New incidents add to the concerns on fresh attempts to limit freedom of expression in the country. A Dalit folk singer has been arrested and kept in custody and charged with sedition solely on the grounds of singing songs with a message to close down state owned liquor stores. International Human Rights organisations are calling on global public support for his release.

A documentary on the caste system and eating habits was withdrawn from a recent film festival in New Delhi. According to the BBC, the documentary “Caste on the Menu Card” was the only film among the 35 sent to India’s information and broadcasting ministry to be refused clearance for “technical” reasons last week.

BBC’s Vikas Pandey spoke to the students from the Tata Institute of Social Science who made the film. They were concerned that people formed opinions without even watching the film. “It is not about beef eating, it looks at deeper issues of India’s caste system and food habits related with it,” says Reetika Revathy Subramanian.

These incidents are just the latest in a wave of oppression of voices of dissent by the Indian Government and can be seen as expressions of the growing political intolerance in the country. Civil society organisations are raising serious concerns over the shrinking space for civil society and the curtailing of the right to dissent in India and in the past month dozens of prominent Indian scholars, artists, writers and filmmakers have returned their National awards in protest.

More information

Urgent appeal from Human Rights Defenders Alert on the Dalit folk singer case (HRDN)

Dalit folk singer arrested for sedition must be released (Amnesty International)

India: Folk Singer Jailed for Sedition – Use of Archaic, Abusive Law Spotlights Need for Repeal (Human Rights Watch)

Read the BBC article on the refusal of clearance for the student film -“Caste on the Menu”

Sign the petition to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ask him to lend his voice in support of free speech, civil society and the right to dissent in India.