Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Aug. 15. (Manish Swarup/AP)

By Rana Ayyub

Aug. 8: A crowd chants slogans calling for the genocide of Muslims during a rally in New Delhi called by a former spokesperson of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party. The instigator is arrested and released in 24 hours.

Aug. 8: Anmol Pritam, a young journalist from the online news organization National Dastak, is heckled by Hindu nationalists at another event in the Indian capital. He says the crowd wanted him to chant “Glory to Lord Rama.”

Aug. 11: In Uttar Pradesh, a Muslim man, Aftar Ahmad, is dragged by a mob and mercilessly beaten as his young daughter begs for mercy. The mob continues to assault him in the presence of cops.

The events of the past few days show how hate continues to spread across India, enabled by Modi’s silence and his majoritarian politics.

The first rally, called by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay against covid-19 guidelines, was in favor of a controversial Uniform Civil Code. Modi and his party claim they want to unify India under one code and do away with some of the guidelines and laws that sometimes govern matters within different religious groups. But the genocidal chants gave away their project for more control and discrimination of marginalized communities.

The fact that Upadhyay was released on bail within 24 hours speaks volumes of the justice system in India, where Stan Swamy, one of India’s foremost human rights activists and the country’s eldest political prisoner, died in custody last month after his pleas for medical bail were repeatedly denied in court. Swamy was a Jesuit priest who fought for the secular traditions of the country. The United Nations condemned his death and many others called another stain for India’s “democracy,” but Modi stayed silent — and complicit.

When Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited India recently, he highlighted the Indian people’s “steadfast commitment” to “democracy, to pluralism, to human rights, to fundamental freedoms.” But nothing could have been further from the truth. Anyone paying attention knows that India is rapidly declining into an authoritarian cauldron of communal hate and polarization, where every sensible voice being systematically silenced and intimidated.

When journalists are not being intimidated on the streets of the capital, their TV stations and newspapers are raided by tax agents — all for daring to report the truth about the pandemic’s devastation in India. TV channel Bharat Samachar and newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, both critical of the Modi government, are now being investigated for tax evasion. The BBC reported that the homes of some employees have also been raided, and many have had their mobile phones seized.

I know of two prominent writers and a journalist critical of the Modi regime who are also being investigated by the Income Tax Department for their alleged “international source of income.” Even I’ve been questioned by at least three investigating agencies over the past three months, made to sit for 12 hours at a stretch, interrogated about my “connections” with international editors and publications. It’s a nightmare. Last week, I posted a note on my Instagram saying that that I was taking a break to protect my mental health after these traumatic experiences. But I have picked up my pen now just to let the government know, loud and clear, that neither I nor my brave colleagues can be silenced.

There is not a corner in India that does not reek of a moral decline.

Twitter India, which had locked horns with the Indian government not too long ago, last week temporarily blocked the accounts of thousands of leaders of the Indian opposition, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The accounts were blocked after a complaint from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights over the sharing of photographs of Gandhi’s interaction with the family of a 9-year-old Dalit girl who was raped and killed in New Delhi. The body of the girl was forcefully cremated, triggering days of protest. The girl’s parents have accused a Hindu priest and three others of attacking her.

The gruesome murder did not seem to offend the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights — it was the sharing of photographs that sprung them to act. In the past, Twitter had labeled the accounts of BJP officials and supporters for spreading misinformation. It’s clear this time they acted under political pressure.

Of course, Modi gets to ignore all of this since he’s been so busy celebrating India’s victories at the Tokyo Olympics, coopting them as his own. News channels that should be questioning the prime minister over his criminal abdication for the attack on the minorities instead have showered him in praise for India’s performance at the Games. It seems like most people prefer wearing a tricolored blindfold than facing reality: Islamophobia, tyranny and injustice are gnawing India; critics are being silenced with intimidation tactics or being surveilled with spyware.

The cries of Ahmad’s young daughter as she tried to protect him made me and millions of Indians feel helpless; Hindu nationalist forces are growing more emboldened and violent. People are being tormented for speaking truths that destroy the well-oiled PR machinery of the government. With each passing week, Indian “democracy” makes it harder for citizens with a conscience to breathe. Can the world continue to be a silent spectator?

This story first appeared on