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Author of two fantasy novels, The Wildings and The Hundred Names of Darkness. Black River, a slow-burning literary thriller, is out in 2020.

Columnist for the FT, formerly NYT, Business Standard, editor of anthologies on food writing and on the Modern Review. Drives like a demon, cooks like an angel.

Happy new year, and may we have azaadi in all its different forms.

Freedom from hate, fear, violence, control, policing.

And also freedom to live as you please, love whom you please, worship or not worship the gods you choose, freedom to speak your mind and your heart boldly, to claim your best self and to make this the country it can and should be.

Muslims are being targeted in UP. Several state officials tell me that there is tremendous pressure from the top. Official police hierarchy is being sidelined to target protesters. But majority of district police chiefs are standing up to the pressure, I report

India: politics, authoritarianism 

+ In 2020, there are strong signs of hope. The protests — spontaneous, unprecedented, unexpected — are gladdening. They show the nationwide support for a plural, just India, and we all needed to see that.

The federal structure of the country is also protective; if the Opposition stands firm, there is hope.

But do not underestimate what we are facing. We don't have the luxury of petty fights; we will need every bit of solidarity that we can muster.

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India: politics, authoritarianism 

+ In the Prime Minister's speeches, in his government's actions, you can see that cadres — not just the propaganda artists or the pro-govt media — are being turned against political enemies, against Muslims, and against liberals.

Recognise this for the deadly threat that it is. Some years ago, I wrote about Gauri Lankesh's murder. I ignored most of the angry messages that came in response, but there's one I think about a lot. It said, "This is only the start."

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India: politics, authoritarianism 

+ In these last few days, the BJP openly targetted Ram Guha as an urban naxal, various ministers said that urban naxals were behind the recent protests, and now the BJP is calling Priyanka Gandhi out as leader of the "urban naxals".

It is time for solidarity, and liberals are terrible at this. We tend to fracture over call-outs and unimportant arguments. It's as if even we don't want to acknowledge that the threat to democracy and India is unprecedented.

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+ When Sudha Bharadwaj was jailed, over a year ago, I recognised the signs that we were on the road taken by Turkey, Egypt and other regimes.

First, a few thinkers and activists are jailed, then a more substantial number, as in Kashmir and then UP, then you reach a stage where it becomes common to have thousands in jail on false and dubious charges.

India's press freedom ranking is at number 140:

This ranking is a signal that we're close to turning authoritarian.

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Protest notes: I've never seen so many flames of hope, tiny, large, flickering on and on, across this country.

But 2020 is going to be more challenging than many of us can imagine.

"Who are these people? Modi asked in a conspiratorial tone. Then, as if sharing a secret with them, he said: “It is these educated people, who live in cities, who speak English, these urban Naxals."

+ What everyone is fighting for is best summed up in the Preamble of the Constitution. A democracy that treats all of its citizens equally, gives them the same freedoms, fraternity among every one of us.

-- It will be a long fight. This is not about a day, a week, or a month of protests. It will take time to restore Indian democracy, so direct your energies where they are most needed.

-- It's not about a change in government. It is about changing the climate of hate. That will be much harder.

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A few thoughts:

-- watch out for attempts to tarnish protestors as "Urban Naxals", or the old "foreign hand" excuse. Many are already under threat, from Sudha Bhardwaj to Akhil Gogoi, Chandrashekhar Azad, Kashmir's politicians.

-- Your solidarity must be for all. Don't forget the most vulnerable , those in jail in the momentum of protests. Defend those in the direct firing line.

-- Resist any attempt to paint the protests as anti-Indian. They are for a better India, remember that.

. rounding up activists across the state to prevent .
Day before, Dalit activist Sushil Gautam was arrested in Meerut. Today, Mohammed Shoaib, a senior lawyer in Lucknow and founding member of Rihai Manch has been put under house arrest.

India: protests, shutdowns, media 

+ If you're from the foreign (or Indian) media:

-- keep a running tally of the number of in the country, especially outside the metros. I keep losing count — Assam alone has had masses of protests, women coming out armed with... songs.

-- keep track of violence by police and by infiltrators, and if you can, follow those stories all the way through.

-- keep track of the arrests, Sec 144, permissions revoked, campuses silenced. There are *many*.

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India: protests, shutdowns, safety 

+ If you're using Mastodon to organise protests, be aware that while its software is difficult to block by governments, it is an open platform and your toots can be read by anyone.

Some RW members are on the platform as well, so be aware that what you're sharing here is pretty public.

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India: protests, shutdowns 

+ Two protests are planned in on December 19.

Red Fort protest, 11 am - 12 noon:

the police have revoked permission, some protestors say the march will continue, but you are urged to decide for yourself whether to go — there will be safety considerations.

Mandi House to Parliament Street, 12 noon: as of now, there is permission for this protest. Check on safety closer to the time.

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India: protests, shutdowns 

Sec 144 across many parts of the country, prohibiting gatherings in groups of four and more. Police have revoked permissions for protests tomorrow — December 19th — in Chennai, Delhi and Ahmedabad.

The Opposition or at least an organised Opposition is missing in action. Let people in your network know that if Twitter ever shuts down or becomes hard to access, Mastodon is open and is a much better choice, security-wise.

Some of us are worrying about which crisis to prioritise: the resurgence of the far-right/ fascism, India's failing economy, women's safety, climate change upending our lives in the 2020 decade, et al. This is a good time to remember George Carlin:

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+ One of the most urgent, as Mukul Kesavan writes. Don't let your solidarity stop with these protests.

"In the months ahead, after the initial outrage about the CAA has abated, the question of solidarity will arise. Opposing the CAA out of an abstract commitment to constitutional values is not the same as opposing an inquisition that poses an existential threat to your liberty and your claim to Indian citizenship."

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+ This is from India Gate, earlier tonight. People came together to read the Preamble to the Constitution:

having solemnly resolved to constitute India
and to secure to all its citizens..."

I know, protests don't win battles like this one. But when we reached the part that goes "...and give to ourselves this Constitution", I felt such a sense of ownership, partnership, in this land.

Many promises to keep.

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Over these last two days at the protests, what you think of is students, teargassed in their libraries, assaulted in their hostels, denied medical treatment by the police.

Still they came out. They roared their anger, and then they sang songs of love and fraternity. They know what's ahead, that it doesn't get easier, but they insist on hope and faith in this country.

They make me feel that my generation has given in to despair and anxiety too easily. They make me want to hope again.

Must support Muslims & other minorities: Google CEO Sundar Pichai

After FB's Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s India-born head @sundarpichai has come out in support of Muslims saying it is important to have a diverse mix of voices & backgrounds to lead a country

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