How India Is Losing Respect In The World

The world’s largest democracy just got a lot less free

A statue of Gandhi in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

I’ve always looked up to India. Billions of people, millions of gods, countless communities and languages, somehow existing in a free democracy. It was a mess, but what a beautiful mess.

Today, however, sitting in Kochi, I just feel sad. There’s nothing to look up to here. Millions of people have been deprived of freedom in Jammu and Kashmir. Millions more are being rendered stateless in Assam.

I can no longer call India a free country, or a diverse democracy. It’s going nationalist, facist and rapidly losing its democratic soul.

What a great loss to the world.

India was an example that democracy could work, that it could scale. In constrast with China, India was an example of a country built on diversity and empowerment. India was obviously growing less fast, but it somehow felt more stable, more hopeful, more free.

Not anymore.

Free countries don’t beseige their own people — arresting leaders, shutting off communications, militarily occupying them. Free countries don’t build concentration camps (I’m looking at you too, America and Australia). India is doing all of these things, and their courts and people are not resisting enough. Democratic herd immunity is not kicking in. This is just happening.

These aren’t very complicated issues, hence I’m confident commenting on them as a Sri Lankan. If you have to shut off communications to millions of people for over 60 days, something is terribly wrong. If you’re building concentration camps and calling human beings termites and infiltrators, it’s wrong. These are just moral wrongs that have no place in a free society, like India is supposed to be.

Indian nationalists will say what about Pakistan, but this is an argument I wouldn’t accept from my children. It doesn’t matter what your brother does, you still have the obligation to do the right thing. Rather than becoming the new leader of the free world, India today only aspires to be slightly less awful than Pakistan.

The fact is that the world today needs India more than ever — an example of diversity and democracy — but what we’re getting is a deep and ugly slide into racism, facism and decline.

After his disastrous demonitization, Modi is pressing ahead with his dehumanization of Muslims. Aside from the state abuses above, India is now becoming known for lynchings of minorities. Artists that wrote a public letter condemning this were charged with sedition.

This is India today. A democracy which arrests elected leaders and occupies its own territory. A free country that deports its own people. A country where people are beaten and lynched in the streets. India was the idea that you could have growth and freedom together. Now they have neither.

India’s economy is slowing, aided by a botched demonitization and tax scheme, and they are also losing respect in the world, due to Modi’s policies of dehumanization. It is a sad time for a proud and hopeful country, and sad for all of us who have cheered for this democracy to somehow succeed.

I miss you India. I pray that your democratic instincts kick back in and that you come back diverse, beautiful and strong. Things are going to shit and we need a free and democratic India more than ever.