7. Homecoming | Crooked Media
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July 01, 2024
Killing Justice
7. Homecoming

In This Episode

Ravi reviews the case in light of the Supreme Court’s decision – and the ongoing Indian elections.




Ravi Gupta: The Judge Loya story is many things. It’s a mystery. One many have given up on solving. It’s a Rorschach test. What one sees in the patterns predicts their political leanings. It’s also a microcosm of problems that go to the core of Indian democracy, polarized politics, judicial corruption, and the erosion of trust in Indian institutions. That’s why I’ve been so invested in this story, because those issues are as urgent today as they’ve ever been. I wanted to talk through this with someone who had lived with the Loya mystery much longer than I had. So I met up with Atul Dev again, one of the Caravan reporters who followed up on the story in the months after it broke. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] What do you think that history should say about this Loya episode? Like the whole thing? There are questions around journalism, the independence of the judiciary, the independence of police, and even the medical establishment. There’s just so many questions.


[clip of Atul Dev] Why do you think I called it the political scandal of this government? And this government has been in power for ten years, and this stands out. I am not saying that they haven’t done far worse. You can go on naming about like, you know, the terrible things that have been done. But here you had something crucial in that, like a family comes through, sits on the camera in front of a journalist and says these things. How did the media react to it? How did they ignore it? Then the conduct of the Supreme Court and how after that, everyone sort of just moved on and the Supreme Court shut the case. It just sits there. And what comes of it? [music break]


Ravi Gupta: This week, that’s what I’ll be asking. What comes of it? What does the judge’s death mean for India? But before we get there, I’m going to tell you what I think happened to Judge Loya. This is Killing Justice and I’m Ravi Gupta. This is episode seven, Homecoming. [music break] While I was reporting, I kept adding to a dueling series of lists. In one column were facts that point to a conspiracy, and then the other were facts that point to a natural death. And then there was a third list, the longest list of all, outstanding questions. As the lists grew, I realized they were full of finicky details I find hard to assess. Ones that could be easy to write off as oversights or mistakes. DCG reports incorrect name and date. The Loya family’s claim that the judge’s cell phone was returned blank. The little differences in witnesses accounts. I could go on. But when I take a step back, I know that these potential coincidences and discrepancies aren’t damning enough to challenge the official narrative. Even if, as Atul says, the sheer number of them makes you wonder. 


[clip of Atul Dev] You point out these tiny little details in the narrative, and individually each can be explained away for sure. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] This is the heart of the question. [?]


[clip of Atul Dev] But that’s what I’m saying. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Yeah. 


[clip of Atul Dev] Individually each but like, are you telling me that about 30 different coincidences took place? You have an official version of events, and you have further information by the ways of reporting which we published, which is solid, you know, backed by documentary evidence and reported interviews and all the rest that continues to raise the questions. And so you come upon this maybe, maybe not world. [laughter]


Ravi Gupta: Reporting the story I found myself in that maybe, maybe not world. Stuck between the official narrative and a list of facts that don’t add up, but the details that draw my attention are the ones that can’t be explained away as mistakes or coincidences. Like the allegation that Loya had been offered a bribe shortly before he died. There’s no follow up reporting, no internal investigation in the Bombay High Court. No comment from the man at the center of the allegations. Then there’s Doctor Vyawahare. Caravan reporting suggests he influenced Judge Loya’s postmortem report. He’s denied that, but his history potentially raises some red flags. The Caravan reported that a previous employer’s investigation found Vyawahare had altered autopsies in the past. It’s possible there are innocent explanations for all of these allegations, but without a formal investigation, no alternative explanations have emerged. So we’re just left with two sides of a story. So who is lying and why? The question haunted my final days in India. As I’ve said before, too many times, I don’t know what happened. But at the end of this long journey, I feel like I owe it to you to tell you what I think. There are basically three possibilities. First, Judge Loya died of natural causes and nothing nefarious happened. Second, there was a vast conspiracy and powerful people, from police to judges to doctors, pulled every string they could to cover it up. But there’s a third possibility. Perhaps there was a partial conspiracy that encompassed some of the story, but not all of it. Maybe Shah did conspire in the Sohrabuddin murder, and maybe his people were putting pressure on Loya to accept a bribe to discharge the case. And maybe that pressure exacerbated Loya’s heart problem. The suspicious behavior that came after it, it could just be a result of a generalized climate of fear combined with an instinct for self-preservation. So where do I land? I think some form of conspiracy was likely. There are too many conflicting accounts and the circumstances around the case’s origins are too suspicious to ignore. Especially the questions raised by the Sohrabuddin murder. Because since the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2018, more information has come out about the Sohrabuddin affair that might explain why the gangster was killed in the first place. Those accounts have only heightened the mystery. To explain the connection, let’s rewind a few years all the way back to the early 2000s. A pivotal time in the careers of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. When they were leading the state of Gujarat. In February 2002, a train carrying Hindu pilgrims stopped at the Godhra Station in Gujarat. The pilgrims were returning from Ayodhya, a holy site, and were inside a train car when it caught fire. Multiple investigations have come to different conclusions about the cause of the blaze, but one of the most reputable ones suggested that the fire was just an accident from a source inside the train car. At the time, the deaths caused an eruption of rage, and it was widely suggested that perhaps the burning train was not an accident at all. 


