

      As the French diplomat Josepf de Maistres said:

      “Every nation get the government it deserves”.

  9. To the author – in that case how are you not in jail?
    You are a virulent anti-Govt, anti-Modi ‘journalist’; but you are as free as the rest of us and you continue to be free.
    That means your article is a falsehood.

  10. The very fact that you are able to write an article like this means democracy is safe. Only left-liberals are shouting, since their market within the minds of the people is gone. The people have seen the left-liberals for what they truly are – hypocrites.

  11. For 65 years, we heard you all ears full. You invaded everything from media to text books to KG cartoons. It became too much and we threw up. For a change, we are hearing the other side for 6 years and for the moment, it is not dull. For this reason, to mark you guys up as some kind of martyrs is a joke which you are trying to play upon us. You guys were always preaching sacrifice, so what is the complaint. Please sacrifice and the other side is offering a full monty and their turn for worse will come eventually. After all it is a cycle. Go to sleep bro.

  12. Dear Shivam.
    Please check your facts on Bheema Koregaon. The FIR and investigation done by Pune Police has proved these Urban naxals role in inciting people. Kidly understand that Pune police have filed charge sheets.

  13. Dear author of this article and your Modi-haters friends,
    1) Please go and do some research, Who kept Sheikh Abdula in prisons for 17(seventeen ) long years and why ?? . If you do not find out then please note It was J L Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira G s governments . Why ?? If you apply your mind you will know the reasons . JLN to Indira were knowing and understanding the mindset of Sheikh Abdula family . why you want to ignore ? Either you do not have knowledge of history of Post-independence India or you deliberately want to present it the way you are tutored by you political masters .
    2) I have been reading articles on ThePrint for the last 18-24 months. I have read more than 100 articles by you and your brand of Anti-Modi writers . ARE YOU writingthis article from any PRISON in India . if you and your brand of Anti-Modi brigade are free , than why you are spreading misinformation about freedom of expression in India ???
    We also know who filed and where cases were filed against Arnab Goswami of Republic TV, and Sudhir Chaudhary of Zee TV and why .
    3) The era when print or audio-visual media could create pro or anti Government narrative in India has ended in first decade of 21st century. Now average person is having multitude of channels , Gadgets , platforms to know the truth and express his/her views on what is happening around . He/ She is wise enough to see through the game politicians, media ,play out . For what ever reasons you may be sympathetic to our erst while ruling exploiters ,but by and large COMMON PEOPLE OF COUNTRY ARE NOT. PLEASE NOTE .

  14. Hindus were forced to slavery by 1200 years of Muslim rule followed by 200 years of British rule (Christian Rule), first time after 1200 years a pro-Hindu leader emerged , and all Muslims and Christians and Leftist, Naxals are crying, Modi and Amith Shaw are creation from Hindu victimhood, The writer’s name is Shivam Vij, but he is a converted Christian and a congress leader
    All anti-nationals ., Naxals , Islamic Jihadists,mask themselves as activists,NGOs and writers. please parcel them to Pakistan.

    • Fully correct. Whatever done by minorities are always justified. The opposition could not write proper stay application against the CAA
      for stay by the Supreme Court. Let them improve their writing skill..

  15. Indians have roundly welcomed the excision of these evil intellectuals from civic life.
    One of the most welcome decision taken by the Modi government is to put behind bars people who justify violence, encourage violence, help the desetruction of society and state in India.
    Shivam Vij misreads the Indian mind yet again. No wonder he has not won any election, not even to the local Press Club or the Ganesha Mandal or the Muharram Samiti.

  16. The whole article is bullshit, you guys have no work other than ti criticize our PM but don’t worry we will again and again vote for our great leader. He is here to rule for the next 2 terms. Those who deserve to be in jail have to be in jail.

  17. Look at what an elected government in Rajasthan is going through. So the people of Rajasthan are also being put through the grinder because they didn’t bring the bjp to power.

  18. You guys are far removed from reality. You people are simply far too afraid of one straight leader that India has got. It upsets all your calculations, frauds and scams, loot and nepotism and kickbacks abs and all. Above all even if Modi is a bas_______ well, he is still our own bas_______.
    So just shut up.

