In early november justices at India’s Supreme Court turned their attention to an urgent plea. Arnab Goswami, a prominent journalist, had been dragged from his home and hurled into jail. Government ministers decried the arrest as an assault on free speech, demanding that Mr Goswami be granted bail. The hearing was brief. “If we as a constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty, then who will?” proclaimed one judge. That evening Mr Goswami swept out of Mumbai’s Taloja prison into a rapturous crowd. “This is a victory for the people of India!” he crowed.
But was it? To much of India’s commentariat, Mr Goswami’s case represented not a test of freedom so much as a test of power. On its current trajectory, by all evidence (as the chart on the next page illustrates), the world’s largest democracy is headed to a future that is less, not more free.