A crackdown on intellectuals

Meanwhile in India Modi is locking up his critics.

Last year, the police in Maharashtra, one of India’s largest states, said they had uncovered a vast conspiracy to topple the Indian government that involved Mr. Teltumbde and other well-known writers, academics and lawyers.

Officers raided more than a dozen of their homes, confiscating hard drives and documents. Citing a broad antiterrorism law, the police have put nine of them in jail, accusing them of helping Maoist insurgents, trying to procure grenade launchers, inciting a riot and plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

One is Anand Teltumbde, “a prominent scholar and writer on Indian social issues.”

Human rights activists say the allegations are part of a crackdown on intellectuals who criticize Mr. Modi’s record, especially his government’s treatment of religious minorities and lower castes.

Mr. Teltumbde was an obvious target, activists say. He is a well-known champion of Dalits (the group formerly known as untouchables), a prolific writer with a wide audience, and an unrelenting critic of Mr. Modi.

At a literary festival in 2017, Mr. Teltumbde called the prime minister a “narcissist par excellence” who could prove to be more dangerous than Hitler. He said Mr. Modi’s politics, which are rooted in Hindu nationalism, amounted to “fascism plus something.”

He also mentioned Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots in 2002.

The case against Mr. Teltumbde has alarmed scholars across the world. Hundreds of academics, including Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, have signed petitions calling for the United Nations to interveneand for the police’s “fabricated charges” to be withdrawn.

“I enthusiastically signed this,’’ Mr. West said in an interview last week. “Anand is my brother and comrade, and I wanted to show my support for him as well as the Dalit freedom struggle.’’

Sangeeta Kamat, a public policy professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who also signed a petition supporting Mr. Teltumbde, called him the best-known of the Indian academics under official scrutiny. She said he had made a “compelling case for how and why the present regime is anti-democratic, anti-Dalit and anti-poor.”

The struggle never ends.

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