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'More Dangerous Than Emergency': Arundhati Roy on Raiding of Journalists

"If the BJP wins the election in 2024, India will not remain a democracy," the activist-author warned.

New Delhi: As journalists gathered at the Press Club of India in New Delhi on Wednesday to protest the raids on nearly 50 people associated with NewsClick on the previous day, author Arundhati Roy told The Wire that the present condition in the country is much more dangerous than during the Emergency.

She said that an Emergency can only be imposed for a limited period of time, but the BJP and Narendra Modi’s efforts to change the nature of the republic, and the constitution and suppress the voice of the people can continue unhindered if they are elected to power again. “If the BJP wins the election in 2024, India will not remain a democracy,” she warned.

The author-activist said that the mainstream media can no longer be considered as media. “The journalists who are in the digital space have started a new genre of journalism that has caused great difficulty to the government,” she said, speaking about the arrest of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and the web portal’s HR head Amit Chakravarty.

“How can there be no boundary between journalism and terrorism? How can they seize the devices of journalists without explanation? No FIR was given and charges were not mentioned because the draconian UAPA was invoked,” Roy said.

She said the Modi government has already promulgated regressive rules that will allow it to dictate what is fake news, and such attacks on the press will mean that only news that is in favour of the government will reach the public.

The author said that the raids on persons associated with NewsClick show that the Modi government is in a lot of fear. “I worry that from now until December (when five states will have elections) and May next year (when general elections will be held), there may be more arrests,” Roy said.

She said the raids on and arrests of journalists should not be seen as the government’s effort to distract the public’s attention from the Bihar caste census. “You should consider seriously the fact that journalists are treated like terrorists,” Roy told The Wire.

On the Bihar caste census, Roy said even if people try to knock the issue out of the headlines, it has revealed the true composition of the country and will spark a revolution. “The upper castes, who constitute only 15% of the population, are dominating in all fields,” she said.

Historian Ram Guha told The Wire that like Modi, Indira Gandhi was also authoritarian. “But unlike Modi, she was not majoritarian. She did not discriminate on the basis of religion. We saw these kinds of regimes earlier, and they have passed. This one will pass too,” he told The Wire.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that the raids on NewsClick and persons associated with it are illegal in many ways. “If the allegation is that NewsClick has received money from some Chinese nationals, there is no offence under UAPA. PM CARES received money from Chinese companies. There are allegations against Adani too [that it received money from China],” he said.

He said that it is also illegal to seize the laptops of journalists who are even remotely connected to NewsClick. “It is a brazen attempt to threaten independent media. It will not succeed,” he said.

RJD’s Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha agreed with Arundhati Roy that the caste census in Bihar will give a fillip to marginalised groups.