The “authoritarian drift” of the Modi government has come under sharp criticism by two of the world’s leading newspapers which squarely blamed it for “the lynch mob mentality” witnessed in New Delhi in recent days.
“India is in the throes of a violent clash between advocates of freedom of speech and the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its political allies on the Hindu right determined to silence dissent,” the New York Times (NYT) said in an op-ed piece.
The confrontation “raises serious concerns about Modi’s governance and may further stall any progress in Parliament on economic reforms”, it said.
The newspaper carried a separate article on the events in Delhi after the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU student leader, on charges of sedition and said that the message was clear–violence in the name of ultra nationalism is
“Not even the courts are safe spaces. Challengethe state, or the BJP, at your peril.”
The article was re-tweeted by tennis great Martina Navratilova with her comment, “what passes for sedition in India-ultra nationalism easily turns into violence at worst, bullying at best.”
France’s leading daily ‘Le Monde’ said in an editorial that “the horizon of Indian democracy has been oddly clouded” since the coming to power of Modi.
The arrest of a student leader and a former professor of JNU, both accused of sedition, “is the latest illustration of the authoritarian drift of the Hindu nationalist government determined to silence criticism”.
It was “paradoxical” to see the Hindu nationalists defend the Indian flag they have long denigrated with their preference for the saffron flag, the editorial said.
The NYT said that the responsibility for the “lynch mob mentality” lay squarely with the Modi government. Indian citizens have the right to voice their “outrage at government threats to the exercise of their democratic rights”.
The newspaper asked Modi to rein in his ministers and his party, and defuse the current crisis, or risk sabotaging both economic progress and India’s democracy.