On 2 February 2024, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation conducted raids on the residence of Harsh Mander and the offices of the Centre for Equity Studies, a research institute that he founded.
Harsh Mander, a former civil servant and a rights-based activist has been subject to intimidation by multiple investigative agencies of the Indian government, including the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Income Tax Department, and the Enforcement Directorate. Despite repeated police action, a concrete charge is yet to be presented in a court of law.
Over the last few years, the Progressive International has repeatedly issued alerts regarding India’s lurch toward “full-fledged fascism.” Today, civil society activists languish in jail without trial and the ‘Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’ meant to curb terrorism is used to routinely imprison dissenters. Media and civil society groups have been subject to persistent lawfare, under the guise of income tax violations and sedition charges. The nearly 10-year term of the country’s Hindu nationalist government — led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — has systematically incapacitated nearly all democratic institutions.
These anti-democratic attacks are set to ramp up ahead of general elections which will kick off in April 2024. Less than two weeks ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his re-election campaign with the inauguration of a new multimillion-dollar Hindu temple in Ayodhya upon the ruins of the Babri Masjid Mosque, a site of one of the darkest anti-Muslim riots in India’s history.
Harsh Mander’s work stands in direct opposition to Modi’s agenda. He founded and leads a national campaign called Karwan-e-Mohabbat or 'Caravan of Love' in solidarity with the victims of pogroms in India which regularly documents and exposes instances of the ruling government encouraging violence based on religion — and attempts to mobilize citizens to combat hate speech. His work embodies, not only staunch opposition to Hindu nationalism, but a steadfast commitment to upholding the rights of the country’s most marginalised communities.
In an urgent statement, over 250 political figures from India condemned the attack on Mander as a “vindictive witch-hunt.”
The Modi government cannot be allowed to act with impunity. It cannot rob India’s citizens of their democratic rights while the world watches. We condemn these brazen acts of political repression and express our solidarity with Harsh Mander and others like him that are fighting to preserve democracy in India.