India-born author Salman Rushdie has expressed concern that under BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, India will have “a fairly bullying government” and attacks on the freedom of expression could worsen.
“I am pretty concerned about a Modi-run government. The indications that it would be a fairly bullying government are already there. We have already seen journalists and writers being bullied and (the BJP) has not taken power yet,” Rushdie said during a session on the importance of freedom of expression at the 10th annual PEN World Voices Festival in New York.
“You already see even more worryingly a kind of self-censorship setting in, people worry that they are going to be bullied and therefore try not to do anything that will attract the wrath of the ‘Modistas’,” he said. Rushdie said there has never been a politician “quite like Narendra Modi in India” and given the likelihood of Modi becoming prime minister, “we have to see whether the experience of office serves to moderate him”.
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During his address, Rushdie described Modi as a “highly divisive figure”, a “hardliner’s hardliner” and voiced concern that the attacks on freedom of expression and literary works could worsen.
He said for India, democracy should not mean just conducting free and fair elections but also ensuring the right to free speech.
“If freedom of expression is under attack, if religious freedom is threatened and if substantial parts of society live in physical fear for their safety, then such a society cannot be said to be a true democracy,” he said. PTI