[clip of unnamed news reporter] Right wing politicians blamed Muslims living in this area, and India saw its worst sectarian violence in years. 


Ravi Gupta: The details of the violence that followed are excruciating. Throughout Gujarat, Muslim shops were torched, women raped, men killed, and bodies were mutilated and set ablaze for crowds. 


[clip of unnamed news reporter 2] The streets have become a battleground. The grief and anger has boiled over into violence, looting and religious hatred. 


Ravi Gupta: The police, according to official and unofficial sources, did little to intervene. Atul Dev again. 


[clip of Atul Dev] So you can see the pictures of the riots and that the police is standing idly by while the rioters are doing their thing. And these are gory scenes. 


Ravi Gupta: More than a thousand people were killed. Some totals count twice as high. Rumors swirled that the police were ordered not to intervene by Gujarat’s chief minister himself, none other than Narendra Modi. And that led to consequences. President George W. Bush banned Modi from entering the US for severe violations of religious freedom. The ban was still in place when I was working for the Obama administration. But in India, the riots had a very different impact. As the news spread, rather than harming Modi’s political prospects, Modi used it to build up his national profile. One journalist described it this way in a recent BBC documentary. 


[clip of unnamed BBC journalist] Violence against Muslims became part of the messaging that Narendra Modi used in the election campaign. It is the violence and how he reacted to it that has constructed the person of Narendra Modi. [clip in a different language plays]


Ravi Gupta: Modi has always denied any responsibility for the riots, and the courts later found no evidence of Modi’s complicity. But for many, the question was never settled. The Gujarat riots continue to loom large in Modi’s legacy, in part due to a story that came out a couple of months after the violence. A whistleblower story reported that just after the train fire, there was a secret meeting with Modi and other Gujarat officials. In that meeting, Modi allegedly gave an order to police officials to stand down against the mob. The source for the story was a cabinet minister named Haren Pandya. It’s been disputed that Pandya was in the meeting with Modi at all. But Pandya may have sealed his fate by going to the press. 


[clip of Atul Dev] He is assassinated. 


Ravi Gupta: Pandya was found in his car outside a public park with seven gunshot wounds. 


[clip of Atul Dev] This sort of sends out a message. 


Ravi Gupta: According to the official narrative. Pandya was killed by a group of Muslims for his involvement in the riots. 


[clip of unnamed news reporter 3] The CBI had stated in its chargesheet at that point at time that the murder was carried out to avenge the 2002 riots, so a revenge attack [?]. 


Ravi Gupta: The Supreme Court said he had led a mob that destroyed a mosque and after a drawn out legal saga, 12 Muslim suspects were convicted of his murder. But many, including members of Pandya’s family, have questioned the official narrative along the way. Then in 2018, just months after the Supreme Court declined to pursue an investigation into Loya’s death, a different theory of Pandya’s murder emerged. Remember Sohrabuddin Sheikh? The gangster at the center of the case Judge Loya was hearing when he died? One of his associates– 


[clip of unnamed journalist 4] A key witness, Azam Khan– 


Ravi Gupta: –dropped some bombshell testimony while in court. 


[clip of unnamed journalist 4] –has told a Mumbai court that Sohrabuddin had told him that he and two others had got the contract to kill the former Gujarat Home Minister, Haren Pandya. 


