Contents – Modi’s India: The Age of Intolerance


The central theme of the Spring 2023 issue of Index is India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After monitoring Modi’s rule since he was elected in 2014, Index decided to look deeper into the state of free expression inside the world’s largest democracy.

Index spoke to a number of journalists and authors from, or who live in, India; and discovered that on every marker of what a democracy should be, Modi’s India fails. The world is largely silent when it comes to Narendra Modi. Let’s change that.

Up Front

Can India survive more Modi?, by Jemimah Seinfeld: Nine years into his leadership the world has remained silent on Modi's failed democracy. It's time to turn up the temperature before it's too late.

The Index, by Mark Frary: The latest news from the free speech frontlines. Big impact elections, poignant words from the daughter of a jailed Tunisian opposition politician, and the potential US banning of Tik Tok.


Cultural amnesia in Cairo, by Nick Hilden: Artists are under attack in the Egyptian capital where signs of revolution are scrubbed from the street.

‘Crimea has turned into a concentration camp’, by Nariman Dzhelal: Exclusive essay from the leader of the Crimean Tatars, introduced by Ukranian author Andrey Kurkov.

Fighting information termination, by Jo-Ann Mort: How the USA's abortion information wars are being fought online.

A race to the bottom, by Simeon Tegel: Corruption is corroding the once-democratic Peru as people take to the streets.

When comics came out, by Sara Century: The landscape of expression that gave way to a new era of queer comics, and why the censors are still fighting back.

In Iran women’s bodies are the battleground, by Kamin Mohammadi: The recent protests, growing up in the Shah's Iran where women were told to de-robe, and the terrible u-turn after.

Face to face with Iran’s authorities, by Ramita Navai: The award-winning war correspondent tells Index's Mark Frary about the time she was detained in Tehran, what the current protests mean and her Homeland cameo.

Scope for truth, by Kaya Genç: The Turkish novelist visits a media organisation built on dissenting voices, just weeks before devastating earthquakes hit his homeland.

Ukraine’s media battleground, by Emily Couch: Two powerful examples of how fraught reporting on this country under siege has become.

Storytime is dragged into the guns row, by Francis Clarke: Relaxed gun laws and the rise of LGBTQ+ sentiment is silencing minority communities in the USA.

Those we must not leave behind, by Martin Bright: As the UK government has failed in its task to rescue Afghans, Index's editor at large speaks to members of a new Index network aiming to help those whose lives are in imminent danger.

Special Report: Modi's India

Modi’s singular vision for India, by Salil Tripathi: India used to be a country for everyone. Now it's only for Hindus - and uncritical ones at that.

Blessed are the persecuted, by Hanan Zaffar: As Christians face an increasing number of attacks in India, the journalist speaks to people who have been targeted.

India’s Great Firewall, by Aishwarya Jagani: The vision of a 'digital India' has simply been a way for the authoritarian government to cement its control.

Stomping on India’s rights, by Marnie Duke: The members of the RSS are synonymous with Modi. Who are they, and why are they so controversial?

Bollywood’s Code Orange, by Debasish Roy Chowdhury: The Bollywood movie powerhouse has gone from being celebrated to being used as a tool for propaganda.

Bulldozing freedom, by Bilal Ahmad Pandow: Narendra Modi's rule in Jammu and Kashmir has seen buildings dismantled in line with people's broader rights.

Let’s talk about sex, by Mehk Chakraborty: In a country where sexual violence is abundant and sex education is taboo, the journalist explores the politics of pleasure in India.

Uncle is watching, by Anindita Ghose: The journalist and author shines a spotlight on the vigilantes in India who try to control women.


Keep calm and let Confucius Institutes carry on, by Kerry Brown: Banning Confucius Institutes will do nothing to stop Chinese soft power. It'll just cripple our ability to understand the country.

A papal precaution, by Robin Vose: Censorship on campus and taking lessons from the Catholic Church's doomed index of banned works.

The democratic federation stands strong, by Ruth Anderson: Putin's assault on freedoms continues but so too does the bravery of those fighting him.


Left behind and with no voice, by Lijia Zhang and Jemimah Steinfeld: China's children are told to keep quiet. The culture of silence goes right the way up.

Zimbabwe’s nervous condition, by Tsitsi Dangarembga: The Zimbabwean filmmaker and author tells Index's Katie Dancey-Downes about her home country's upcoming election, being arrested for a simple protest and her most liberating writing experience yet.

Statues within a plinth of their life, by Marc Nash: Can you imagine a world without statues? And what might fill those empty plinths? The London-based novelist talks to  Index's Francis Clarke about his new short story, which creates exactly that.

Crimea’s feared dawn chorus, by Martin Bright: A new play takes audiences inside the homes and families of Crimean Tatars as they are rounded up.

From hijacker to media mogul, Soe Myint: The activist and journalist on keeping hope alive in Myanmar.

The crisis in Kashmir: an Index reading list

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Indian government's revocation of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir has been a disaster for free speech.

In October 2019, Narendra Modi's government rescinded article 370 of the Indian constitution which had given the region special autonomous status since 1954.  The region is now run as two separate union territories - Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir.

Ever since its autonomy was curtailed, access to information for inhabitants has been greatly reduced.

Despite palpable risks to their safety, journalists in the disputed region have remained, but a lack of access to internet has hindered their progress.

Set in the Himalayas, the region is famously beautiful - often described as "heaven on Earth" - but this is in stark contrast to the fierce and often bloody dispute wracking Jammu and Kashmir.