    • Your master is the one who’s afraid.. jailing students and human rights activists!! You might call Modi a bas*.. but we have worse names for him.. like dictator, anti-national, bigot and incompetent!

  19. How much you are paid Shivam, for writing this trash.
    Article has nothing for reader, except and undertone for jihad

  20. Shivam…take a deep breath man .I wonder sometimes aren’t you bored of repeating the same thing every time you write about Modi – Amit Shah – BJP .
    There are scores of people like you which include politicians , civil society members , media personalities who criticize Modi & his policies every day but i don’t see them in jails or being silenced. Look at yourself .According to you , you shuold be in jail long back for criticizing Modi , but here you are , a free person criticizing Modi every day .
    So my friend just for a change stop this anti modi rant for few days .

  21. Mr Modi has reached where he wanted to reach in life – he has become PM – there is nowhere else to go. Questions regarding this kind of treatment being met to critics will not be asked of him because they will be asked when this era passes. And people who will be left to answer them will be the RSS. Look at RG – he has to answer questions from the Nehru era – a time when he was not even born!

    The second institution which is suffering long-term damage is the judiciary. It has forgotten that its constitutional role is adjudication. The role demands strict neutrality – when future generations will demand accountability, this lack of neutrality will be held against it.

    I hope other readers (including Shivam Vij himself) realise why some people atleast support RG – not because they are elite or corrupt or don’t love India – they do so because they value naysayers. And as Shivam Vij points out, democracy needs naysayers. We cannot and must not be like China.


  23. False narrative. I always keep my my eyes straight on almost each and every political and social events of India. The way the so-called liberal and antiindia groups flocked together and trying their level best to destroy the thousands of years old Indian culture is really alarming. In the situation like this Mr. Modi is the best alternative to save the Indian culture. The way the antiindia groups indulged in corruption and have been opposing all the popular actions of the government and supporting the antiindia programmes of the sessionist groups, the most common peoples of India even who had never been interested in politics moreso remained deeply devided in millions of sects and groups hating and zealousing each other are now flocking together each and every day seeing the very existence of their life and culture at stake. The peoples of India could see and understand well what had happened and are still happening in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh against the original culture of India. Not only that, they also realised, what would happen in India most specifically to their customs, culture and religion, if the so-called liberals or Congress could come to power in the centre.

  24. I would suggest this author is put into jail for peddling lies. CAA does not take away anybody’s citizenship. It gives citizenship to the minorities from Pakistan Bangladesh and Afghanistan. India has no obligation to give citizenship to illegal Muslims from Bangladesh.

    • I would suggest that this retard, “gary” who has chosen a creative name as an it cell coolie be put to jail first for being a complete and utter waste of space.

  25. Speaking against the country and wishing India to be broken into pieces or praising Pakistan openly by raising her flags or eulogizing terrorists and criminals and drug lords are not great examples of expression of free speech. If the problem is Modi then there should be an effective strategy crafted to attack Modi directly without incurring electoral impacts. That requires some strategic brains and deeper thinking and clear positioning of ideas, but with competitive appeasement politics that does not pan out very well for the so called secular opposition parties. The result is often calling names, attack on Hindus as if they are majority punching bag that when you punch get you the bounty of votes from other side. If you want to attack Modi attack Modi don’t attack the whole of Hindu community or India’s identity or worse still praise China and Pakistan or the Tukde-Tukde gang that wants India to be split into separate nations so it suits their type of politics. Free speech requires imagination to capture mind space of the people and that is what is lacking in the opposition parties now. Time for some intropsection before dishing out free advice to Modi.

  26. Sanghi troll army is going to be here any minute and start hurling abuses towards Shivam for speaking out truth. You can count on it! They are the enablers of Modi’s fascist regime. But when the whole nation goes down the tubes they will pay the price too, the sooner they learn this lesson the nation could perhaps still be saved, else we are headed to hell in a handbasket.

    • A little less democracy would do no harm to Indians. After all , seventy years of democracy could not provide basic facilities for the poor and the country was looted right and left. What Indians got instead are a bunch of lumpens like Laloo, Bhaloo, and Pappu.

