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Understanding the Downslide of India’s Democracy, Declining Press Freedom, and Erosion of Minority Rights

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Event Details:

In 75 years of India’s history, the largest democracy of the world is facing an unprecedented crisis and threat. The threat is not coming from outside India but from within. The democratic institutions which were mandated to defend and deepen democracy are failing. The enactment of the religious-centric Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA), reading down of Article 370 and loss of statehood for Kashmir, frequent invocation of sedition law against political dissenters, and assault on India’s free press are some examples which explain the backsliding of Indian democracy. The largest minority group, the Muslims of India, are being projected as internal enemies and efforts are on for their complete political disenfranchisement. They are systematically being reduced to a second class citizenship with numerous incidents of them being beaten, humiliated, or even killed in the name of cow-protection. Many young Muslim men and women have been wrongly jailed, their houses raised by the state bulldozers, while the majority cheers it on.

One of the most worrying signs of the steep decline of Indian democracy is the shrinking of the free press. The public is denied the free flow of information that essentially enables them to assess the work of the government and make political choices. How will the democratic accountability work in the absence of a free press and how should we see the future of democracy in India?

Register for the talk with Arfa Khanum, senior editor at The Wire, here. This event will take place in-person only. Registration is required and may be capped once at capacity.

Moderated by Anuradha Bhasin, Executive Editor of the Kashmir Times. 


About the Speaker

Arfa Khanum works as a senior editor at The Wire, a financially and editorially independent multimedia news website. Currently, she leads the multimedia team for the largest digital news site in India. She has previously worked with NDTV, Rajya Sabha TV (Parliament of India’s official broadcaster), and Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan’s blockbuster TV show, ‘Satyamev Jayate.’ She has spent two decades in the broadcast news sector covering politics, policy, and governance issues with a special focus on social justice. On The Wire, she hosts one of the most popular video programs in digital space in India, Hum Bhi Bharat and Arfa Ka India, primarily devoted to the issues of people living on the margins of Indian democracy that are largely ignored by the big media.

In 2019, she was one of the first journalists to visit the Kashmir Valley after the India government stripped the state of Kashmir of its autonomy and despite the complete security and communication lockdown brought out video stories on human rights abuses and the suppression of civil and political rights. In 2020, she covered two major mass movements, Anti-CAA movement and Farmers’ movement, giving voice to the politically marginalised communities. At a time when TV News was demonising the protesting farmers fighting for their lives and livelihood and suppressing their voice, her field reports from the protest sites in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana reached millions of viewers and amplified their voice.

Arfa Khanum is a recipient of the Kuldip Nayar Journalism Award for 2022, Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Journalist for the year (2019), Red Ink Award for Excellence in Journalism (2019). She was chosen for the Robert Bosch Media Ambassadors Fellowship (Germany, 2017) and represented India in the ‘Senior Journalists Seminar Fellowship’ by the East-West Centre, United States, 2018. She has been a speaker at international forums such as Harvard India Conference and Global Media Forum in Germany. She has a PhD and was the second ever elected woman vice president of Aligarh Muslim University’s Alumni Association, a body dominated by men so far. She is an ‘Advisor in Residence’ for the Led By Foundation, a leadership program for young Indian Muslim women incubated at Harvard’s Centre for Public Leadership.