There seems to have been a sharp rise in the power of Hindu nationalists in India to stamp out anyone who says anything which offends them. A few weeks ago, they pressured -- both with legal action and with threats of violence -- Penguin Books India to withdraw and destroy all remaining copies of a history book which they deemed insulting to Hinduism. (http://nyti.ms/1dqaEbo
) Today, we have another story: 67 college students have been suspended indefinitely and criminally charged with sedition for rooting for the Pakistani cricket team during a match this weekend.
This isn't historically unusual; nationalist groups in India have been known for asserting their agendas, often violently, for as long as there has been an India. But there does seem to be a marked rise in this in the past few years, as uneven development has created fertile ground for the far right.
The BJP, one of India's biggest parties, looks likely to return to power this May. (Election results will be final on the 16th) The party's leadership has been campaigning on economic platforms and officially distancing itself from its radical elements, but it's been giving tacit backing to these movements; there's a reason that right-wing rabble-rousers like Dinanath Batra (behind the book banning, among other things) are saying things like "Good days are coming, boys — I see the signs of a change in political atmosphere," about the coming election.
(The Congress Party, currently the ruling party, doesn't exactly have a stellar record on these matters itself.)
When dissent is criminalized, or worse, threatened with mob violence and a state which will wink and nod at it, the foundations of democracy and of all progress are in danger: only those things which support those already in power are allowed to happen. I sincerely hope that India will find a way to roll back this tide.
(I also sincerely hope that my own country will be able to roll back its tides of enabling radical groups and anti-democratic ideologies -- even though they're very different from India's.)