Ravi Gupta: So, a witness said Sheikh claimed he was contracted to kill Haren Pandya and the contract had come from one of Modi’s top enforcers. This news put a new frame on everything. If the witness was to be believed, these deaths no longer seemed like isolated incidents. They seemed like a string of dominoes, each pushing the other over. Haren Pandya was assassinated. Then Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed by the Gujarat police. Then the judge overseeing a case charging Amit Shah in Sheikh’s murder died under mysterious circumstances. Atul says, if these details end up being true, and if Judge Loya was killed, his death could be connected to covering up Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. 


[clip of Atul Dev] So it kind of goes back to Gujarat. And the idea that whatever happened over those four days, the truth of it can not come out. 


Ravi Gupta: Of course, just because these events are incredibly suspect doesn’t mean every dot connects. Just like with Judge Loya’s death, we’re left with hearsay and circumstantial evidence. A bunch of ifs and coulds. But that’s kind of the point. According to Human Rights Watch, inquiries into what happened in Gujarat were slow and incomplete. Disinformation flourished. One media expert calls the whole thing an archetypal 21st century post-truth event. And the Modi administration is still trying to kill the narrative that he was culpable in the violence. Just last year, the government banned a deeply researched BBC documentary looking at the evidence against Modi, and then raided the BBC’s offices in Mumbai and Delhi. Atul has been living in New York for three years now, getting a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. Living so far away has shifted how he experiences the changes happening back home. 


[clip of Atul Dev] When I go to India, I go there for a month. I meet my friends, I meet my family. You know, I meet the people I used to work with, and bad things are happening at an exponential speed and the speed has increased since I left. But people don’t talk about them that much anymore. That’s the difference. 


Ravi Gupta: Modi was just reelected to a historic third term. He’s only the second prime minister to get three terms, and the first since the country’s founding leader, Jawaharlal Nehru. The email tip that started me on this path had a line that stood out to me. The idea that Judge Loya’s story could bring down the current administration’s House of Cards. But talking to Atul, I wondered whether Modi was invincible. 


[clip of Atul Dev] Everyone is sort of more resigned. Nobody I have spoken to has any sort of hope of political change. 


Ravi Gupta: Atul says it’s hard to imagine Indians voting the BJP out of office. But Modi is already 73. He won’t be around to be the face of the party forever. Within the BJP, many already see his successor, Amit Shah. [clip of Amit Shah speaking in Hindi plays] At the beginning of this show, I set out to investigate the death of one man, Judge Loya. What I found was the death of justice in a more expansive sense. At every step of this case, key institutions failed. From police during the riots to the medical establishment during the autopsy, to the press coverage of the case, to the courts in so many different ways. The system failed Judge Loya. But his case is also just one high profile example of how the system fails citizens at every level. For many Indians, justice itself is dead. My time on the reporting trail had worn me down. The India that my father grew up in, the picture he had painted for me of his childhood felt completely disconnected to the place I was experiencing. But I had something to look forward to. My dad and I planned to meet and make the trek to the village where he had grown up. In my mind, it was like we were planning a trip back in time to the other India I had heard about in my dad’s stories. It was my chance to see if the village of my father’s past still held a piece of him, and perhaps a piece of the old India as well. 




Ravi Gupta: At the end of my first trip to India, I met up with my dad in a hotel lobby in Banares. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Alright, so we just left a hotel in Banares. 


Ravi Gupta: We hired a car to drive us to Sahatwar, his childhood village five hours northeast. When he mentioned our destination, the driver returned a confused look. Sahatwar, he repeated, unfamiliar with the name. In my entire trip through India, I only once found someone who knew the place. Sahatwar seemed to exist only in my father’s memories. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] This is fairly remote, this area, right? 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] Yeah. These are all rural areas. 


Ravi Gupta: Staring out the window of our hired car on that drive, I was relieved to be away from the crowded streets and choking smog of the cities. It was a literal breath of fresh air to be out in the Uttar Pradesh countryside. Before we arrived, my dad had described the area as something similar to the Mississippi Delta. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] It’s between the two rivers, one of the Ganges River on the south, and all of the rivers are coming from Himalayan mountains flowing into this Ganges plain, and it’s extremely isolated. 


Ravi Gupta: He was born there in 1953, six years after India’s independence. Years before he was born, his father, my grandfather, had operated a textile business. But when Gandhi, in the name of independence, called for a boycott of British textiles, my grandfather folded up the family business in solidarity, thrusting the family into poverty. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] We did have land, so the living off the land. Enough to feed us, but not much more. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] So basically, you’re growing enough food to feed the family, but not really enough to live. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] Not and even that was not enough. 


