India’s Autocracy

The largest democratic exercise in the world will take place starting on April 19 when nearly a billion Indian citizens will participate in a six-week-long parliamentary election. But is it really fair to call this an election in such an obvious example of fascism?

Most analysts and citizens see Modi’s re-election as a foregone conclusion at this point, partly because of how well his Hindu nationalism resonates with the religious majority in India, but also because Modi and the BJP have created a self-fulfilling prophecy in India where they are almost destined to win. 

Every democracy needs opposition, and while Modi does garner a lot of support, law enforcement agencies in India have consistently been intimidating and arresting multiple opposition leaders. The most recent arrest was that of Arvind Kejriwal, one of the leaders from the AAP, the biggest political opponent of the BJP. Thousands of supporters have rallied in the capital city of New Delhi with cries of “autocracy” in protest, but what can these citizens do when their own media cannot speak for them? NDTV was one of the biggest media outlets in India that operated independently as far as the government was concerned. Now, Asia’s richest man and staunch Modi supporter, Gautam Adani, has acquired NDTV, and eliminated India’s last bastion of free media.

Meanwhile, India’s foreign journalists face blanket bans and restrictions from attending Modi’s events or giving coverage of events in Kashmir, further cementing why India ranks at 150 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index.

Moreover, we are seeing constant news cycles of minorities in India being lynched by mobs or being subject to acts of Islamophobia, all while the government seems to be fuelling this polarisation. The Ram Mandir has been a cornerstone of Modi’s Hindu nationalist campaign, and after decades of dispute, it will soon effectively replace the site of the famous Babri Mosque in India that was demolished in 1992. The fact that this area of intense sectarian and religious conflict is reaching a conclusion just before the elections is no coincidence. The BJP’s orchestra has not only strengthened Modi’s support but also greased all the poles behind him.

Suppose this electoral outcome is really as inevitable in reality as it is in perception. In that case, we may be on the cusp of witnessing an India is more prone to religious extremism and autocratic principles than ever before – a truly heart-wrenching moment in the nation’s history.

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