In Modi’s India, ‘harassment’ of independent media, ‘squeeze on free expression’: Financial Times

The editorial mentioned Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest as a ‘stark example’.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Financial Times editorial's headline.

Citing “intensifying clampdown” on opposition parties and its implications for the Lok Sabha polls, an editorial  in Financial Times yesterday warned that all is not well in India. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may call India the “mother of democracy”, the editorial said, but the country’s democracy is in “ill health”. 

It criticised “the rule of Modi’s BJP” and the “squeeze on free expression and opposition”, particularly in the party’s second consecutive term in power. 

“Harassment, often by tax or legal authorities, has become common for government critics, be they independent media, academics, thank-tanks or civil society groups. The BJP’s muscular Hindu nationalism has eroded India’s tradition of secular democracy.”

Financial Times also warned of a “sharp step-up in state enforcement agencies apparently being used to stifle opposition parties and politicians as the election approaches”. It cited the arrest of  Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal – “one of India’s most prominent opposition leaders” – as a “stark example”.  

The UK-based daily also mentioned the Congress’s allegations of its bank accounts being frozen for weeks over a tax dispute, and the party being “unable to pay for campaign workers, advertising and travel”. It added that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had a “politically-tinged two-year jail sentence for defamation overturned” by the Supreme Court. 

“It is puzzling that the ruling party would even see a need to squeeze the opposition. Opinion polls suggest the BJP is cruising to a third five-year term. Its rivals have failed to present a compelling alternative,” it said.  “Its rivals have failed to present a compelling alternative, and the multi-party India National Developmental Inclusive Alliance, formed as a supposedly united opposition front, has been dogged by squabbles and defections…”

Yet Modi and his backers have “succumbed” to a desire to “achieve total political dominance”, similar to “strongmen” leaders in other parts of the world, the editorial said, noting an “ever wider gap between Modi’s pro-democratic rhetoric and reality”.

It should be noted that the Gujarat police last year served notices to two Financial Times journalists, ostensibly as part of a preliminary investigation into a report published in August on the Adani Group’s “hidden investors”. Both journalists eventually moved the Supreme Court. Read about it here.

Also see
article image‘Stain on India’s democracy’: Foreign media points to ‘opposition crackdown’ over Kejriwal arrest
article image‘Democracy frozen’: Congress says its bank accounts have been frozen by Income Tax dept
article imageChandigarh mayor polls: SC says AAP winner, official defaced ballot papers in ‘murder of democracy’
article image‘Undermining democracy’: Over 20 rights groups issue ‘chargesheet’ against Modi govt

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