Ravi Gupta: My father was the youngest of nine. From the beginning, my grandfather saw a different future for his sons. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] So he emphasized that the way to get out of this situation is the education. So that was the key. That was the mantra you can say. 


Ravi Gupta: My father honored that vision. He went to the US after he graduated from medical school. And he’s lived there since the ’70s. So it had been decades since he’d seen his hometown. And it was almost unrecognizable. In my time in India, I was preoccupied with the country’s challenges. But as my father and I drove through the countryside, he was noticing something else, progress. As we neared Sahatwar my father paused the conversation and pointed. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] So, you know, we just passed a water tanker with a running pipe water. 


Ravi Gupta: A water tank for irrigation. That was what stuck out to my father. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] That never existed when I was growing up anywhere. 


Ravi Gupta: I was seeing everything with American eyes that didn’t look twice. But for him, seeing mud huts replaced by concrete structures. Ox carts and bicycles replaced by cars. It was startling. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] To find a paved road this close to my home town is kind of a miracle. Seeing miracle in really, literally. 


Ravi Gupta: This kind of development in rural India has been one of Narendra Modi’s main focuses. Economic development is what he promised in his first campaign for prime minister, and it’s a big reason why he’s been so popular. He’s made many people’s lives better in concrete, everyday ways. Like the brand new highway that connected Sahatwar to the bigger cities nearby. Without that highway, the trip would have taken twice as long. These projects are undeniable accomplishments. Whatever you think of Modi’s politics. Infrastructure initiatives have made life easier for many Indians and burnished Modi’s international reputation. In the kind of extreme poverty my father knew as a kid there has dropped, some say by two thirds. But the picture is complicated. GDP per person under Modi is down. The unemployment rate has barely budged. And perhaps most shockingly, income inequality in India is now worse than it was under the colonial rule of the British Raj. Beyond those economic measures, I was struck by the level of environmental degradation. 83 of the top 100 most polluted cities in the world are in India. There’s a ceiling on growth when you can’t trust your government or breathe the air. And I’m not alone in this assessment. It’s something that Princeton professor Ashoka Mody writes about in his recent book, India Is Broken. 


[clip of Ashoka Mody] Where I think you and I have reached the same conclusion, is the utter absence of civic consciousness in the system, whether in politics or in society or in economic behavior. 


Ravi Gupta: Ashoka Mody, no relation to Narendra, is an economist, so he thinks a lot about how social and political factors impact India’s economy. The reason why I wanted to talk to him is because when he looks at India, he sees a country suffering economically because the government devalues the dignity and welfare of its citizens. 


[clip of Ashoka Mody] So the education system remains poor, and about a third of the Indian kids are stunted. There’s wide anemia amongst women. Gender equality remains a huge problem in India. 


Ravi Gupta: For Ashoka, Modi’s failures in moral leadership are inhibiting long term growth. And he links these failures to Narendra Modi and the BJP’s anti-democratic tendencies. Authoritarianism has become such a hallmark of Modi’s tenure that it’s easy to trace every issue to a failure of his leadership. But Ashoka says that’s not the whole picture. As he puts it, the BJP only had to drive a truck through the cracks in India’s democratic foundations that earlier governments had created. Some of the underlying issues in India go all the way back to its early days of independence. Anti-Democratic threads were woven into the fabric of the nation. Ashoka Mody identifies several, including a constitutional provision that allowed the federal government to take over state governments, giving the Prime Minister enormous power. And he points to an early constitutional amendment that Prime Minister Nehru created to restrict freedom of speech. 


[clip of Ashoka Mody] That became a bit of a Trojan horse, as subsequent regimes used it, and then eventually grossly misused it. 


Ravi Gupta: These forces were at play in 1952. At the time, it all made sense. There needed to be a way for the national leadership to hold the new country together. But in 1967, a new prime minister took it to a new level. Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi, no relation to Mahatma Gandhi was elected. 


[clip of Ashoka Mody] Mrs. Gandhi is the pivot point in my story, both in terms of the economics and but especially in terms of the norms. 


Ravi Gupta: Gandhi had an authoritarian bent, and she’s probably best known for a period called The Emergency. For nearly two years, her administration suspended Indian civil liberties and imprisoned political opponents. She was actually assassinated in office in 1984, but her tenure reshaped the prime ministership. 


