The Making of Fascism in India

Siddharth Varadarajan is a friend and journalistic colleague. He's been a longtime commentator on current affairs, and until not so long ago he was editor of India's national newspaper, The Hindu.

I've never known Siddharth to say anything irresponsible or biased. His integrity is unimpeachable. But clearly, his public comments about the rise of fascism in India have caused distress to some leaders in India's sprawling political community: A few days ago, some men who didn't identify themselves showed at Siddharth's home in New Delhi and assaulted his housekeeper. Neither Siddharth nor his wife was at home. The men allegedly warned their victim to advise his employer to be careful about what he said in public.

I have no idea about the identity of the thugs who beat up Siddharth's housekeeper, but I am concerned about the deterioration in India's political life.

Violence now seems to be the norm; there's intolerance for dissent. Mobs not only shout down speakers at public rallies, they threaten them. Indian journalists -- with rare exceptions like Siddharth -- have become visibly timid. After all, everyone wants to live to write another day.

Owners of Indian media have become pusillimanous -- most of whom have extensive business interests that they understandably don't want political authorities to investigate. Moreover, these owners have a nexus with political parties and are understandably loathe to alienate the leadership.

Everyone needs to take a step back and reflect on the premise that, by definition, a democracy needs a multiplicity of voices. Journalists like Siddharth Varadarajan speak truth to power; attacking them for their reportage and views brings no glory to India's political leaders. And not supporting them brings no glory to India's media barons.

The pastor Martin Niemoller wrote this beautiful poem, First They Came; it was about Nazi Germany and the Jewish Holocaust. But somehow this poem seems fitting in the context of contemporary Indian politics:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me