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India’s Backsliding Democracy

Examining how attempts to stifle dissent threaten the world’s largest democracy

In late March, the Indian Parliament expelled Rahul Gandhi for comments he made in 2019 critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His ousting is only the most recent—and high-profile—case of the use of defamation law to silence political dissent in India. But these efforts to squash criticism go beyond Parliament. Since Modi’s rise to power in 2014, his government has exerted tight control over its narrative. Financial and investigative agencies have conducted raids, labeled as “surveys,” on civil society organizations deemed too “independent.” Government officials have pressed news outlets to fire critical journalists, harassed editors, jailed critics, and shut down internet access in contested and Muslim-majority areas such as Kashmir.

India exhibits several of the hallmarks of a backsliding democracy: a breakdown in political pluralism, a decay in independent state institutions, and a clampdown on political dissent. India’s media landscape has increasingly become a mouthpiece for the government, and the resulting webs of mis- and disinformation only render Indian society more fragmented. All of this is set against the background of violent ethno-majoritarian rhetoric.

On July 6, please join the Center for American Progress for a panel shedding light on political moves to stifle dissent and discussing the consequences for India’s democracy, as well as democracies everywhere. During the event, we will hear from a range of Indian democracy defenders and discuss what productive U.S. engagement on the path Modi’s government is taking looks like.

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