Waiting for the revolution in India

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Waiting for the revolution in India

Nilanjana Bhowmick writes about how the government is stopping protests in India.


Protesters ask for the activist Teesta Setalvad to be free. The anti-terrorism part of the Gujarat police arrested her from her home, on a street in Mumbai, India, June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

On 25 June 2022, the police arrested social activist Teesta Setalvad. She is a critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A Reuters report said that the police accused her of problems with talking to witnesses, false paperwork, and wrong evidence in cases from the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Setalvad is a strong supporter of justice for the victims of the Gujarat riots. She says that Narendra Modi did not stop the riots when he was then the state’s chief minister. Over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died. In 2012, the Indian Supreme Court found Mr Modi not guilty. Setalvad’s arrest came soon after the court said no to another request asking why Modi was not guilty.

And then, on 27 June, the Delhi police arrested Mohammed Zubair. He is the co-founder of a fact-checking website. They arrested him for religious reasons for a Twitter post from 2018. He posted a scene from a 1980s film. It was a social comedy about the renaming of a hotel from Honeymoon to Hanuman – after the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. His arrest was, of course, crazy. He only got bail after 23 days in prison. During this time the police found many new charges against him.

The Nobel-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore died before Indian independence. But he wrote about his hopes for India. He hoped for a future where there would be truth and facts – a heaven of freedom, a democracy like no other democracy.

And, yes, we now have a democracy like no other – free speech is unpopular and freedom is just a word on a page in the Constitution. After the arrests of Zubair and Setalvad, I found a lot of posts in private groups saying nearly the same thing, ‘I have never been so scared before to criticize the government.’

Every morning we wake up to the news of another activist arrested, someone’s social media restricted or banned. This makes our fear deeper and more and more we stop giving our opinions, saying what we think.

Setalvad and Zubair continue to fight for the truth. Setalvad supports people continuing to ask why Modi was innocent in the Gujarat riots, and why there is hate throughout India today, and why people see Modi as the Hindu saviour. Zubair continues to fight against the rising bad treatment of the Muslims.

Today’s India is a long way from Tagore’s hopes for its future. Arundhati Roy is an author and activist. In an article for the news channel, Al Jazeera, she says India is now openly a criminal, Hindu-fascist organisation with a lot of popular support.

Something surely will happen. Waiting for it to happen brings both hope and fear.



(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)