India has long prided itself on being the world’s largest democracy. But that reputation is looking shaky these days, as the government led by Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi cracks down on opponents of all stripes.
The authorities are making particular use of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, known as UAPA, a catchall law, originally designed to curb terrorism, that makes bail almost impossible. It rarely leads to court convictions, so its main effect is to detain people – often for years on end – without trial.
The Indian government is using exceptional laws designed to curb terrorism in order to silence peaceful dissenters. That risks undermining the rule of law and threatens India’s democratic heritage.
UAPA arrests have been rising in recent years, targeting journalists, activists, and lawyers, among others. But the police seem to use the law indiscriminately: They even used its provisions to arrest Muslim students celebrating…