India has developed a reputation for being an unsafe country for journalists under the Bharatiya Janta Party rule. The trend continued when India’s one of the most respected journalists Karan Thapar was told that his column was put ‘on hold’ after he published an article questioning India’s Prime Minister Modi’s call for a ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.’ Thapar published his fortnightly column “As I See It” on August 20, 2021, in the national daily Asian Age. Thapar discussed the mass violence against Muslims of Jammu during Partition under the ambit of Partition Horrors Remembrance Day.
Thapar the managing editor of the Asian Age Kaushik Mitter informed him that that the owners of the daily were wary of a backlash. Mitter specifically mentioned the last three paragraphs of the column where Thapar talked about the violence against Muslims of Jammu during the Partition. Independent historians have documented the tragic episode, which eventually led to the mass displacement of the Muslims from the region. Thapar says Mitter told him that the owners think that the column might exacerbate the Hindu-Muslim issue. Thapar says what they actually are afraid of is the pressure from the BJP government.
Thapar – who started writing for the Asian Age 10 months ago – has been critical of the policies of the Modi-led government, citing its Hindu-supremacist social and political agenda. In his column, Thapar slammed Modi’s recent announcement to remember August 14 as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’, which coincides with Pakistan’s Independence Day. Thapar argued that the move was meant to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment and polarise the people of India on religious lines.
The most problematic part for BJP’s Hindutva-inspired extremist narrative was arguing that communal riots, mass killings, and forced migration turned Jammu into a Hindi-majority region where hundreds of thousands were killed or expelled. The column’s title may have the biggest slap: ‘Horrors of 1947 Partition: A selective remembrance?’ Thapar quoted columnist Swaminathan Aiyar from his 2018 column in Times of India, which claimed that the scale of the butchery of Jammu’s Muslims over a period of three-four months in 1947 “far exceeded the ethnic cleansing of Pandits five decades later.”
Thapar ended his piece with a piercing question: “Now that Mr Modi wants to remember the horrors of partition, is this one of them?”
This episode appears to be the latest incident of state-backed suppression of an Indian media outlet to appease the majoritarian impulses of the Modi-led government. In recent times, BJP leaders like former Union minister Prakash Javadekar, BJP’s national spokesperson Sambit Patra, and former general secretary of BJP Ram Madhav have been barred by the BJP high command for conducting an interview with Thapar. appear on his show, indicating that getting the Asian Age to stop his column may have been an occasion for the Modi-Shah duo to get back at him.
The Reporter Without Borders latest report ranks India at 142 among 180 countries on the Index or the second successive year. The report lists India under countries that are ‘bad’ for journalism. The report published in 2021 World Press Freedom Index names India among the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.
The report says categorically blames Bharatiya Janata Party and its Hindutva ideology for intimidating the journalists who criticise the government by labelling them as “anti-national” or “anti-state”. It is a sad state of affairs for the world’s largest ‘democracy’ and it reveals the ugly, disgusting face of Modi-led India.