India: Killing the sane voices
|By Amit Singh|
Sept 9, Delhi: Indian democracy and secularism is in grave danger- from religious fundamentalist and Hindu extremist. Emboldened by the moral and ideological support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi- who is the ideological child of the Hindu fundamentalist and extremist group Rastriya Swamsawak Sangh (RSS)- main and fringe elements of Hindu fundamentalist groups- are out to silence critical voices and forcefully imposing the agenda of Hindu rastra (Hindu Nation) on whole country.
Recent killing of a journalist, Gauri Lankash, who were a staunch critic of “fascist and communal politics" and were fighting against communal elements, is such clear example. Gauri Lankesh, who edited a weekly newspaper, was known as a fearless and outspoken journalist. Ms. Lankash was known anti-BJP and anti-Modi critic; was critical of right-wing and Hindu nationalists, including members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). According to Indian express, “she was under constant threat from right wing forces, and did not care care too much for her personal safety”. Lankesh was convicted in a defamation case filed by BJP MP Prahlad Joshi over a report published in her paper- Lankash Patrike. She was actively involved in bringing many persons involved with the Naxal movement in Karnataka back into the mainstream society.
Her murder shows a emerging pattern of silencing and killing journalist, thinkers and social reformer who were critical to communal politics; were promoting secularism, rationalism, and sane voices in the society. Gauri Lankash is killed in a same manner rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and writer M M Kalburgi were killed in 2015. They both were fighting against rights wing extremist Hindu groups and supporting rational ideas in conservative society. Their murder remains unsolved to date.
Reporters Without Borders has showed its concern the way radical and nationalist elements targeting journalists and writers, with online smear campaigns and threats of physical reprisals. "With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of 'anti-national' thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media," report says. It is well noted India ranked 136 out of 180 countries in the group's 2017 World Press Freedom Index. Government backed Hindu fundamentalist elements discourages free thinkers-students, intellectuals and journalist from voice their dissent publicly. Prosecutions are also used to gag journalists who are overly critical of the government, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment. These laws are vaguely worded, overly broad, and prone to misuse, and have been repeatedly used for political purposes against critics at the national and state level.
In this world largest democracy- fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and right to dissent is indeed in under jeopardy from right wing and religion extremist. However, its not just right wing government responsible for this scenario, but also paid media (owned by big corporates who support ruling government) and majority of civil society members (mainly upper class elites) do not feel outraged by killings of a journalist, rationalist and thinkers. Thus, silencing of sane voices in Indian society is gradually becoming a socio-political norms- which is sign of a dwindling democratic culture in India.
The Oslo Times International News Network