As the situation worsens, we look back at pieces published in Index magazine and online exploring the impact the conflict has had on free speech, journalists and the people who call Kashmir their home.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Paradise Lost

Journalist and broadcaster Isabel Hilton visited Kashmir in the early 2000s. She documented her experiences in 2002 and spoke of her encounters with Pakistani military.

The piece is an insight into how much of major conflicts can seem underreported, but in fact are not. For journalists working in the region, the daily reports of death tolls and atrocities are both a livelihood and a duty, but only major events tend to make headline news across the world.

She wrote: “In Srinagar, the journalists — themselves constantly threatened and often attacked by both sides — have grown weary of looking for new angles on death. Only the larger outrages — such as the car bomb attack on Srinagar's assembly building on 1 October last year which claimed more than 30 lives — are reported internationally.”



Index on Censorship autumn 2020 issue on the theme of the disappeared

Killing journalism

In the most recent edition of Index (which can be read here), Bilal Ahmad Pandow discussed the experiences of journalists in Kashmir.

Since India took control and imposed direct rule, a feeling of (relative) security in the region has been lost and censorship laws have taken a firm grip, he writes.

A new policy for journalists introduced this year by the Jammu and Kashmir government imposes rules on restricting “fake news, plagiarism and unethical or anti-national content”.

“Pressure on media freedom was ratcheted up even further with the introduction of the New Media Policy 2020. Journalists were, of course, already operating under tremendous pressure – harassment, intimidation, the choking of advertisement revenue, imprisonment, draconian laws and a communication blockade – all of which are forcing journalists to self-censor.”

Index on Censorship summer 2020 issue on the theme of privacy

One to one

Earlier this year, Kashmiri journalist Bilal Hussain spoke with Index’s Orna Herr on life in the media in the region.

He told Herr of his personal struggles to get copy and videos past online restrictions and out of the country. Journalists have been creative in their attempts to get past the internet blocks designed to limit media freedom, he said.

“Since March 2020, the government allowed restricted internet access that blocked many news websites. So journalists installed VPNs that could break the firewall and enabled journalists to access those websites.”

“Some journalists used to travel to Delhi to access the internet and came back after filing their reports.”

“To get video interviews to my editor in Paris, I put them on a memory stick and gave it to a friend who was travelling to the USA, and he sent it on from there.”

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Diaspora Voice

Poet Agha Shadid Ali was born in Kashmir in 1949. He moved to the USA in 1976 but his home was always at the forefront of his literary works.

His 1997 work Country Without a Post Office discussed the plight of Kashmir. At the time of their publication, he said: “My entire emotional and imaginative life began to revolve around the suffering of Kashmir.”

Ali died of brain cancer in 2001. Index included two of his poems following the 2002 Kaluchak massacre in which militants attacked a tourist bus, killing 31 people and injuring 47.


Media moguls & megalomania, the September 1994 issue of Index on Censorship magazine

Media moguls & megalomania, the September 1994 issue of Index on Censorship magazine

Spotlight on India

This piece from 1994 by Caroline Moorehead shows how the human rights spotlight was finally being turned onto Jammu and Kashmir.

She writes: "In their war against the militants...the Indian police and security fores have come to treat disappearances with a combination of lethargy, obfuscation and threats, connived at by the judiciary. Court orders are ignored, relatives warned to stop making enquiries, and the case is shifted from place to place while documents are mislaid and those responsible posted to other places."

It tells the story of the disappearance of 22-year-old Harjit Singh, a far from unusual story in the region.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Beyond the Gun

Beyond the Gun is a collection of photographs and statements from Kashmiri people in 2002. Its emotive language and testimony from residents who felt betrayed by India’s handling of the region, coupled with photographs of members of the community, make for a stirring read.

By Sheba Chhachhi, each photograph and collected testimony tells a different story. Some, like the words from carpet worker Jana, show the danger of bringing to light the problems caused by local authorities and provides a chilling account of escaping molestation by a border security force soldier.

Jana said: “I faced the power of his gun with the power of my mind. I felt no fear. I had the axe. Had the axe not been there; there was a rolling pin, a ladle. If I had a gun, they would have seized it long ago. These are my own implements. No one can take them away from me.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Partition, the November 1997 issue of Index on Censorship magazine

Partition, the November 1997 issue of Index on Censorship magazine

The price of freedom

In 1997, Pakistan and India celebrated 50 years of independence, but continuing tensions between the two muted the festivities.

In this article from that year, Eqbal Ahmad set out the problems caused by a misguided approach to decolonisation by the United Kingdom, which led to the partition of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Though not specifically about the troubles in Kashmir, much of the hostility between Pakistan and India is thoughtfully explained and ensures a greater understanding of the conflict.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Varieties of death, the winter 2002 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Long live the patriotic syndrome

In this 2002 article, Sidharth Bhatia claims India once had the world’s largest and freest media, something which has now changed. It takes a historical journey explaining chronologically just how India’s media freedom has been squeezed.

Bhathia ponders the problems populist jingoism can have on freedoms, citing the border war in 1999 as a prime example.

“More worrying is the decline in any challenge to the received wisdom on contentious issues such as human rights abuses, especially in Kashmir. This was seen at its most blatant during the border war at Kargil in 1999 between Indian and Pakistani soldiers (disguised as irregulars) who had infiltrated the area.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][three_column_post title="You may also like to read" category_id="581"][/vc_column][/vc_row]