Rana Ayyub

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Preparations at the international media centre on the eve of the two-day G20 summit in New Delhi, 8 September. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Over the last few months, billboards across India, especially in the capital, New Delhi, have been plastered with images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The hoardings welcome international delegates to the G20 summit with the words “Mother of Democracy to host G20”. On the eve of the summit, which begins on Saturday, the prime minister has penned an article citing the diversity of the Indian democracy. He writes: “For India, the G20 presidency is not merely a high-level diplomatic endeavour. As the mother of democracy, and a model of diversity, we opened the doors of this experience to the world”.

Over the past year, through his much-publicised state visit to the United States and through his much talked-about international trips, including the G7 meetings, Modi has extolled the virtues of democracy, of a secular and inclusive nation, paying obeisance to Mahatma Gandhi at every available opportunity.…  Seguir leyendo »

National Congress activists burn a likeness of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a protest in the northeastern state of Manipur on Friday. (Piyal Adhikary/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is once again under pressure for letting communal and ethnic violence spiral under his watch. This time, the victims are from a Christian ethnic group in the northeastern state of Manipur. At the core of the scandal is the government’s handling of a grisly rape case that has profoundly shaken Indian society.

A devastating video was published on July 19 showing two women from a Christian ethnic group in Manipur being stripped naked and paraded around by a mob. It quickly went viral. An indigenous rights group claimed the women were later gang-raped in an adjacent field.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney on May 23. (Mark Baker/AP)

For weeks now, criticism has been building around Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington. The prime minister and his Bharatiya Janata Party have been rightly accused of stoking sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims. Missing in this discussion have been the surprising and quiet ways the BJP has managed to co-opt popular culture, and especially cinema, for its political ends.

“The Kerala Story”, a feature film released last month, is emblematic of this broader trend.

The film purports to be a dramatization of a supposedly widespread phenomenon, telling the tale of a Hindu woman who converts to Islam, only to be radicalized and eventually recruited to join the Islamic State.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hindu hard-liners, one holding a sword, chant slogans against Muslim communities during a rally in November 2018 demanding a Hindu temple be built on a site in northern India where hard-liners in 1992 had attacked and demolished a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya Uttar Pradesh. (Bernat Armangue/AP)

India is preparing to host the Group of 20 summit this year, and it is devoting substantial effort to make the occasion a celebration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been the leading political force in India since 2014, and it has left its mark on the country.

Modi is keen to highlight the economic transformation he has presided over, making India into an increasingly vital player on the world stage. And he is playing up his democratic bona fides. Posters proclaiming India to be the “Mother of Democracy” meet most foreign dignitaries visiting New Delhi or Mumbai.…  Seguir leyendo »

India's government said it has blocked videos and tweets sharing links to a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role in 2002 sectarian riots. (Arun Chandrabose/AFP/Getty Images)

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology filed a draft amendment last week to a recent media law that could have sweeping consequences for free expression in the world’s largest democracy. According to the proposed language, any information marked as “fake” by the fact-checking division of India’s Press Information Bureau will need to be taken down by “online intermediaries”, a category that would include social media companies.

This latest move potentially casts a pall over journalism in the country. Two industry associations — the Editors Guild of India and Digipub, a group of news sites in India — have published strong statements arguing that the amendment could give arbitrary and discretionary power to the Indian government.…  Seguir leyendo »

To celebrate 75 years of independence, the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked people to proudly display the tricolor of the Indian flag — well, perhaps “asked” is not quite accurate.

An initiative spearheaded by Modi’s most radical nationalist minister, Amit Shah, is urging people to display flags at homes and businesses and post pictures on social media. But of course this could only lead to more polarization in Modi’s India, where blind nationalism is displacing democracy at a rapid pace: In a viral video, daily wage workers complain about being forced to buy flags to “prove” their patriotism, when they barely have enough to buy a meal.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residents of Shaheen Bagh surround officials during a demolition drive in New Delhi on May 9. (Manish Swarup/AP)

How does one talk of the disintegration of the world’s most populous democracy without surrendering to an exhausting pessimism? How does one remain objective about a story that involves one’s lived experience, persecution and humiliation? How does one write about their love for their nation when any attempt to highlight the fascism unleashed against their people is viewed as discrediting the nation on the global stage?