  27. Hindutwa is an Agenda which Indira Gandhi did not have. Moreover it is RSS that guides and run this Govt. which is unseen which Indira Gandhi did not have. Opposition was divided then also when Indira Gandhi declared emergency and did try to suspend even elections for some time but this Govt. do not want to suspend election while this has used all loop holes in the law which is basis of forming Election commission, to its advantage, this is also gift of previous Congress Govt. that played with the election commission and made suitable amendments to make it docile. Congress Leadership or for that matter political parties in India have always depended on the mistakes that ruling party makes and take it to the people while it awaits on the wing giving sense that this is the party that is coming next. But narendra Modi is very clever at that and is doing his best not to allow such things to happen at lease giving sense to the people that nothing of the sort is going to happen and he is going to continue.

  28. Utter BHAKWAS indeed! What is free speech? Read Article 19 of the Constitution of India with stringent attention to Art.19(2) to 19(6). Even without the same the so called Rights violated can be seen to be calling for action per the Indian Penal Code. I and every right thinking person, I hope, would acknowledge that deeds like, hurling bombs at Parliament house at least won’t be claimed as a violated Right by the Modi Government by your Good conscience!

  29. What this man is writing? Is he out of his mind or feigning ignorance or a deliberate ploy to mislead people? The political prisoners he mentioned are no more than terrorist and criminals. Is this Shivam really a journalists or paid by enemies of india? Sometimes I really wonder about the intentions of The Print who publish such rubbish and nonsense.

  30. Give examples, where Modi government has put anybody in Jail for having different ideology.
    It is my challenge to any so called intellectuals to prove me wrong.
    Modi is the best PM, India could have got.

  31. Either speak up now or you will be next. The Modi government is locking up anyone that opposes them and the courts are letting them get away with it!

  32. This govt is the most intolerant ever to any criticism . It does not believe in the concepts of accountability and transparency so integral to the functioning of a true democracy . India is on a slippery road towards a fascist rule but our citizens are in a coma ! If they don’t wake up and protest now, it may be too late !

  33. Instead of regretting, all real and patriot Indians would remember Modi for fighting corruption and putting the corrupt behind bars. It doesn’t matter if the corrupt person is a politician. Modi is the first PM who is totally incorruptible and patriot from toe to head. India’s corrupts that includes most librandus are using all tricks to put pressure on Modi but they fail again and again. It’s not easy for corrupts to tame an honest leader like Modi with unflinching public support and GOD on his side.

  34. You idiot how much lies will you keep on repeating. If voices are stifled how is that every alternate day, you and yoir ilk spread lies and abuse Modi. Go and lick 10 JPs feet. That is the only thing you can do. I dians have put that behind them. Yes and Maoists supporters and abbaters will remain in jail as that is their only place where they can rot. This country will not tolerate violence engineered by congress, leftists and their stooges in the media who fan it. For long the minority appeasement card has not worked so there is now a new design of engineering cohesion of Dalit Muslim and chest beating that they are getting raw deal. Modi Shah have not learnt politics from air conditioned newsrooms. They have slogged for 40 years plus amd learnt how to takemon amd defeat anti national forces including likes of you. Keep more articles ready on similar lines. Modi Shah are here to stay at least for the next 25 years.

  35. Most of indians, don’t care, they are cowards to say anything against government. Those who say are put in jails and others fear it. Modi is definitely like dictator like indira Gandhi but his faulty economic decisions along with enemity with neighbors will cost india badly.

    Every one was how someone peed in his pants on confrontation on LAC and left LAC and made buffer zone in his own area and left his own area.
    Funny 🤣🤣😝😝😝🤣

  36. How can a contributing editor write his personal views.This is view of THE PRINT and be brave enough to say it.Don’t hide behind “vews are personal”

  37. Thank you for telling us what we should and should not regret about. Will you also like to direct me how to breathe? Or how about what I should feel? Would the majestic personalities among the all-knowing intellectuals be so kind to sprinkle their wisdom among us brain dead masses, for we clearly don’t have ability to think for ourself, in your opinion. For why else would all the so-called secularist and leftists and socialist be loosing elections one place after other, surely it must be because we don’t know how to think for ourself not because you are too incompetent to even be considered for ruling.

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