India’s commitment to democracy under scrutiny

Two weeks ago, the government of India arrested 22-year-old Disha Ravi on charges of “sedition” for associating herself with a Google Doc produced by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, suggesting ways to support protests by Indian farmers. The farmers’ right to peaceful protest should, even if protests are disruptive, be protected by India’s government. Ravi was jailed for 10 days, before being released.

The Washington Post Editorial Board writes, bluntly:

ANY GOVERNMENT that would charge a 22-year-old climate and animal rights activist with sedition on the basis of a Google Doc cannot be readily described as a democracy. So the arrest this month of Disha Ravi by the Indian administration of Narendra Modi ought to ring alarm bells about whether a country that boasts of being the world’s largest democracy still deserves that title.
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What’s particularly disturbing about Ms. Ravi’s persecution is that it is part of a broad pattern of speech suppression and other violations of democratic norms by the Modi government. Several journalists who covered a day of demonstrations by the farmers in New Delhi last month also face criminal charges. The government has pressured Twitter to block the accounts of hundreds of people linked to the protests. It has intimidated much of the mainstream Indian media into self-censorship.

India’s government owes its exercise of authority to all of the people of India, not to specific interests it wishes to protect. There is no legitimate way a government can arrest activists and journalists, or support or condone shadowy forces that threaten violence against them. The cases against Ms. Ravi, other activists supporting peaceful protest, and journalists covering the story, must be dropped, immediately. No democracy can behave this way; it is imperative that other allied democracies make this demand as forcefully as possible, to ensure India’s government honors its duty to democracy.

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