India — a country of nearly 1.4 billion considered by many around the world as an example of coexistence, pluralism and diversity — is engulfed in a fire of Hindu supremacy. The situation has become so fraught that Gregory Stanton, the founder and director of Genocide Watch, has warned India could be on the cusp of a genocide against Muslim citizens.…  Seguir leyendo »

The stereotype of the “brave journalist”, or the “courageous journalist” has been troubling me for a while. To label us “brave” is to fight your battles from our shoulders. The burden of bearing witness and speaking truth to power comes at great personal risk for journalists in many countries around the world. They live a relentless struggle, slapped with lawsuits and criminal cases for sedition, defamation, tax evasion and more. Their lives, and too often the lives of their families, are made miserable. This World Press Freedom Day, consider the toll it takes on them not only to be journalists, but also to be “brave”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a rally on Dec. 21 in Allahabad, India. (Ritesh Shukla/Getty Images)

On Jan. 6, the Wire, an independent Indian news site, began publishing an in-depth investigative series that accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing party, the BJP, of deploying a sophisticated app to hijack social media and even encrypted messaging platforms in order to manipulate public opinion and launch online campaigns against those it believed were a threat to the government, including female journalists.

The Wire investigated this dark underbelly of the Modi government with the help of a whistleblower, a former worker in the BJP’s information technology cell infamous for the spread of malicious fake news in the country. Many activists, politicians and journalists, including myself, have spoken out before about the brazen hatred and vitriol unleashed against them since Modi rose to power in 2014.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women from various districts are seen near cutouts of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally held by Modi on Dec. 21. (Ritesh Shukla/Getty Images)

“The first time it was reported that our friends were being butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of silence spread. When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out ‘stop!’"

These lines, written by the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht, came to me as I heard the horrifying speeches delivered by Hindu nationalists during a religious conference this month, when leaders issued direct calls for genocide against Muslims.

“If 100 of us are ready to kill two million of them, then we will win”, said Pooja Shakun Pandey, a leader of Hindu Mahasabha, a militant organization, at a conference in the city of Haridwar, 150 miles north of New Delhi.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man walks past a poster of the film "Sooryavanshi" in Mumbai on Nov. 4. (Punit Paranjpe/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

The young Muslim man watches his wife being killed in the name of jihad. The man had been living a quiet domestic life posing as a Hindu and working as a car mechanic. But when his Hindu wife confronts him about a terrorist plot, the head of the terrorist group who has come to recruit him back kills her in cold blood. Soon after, we see the husband and other men praying as they gear up for the attack.

The nauseating scene is featured in the movie “Sooryavanshi”, which is ruling the box office here in India. The film stokes the dangerous “love jihad” conspiracy, which paints Muslim men as colluding to seduce or kidnap Hindu women or girls and convert them to Islam.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Aug. 15. (Manish Swarup/AP)

Aug. 8: A crowd chants slogans calling for the genocide of Muslims during a rally in New Delhi called by a former spokesperson of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party. The instigator is arrested and released in 24 hours.

Aug. 8: Anmol Pritam, a young journalist from the online news organization National Dastak, is heckled by Hindu nationalists at another event in the Indian capital. He says the crowd wanted him to chant “Glory to Lord Rama”.

Aug. 11: In Uttar Pradesh, a Muslim man, Aftar Ahmad, is dragged by a mob and mercilessly beaten as his young daughter begs for mercy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Relatives carry a body for cremation past the graves of people believed to be covid-19 victims on the banks of the Ganges River in Shringverpur, India, on May 20. (Ritesh Shukla/Getty Images)

The disturbing video went viral across India in a matter of hours: Scores of bodies, feared to be of covid-19 victims, washed up on the shores of the holy Ganges River in the northeastern state of Bihar. The villagers were surprised and suspected the bodies had floated from far away, according to a reporter on the ground.

Investigators are still trying to understand what happened, but it appears to be another grim reminder of the raging death toll in the country — a death toll that is going largely undercounted, especially in rural areas, even as the official figures break records: On May 19 there were more than 4,500 deaths reported in a single day.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man mourns next to the body of a relative who died of covid-19 at a cremation ground in Allahabad, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on Tuesday. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP)

On April 26, just after I wrote a cover story for Time magazine on the devastating carnage a second wave of covid-19 is causing in India, my brother, Arif, woke me up from a nap. “Mamu is breathless,” he told me. “What do you mean?” I asked.

