The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: In Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh, free speech is under threat

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Trampling free speech

In his last speech in Parliament in March before he resigned his Lok Sabha seat and took over as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Yogi Adityanath promised that “many things would be shut down” in the state after he assumed charge. Given the developments in the last few days, it is clear that the warning was not just to political opponents but also to the very idea of freedom of speech and expression.

On Sunday evening, the Uttar Pradesh police detained at least 41 Dalit activists on board the Sabarmati Express at Jhansi to prevent them from reaching Lucknow and presenting a 125-kg soap to Adityanath. This was a protest planned to condemn the insult meted out to Dalits in Manipur Deenapatti village in May, when they were given soaps and shampoos by the administration to clean themselves before the chief minister’s visit.

On Monday, the UP police took an even more drastic step in its attempt to muzzle the civil society. Eight Dalit activists were arrested from the UP Press Club in Lucknow, where they wanted to highlight the atrocities against Dalits in the state and condemn the Sunday arrests. Thirty one other activists of the Bundelkhand Dalit Adhikar Manch and the Dynamic Action Group were also detained to stall the press conference.

The narrative used to implement the arrest is a chilling reminder of how easily an authoritarian state could trample on fundamental rights. According to news reports, the police filed cases under Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The provision is primarily used to prevent people from committing cognisable offences. The police claimed the activists were “planning” to march towards the chief minister’s office, for which they did not have permission.

But it is to be noted that the police did not even wait for the activists to emerge out of the press conference to detain them. Eight of them were picked up from the press club even before they could speak to the media. That holding a press conference inside the UP press club could even be deemed a wrongful act by the police is a clear indication of the mood of the government, which is sending a strong signal that it will brook no dissent.

While this was done to people protesting, those trying to uphold the law have been shown that they will be acted against if they went after groups seen favourable to the ruling party. Last week, a woman IPS officer, Deputy Superintendents of Police Shreshtha Thakur was transferred after a video of her refusing to give in to the demands of local BJP leaders over the imposition of fine on a BJP worker went viral on social media.

The arrest and transfer have profound implications for media freedom in Uttar Pradesh. By invading a space such as the press club, the media’s right to report without censorship is being trampled on. If the government is allowed to use provisions of preventive detention to stop people from meeting the press, it automatically becomes a case of indirect censorship where the media is being told what was legal to report and what cannot be allowed. By transferring a police officer for doing her job, the government is sending a clear message to others whose job is to uphold the law of the land.

The Big Scroll

  • Khabar Lahariya spoke to Dalits in Banda about the incident in a village in Kushinagar, where Dalits were asked to clean themselves up before Chief Minister Adityanath’s visit in May. 


  1. In the Indian Express, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen warns against the decimation of the secular fabric of the nation. 
  2. In The Hindu, former union minister Kapil Sibal stresses on the importance of criticising the government despite the danger of being called an “anti-national”. 
  3. In the Mint, Ranjith Singh Kalha writes on why India should firmly resist Chinese arm-twisting in the recent border dispute near Sikkim. 


Don’t miss

MK Bhadrakumar points out that India must re-evaluate its ties with Israel keeping the current political developments in West Asia.

“Why does Israel matter? Primarily, India seized the window of opportunity – as China too did at one point before the window slammed shut – to use Israel to siphon US military technology, which the Americans were not in a position to transfer directly. The relationship flourished both because the Israelis were street-smart and because the Americans simply looked away. Today, it has grown into a sturdy tree and is bearing fruit.” 

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.