When governments around the world began to invoke emergency powers to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, fears were expressed that lockdowns to contain the spread of the disease could easily be used as an opportunity to crush basic democratic rights. These anxieties have come true in India.
In recent days, the Union government-controlled Delhi Police has arrested several people who had been protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens. These initiatives had been widely condemned for adding a religious element to Indian citizenship law. Many feared they could be used to harass India’s Muslims.
The day before the riot began, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Mishra had threatened protestors with vigilante action. In fact, there is direct evidence that the violence was instigated by Mishra, with eyewitness accounts at the time attesting to the fact that attackers mentioned his name while carrying out the violence. Yet the Delhi Police has not taken any legal action against Mishra. … The criminalisation of dissent against these initiatives is a significant blow to Indian democracy.