I had spoken to my uncle, Noorulain, just four days earlier. He lived with us for a significant part of our childhood and we considered him more like an elder sibling. He now lived in a village in Uttar Pradesh. He and his family had fevers for a few days and a local doctor prescribed medication for typhoid.…  Seguir leyendo »

Congress party supporters hold placards with the face of Rahul Gandhi during a rally in Chennai, India on March 28. (Arun Sankar/AFP/Getty Images)

In a quiet corner of Twitter, away from the din of trolls and paid trends, someone shared a video showing a girl on the street, standing with her mother wearing a hijab, waving a rose at the motorcade of Rahul Gandhi, India’s de facto opposition leader and the former president of the Indian National Congress party. Unlike what is expected of politicians when they are not within range of a television camera, Gandhi, 50, is seen stopping the car as his guards surround him to take the rose from the young girl.

It was a rare moment of grace in Indian politics.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. (Saurabh Das/AP)

“The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments”, declared the judge while ordering bail for the 22-year-old climate change activist Disha Ravi, who was arrested recently, accused of working with the activist Greta Thunberg to undermine the Indian government — an outrageous fiction. Their only “crime” was expressing support for the farmers’ protest.

But the decision in Ravi’s case has much wider implications. It was a rare but welcome instance of the judiciary standing up to the Indian government’s increasingly authoritarian tactics.

The judge came down heavily against the use of sedition charges against activists and journalists.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, speaks with Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh state Yogi Adityanath during an election campaign rally in Meerut, India. (Altaf Qadri/AP)

The year was 2007 and Narendra Modi, then the chief minister of the state of Gujarat, was inaugurating the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit, an event carefully planned to bolster his image as pro-business development. The event attracted big companies and leading industrialists, including the billionaire Mukesh Ambani — even though the man presiding over the summit had been refused a U.S. visa for his role in stoking a brutal wave of anti-Muslim attacks in his state in 2002 that killed more than 800 and displaced thousands.

But the pro-business event marked another step on the road to promote the Hindutva (Hindu supremacy) model championed by Modi, who went on to become prime minister.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tens of thousands of farmers marched to New Delhi protesting new agricultural laws and clashed with police on Tuesday. (Altaf Qadri/AP)

On Tuesday, as India celebrated its 72nd Republic Day — a day meant to honor the Constitution that came into effect in 1950 — the country was once again reminded of how far we have strayed from the commitment to protect the fundamental rights of all citizens under the Hindu nationalist administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Clashes broke out in New Delhi between the police and farmers who have been protesting for almost two months against three new agricultural laws that they consider a threat to their livelihoods and very existence. The farmers — mainly from Punjab and Haryana — have been camping out in the bitter cold just outside the capital, but on Tuesday, they decided to drive their tractors into the city as part of a large rally to make their voices heard.…  Seguir leyendo »

Workers push a fancy light trolley used for wedding ceremonies on a road in Allahabad, India, on Saturday. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images)

In the year preceding the national elections in India in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi rose to power, India witnessed a brutal episode of communal carnage in the state of Uttar Pradesh. More than 60 people were killed, women were gang-raped, and more than 50,000 people were displaced, a majority of them Muslims. The violence was triggered by false rumors of a “love jihad” — what Hindu nationalists say is an alleged plot by Muslim youths to woo and convert Hindu girls — and of Muslims consuming beef. These events, rather than hurting Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, were followed by his massive electoral victory.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Indian model posing with Tanishq jewelry in 2012. Last week the popular Indian jewelry brand withdrew an ad featuring an interfaith Hindu and Muslim family after a right-wing backlash on social media. (Bikas Das/AP)

Hate is suffocating every aspect of life in India. No space seems safe.

Early morning on Oct. 18, a neighbor alerted me to a WhatsApp message distributed by our building’s security guard celebrating the killer of Mahatma Gandhi and urging people to take up the gun to protect the idea of Hindu sovereignty. These types of messages are popular with Hindu nationalists and right-wing supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When I posted it on my social media, many unabashedly supported the hate and threat in the message.

And when the iconic jewelry brand Tanishq recently ran an ad showcasing an interfaith marriage, the resulting Hindu right-wing backlash on social media forced the company to pull the commercial.…  Seguir leyendo »