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Modi's governance behind "lynch-mob mentality", says NYT, warns democracy, economic reforms are at risk

Modi with Rajnath Singh
By Our Representative
Influential US daily “The New York Times” (NYT) has blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and his governance for what it has called “lynch-mob mentality”, which erupted in Delhi following the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Kanhaiya Kumar on February 12 on charges of sedition.
NYT notes editorially, things have reached such a point that “India is in the throes of a violent clash between advocates of freedom of speech and the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its political allies on the Hindu right determined to silence dissent.”
Particularly disapproving Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s statement on the day after Kumar’s arrest, Home Minister Rajnath Singh – that “if anyone raises anti-India slogans and tries to raise question on the nation’s unity and integrity, they will not be spared” – the daily demands, the sedition charge against Kumar should be immediately dropped.
NYT insists, “India’s Supreme Court has limited the definition of India’s colonial-era crime of sedition to speech that is ‘incitement to imminent lawless action”, adding, “Singh apparently does not realize that, in a democracy, voicing dissent is a vital right, not a crime.”
Asking Modi to immediately “rein in his ministers and his party, and defuse the current crisis, or risk sabotaging both economic progress and India’s democracy,” NYT approvingly quotes Pratap Bhanu Mehta, well-known policy expert, who said that members of Modi’s government “have threatened democracy”, which is “the most anti-national of all acts.”
The editorial, titled "India’s Crackdown on Dissent" (February 22), approved by NYT's powerful editorial board, says, “This confrontation raises serious concerns about Modi’s governance and may further stall any progress in Parliament on economic reforms.”
Giving a short summary of the current crisis, NYT says, it “began with the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar... by the Delhi police on charges of sedition”, adding, “Kumar’s arrest followed an on-campus rally on February 9 that marked the anniversary of the 2013 hanging of Muhammad Afzal.”
Even as pointing out that Afzal was “convicted of participating in the 2001 terrorist attack by an Islamist group based in Pakistan on India’s Parliament”, the daily does not fail to underline, “The circumstances of Muhammad Afzal’s trial and execution remain controversial.”
The daily blames BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and the “new university leadership appointed by Modi’s government for being “involved in calling the police on campus and singling out Kumar”.
It points to how the court in Delhi, where Kumar’s hearing took place last week was a scene of chaos, as lawyers and BJP supporters chanting “glory to Mother India” and “traitors leave India” assaulted journalists and students.”
“The police refused to intervene”, NYT says, adding, “A BJP member of India’s legislative assembly, Om Prakash Sharma, who was recorded on camera severely beating a student, said later, “There is nothing wrong in beating up or even killing someone shouting slogans in favor of Pakistan,” as some students were accused of doing.”
“Meanwhile”, it says, “Hundreds of journalists marched last week in protest from the Press Club of India to the Supreme Court in New Delhi. Thousands of students and faculty at universities across India have turned out to protest in recent days.”
Praising them, the daily says, “These Indian citizens are right to voice their outrage at government threats to the exercise of their democratic rights.”

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