Democracy is shriveling and illiberalism is on the rise. We've been watching this unfold for more than three decades but the sense of urgency has, perhaps, never been so great. IDEAS hears from people on the frontline of the fight against rising authoritarianism — how they understand the struggle and what they're doing to survive it. *This episode is part of our series, The New World Disorder.
Below is an excerpt from a CBC article drawn from the Ideas podcast interview: "On the front lines of the fight against strongman politics."
The world's largest democracy, India, has seen its relatively stable democratic freedoms decline with the rise of Narendra Modi.
The suspension of historical autonomy and further restrictions on political freedoms in Jammu and Kashmir; the marginalizing of religious minorities — especially Muslims — as Modi's political rhetoric enfolds a Hindu-first narrative; and the implementation of a national register of citizens which has critics fearing generation-long residents of India will be stripped of their citizenship, are all examples cited by critics as examples of Modi's shift toward authoritarian governance.
Arfa Khanum Sherwani is an Indian broadcast journalist whose work has a human rights focus. She says the current moment in India is both one of joy and fear. Joy because India has just celebrated the 75th anniversary of its independence — something that felt improbable at the outset. But at the same time, Indians are grappling with the question of whether the current state of India is what its "nation builders" envisioned.
"We are going through perhaps an existential crisis for Indian democracy where the biggest threat to Indian democracy is coming from the people who are ruling us."
It's a sentiment echoed by Cihan Tekay Liu, the Turkey page editor at Jadiliyya.com, a publication focused on the Middle East. She grew up in Turkey during some of its most volatile times in the 80s and 90s but, she says, political and social life improved as Turkey transitioned into a multiparty democracy.
Tekay Liu adds the latest twist in the story began shortly after 2010 when the government "began acting more like a regime." The ruling AKP under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan began purging members and silencing dissent. These were followed by the jailing of opposition leaders and growing restrictions on the press.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Turkey currently ranks 149th out of 180 countries on its press freedom index, just above India and just below Hong Kong.
Listen to the podcast episode here.
Cihan Tekay Liu is a PhD candidate in anthropology at the Graduate Center at City University of New York. She is also co-editor of the Turkey Page at Jadaliyya.com.