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Pandemic of Repression: Modi Government Crushes Dissent While Ignoring India's 6 Million COVID Cases

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As India becomes just the second country to hit 6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, we speak to journalist Rana Ayyub in Mumbai, who was recently hospitalized after testing positive for the disease. India's lead pandemic agency says an antibody study suggests more than 60 million people in the country have already been infected with the coronavirus 10 times the official count but still a small fraction of its population of 1.3 billion. "It doesn't feel like India is even talking about the pandemic," says Ayyub, a global opinions writer for The Washington Post. "More than the fear of the pandemic, people in this country are fearing the massive unemployment and the fact that they are going without food."

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AMY GOODMAN: The global death toll from COVID-19 topped 1 million this week, and the World Health Organization warned the actual toll is likely much higher. More than half the deaths occurred in just four countries: the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico. On Monday, India topped 6 million cases with more than 80,000 new coronavirus cases reported in just 24 hours. India now has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, behind only the United States. India's official death toll is rapidly approaching 100,000. India's lead pandemic agency said Tuesday an antibody study suggests more than 60 million people in the country have already been infected with the coronavirus, 10 times the official count but still a small fraction of its population of 1.3 billion.

This comes amidst protests in several parts of India. Demonstrations erupted Wednesday after a 19-year-old gang-rape victim who died was cremated against her family's wishes. The victim was from the Dalit community, one of the so-called lower castes. Her brother said the accused men were all members of a privileged caste.

Last week, farmers blocked highways and railway tracks to oppose agricultural reforms they say will leave them at the mercy of corporate agribusinesses.

This week, Amnesty International announced it's forced to shutter operations and lay off all staff, after the Indian government froze its bank accounts after the group published two critical reports about the country's human rights violations. Amnesty staff say there's a, quote, "incessant witch-hunt" of human rights groups by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government. This is David Griffiths, director of the Office of the Secretary General at Amnesty International.

DAVID GRIFFITHS: They're simply seeking to silence those who criticize them, those who call out human rights abuses in the country. We have seen a steadily intensifying series of attacks for several years. That is certain.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to Mumbai, India, where we're joined by Rana Ayyub, an Indian journalist who's a global opinions writer for The Washington Post. Her book is titled Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up. She has just recovered from COVID. She was hospitalized for the coronavirus.

Rana, if you can talk about your own situation and what's happening in India today as India becomes only the second nation in the world, after our country, the United States, to surpass 6 million infections?

RANA AYYUB: Well, Amy, great to be back on the show.

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