[clip of Ashoka Mody] So Mrs. Gandhi leaves behind a legacy where norms are being shredded almost to the point of disrepair. 


Ravi Gupta: Indira Gandhi’s party, the Congress Party, was a dominant force in Indian politics for 60 years. Over those decades, corruption exploded and then became entrenched. The Congress Party became synonymous with that corruption, and it made many people eager for a change in leadership. But within the Congress Party change was elusive because the same family ran the show for 38 years. And that’s just counting when they officially held the Prime Minister’s office. It began with Nehru, followed by his daughter, Indira Gandhi, and after she died in office, another family member took the reins less than 24 hours later, her son, Rajiv Gandhi. 


[clip of Ashoka Mody] You ask yourself for a second. In what sense in was India a democracy if the son gets anointed as prime minister without having any political background, never having done any grassroots work. You know, he just came in at the top and became prime minister. 


Ravi Gupta: The pattern continued even as recently as 2014, during the tenure of the last Congress Prime minister, it was widely believed that another Gandhi, Rajiv’s widow, Sonia, was pulling the strings. And who is the face of the Congress party today? Rahul Gandhi, Nehru’s great grandson. To many, this wasn’t a political party. It was a political dynasty. And according to Ashoka, it was one that presided over paralyzing corruption and stubborn poverty. The BJP and the RSS seized on those problems and wove together a message that channeled valid frustration into ethnic and religious resentment. And that’s where we are now. Modi has capitalized on these anti-democratic threads that have long woven through India’s government. And in 2020, V-Dem, a think tank that does one of the most definitive democracy surveys, downgraded India from a democracy to an electoral autocracy. 


[clip of Ashoka Mody] An electoral autocracy is one where elections are held, but in terms of civil rights and freedom of press and institutional functioning, has tended towards autocratic methods. 


Ravi Gupta: V-Dem is not alone. Many watchdog groups agree that India is no longer the world’s largest democracy. [music break] As I traveled with my father through the countryside towards Sahatwar, those big questions were far from my dad’s mind. As we approached the tiny village, I noticed that my dad’s knee seemed to be bouncing up and down faster. He seemed nervous, so I asked him. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] So as you head back here, do you think you’ll recognize anybody or know anybody in this town anymore? 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] Well, it’s it’s going to be very difficult to me, it seems like, because, you know um, most of the people who are older than me, they apparently have died, according to my older brother who came here ten years ago. And there are many others who have died since then. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Well, let’s make it a goal. Let’s try to find one person. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] Yeah. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] That that, you know, and I think a bonus would be a one person who’s ever met your father. 


Ravi Gupta: With that goal in mind, we pulled up to the center of Sahatwar near an old temple that my dad recognized. The town center had the feel of an Italian village with rows of narrow stalls selling vegetables and other goods. We parked in a narrow lane and joined the stream of villagers on their way to the market. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] So my dad is over here. He just uh walked up to a random shop, asked this guy, where the house is that he grew up in and the guy actually knows, knows our family. 


Ravi Gupta: As soon as the man saw my dad, he knelt and touched his feet. A sign of respect. This gesture characterized nearly every interaction we had. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] So we’re we’re now in another shop. 


Ravi Gupta: At the next stall, we actually ran into family. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] They’re my cousins. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] They’re your cousins? 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] Yes. 


Oh. [banter]


Ravi Gupta: The man was running a stationary shop. Tears streamed down his face as he told us we were the closest relatives to visit in many years. My dad brought up a photo on his phone for the stationery shop man to look at. In the picture, my dad, who’s probably no more than ten years old, stood barefoot alongside a dozen or so neighborhood kids. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] To my knowledge, my dad has one photo of when he was a kid, it’s him and group of kids, and–


Ravi Gupta: The man was in the photo. He was a teenager when it was taken, but now he walked with a cane. The man cried. My dad cried. Even I got a little misty. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] My dad was a kid. So yeah. 


Ravi Gupta: After my father’s worry that he wouldn’t know anyone. It ended up seeming like he knew everyone. I’ve never seen him so happy. After the market, we walked up the street to see the home my father had grown up in.  


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] That’s our house. 


Ravi Gupta: It was a crumbling two storey yellow building with a square courtyard centered around a water well. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] The the yellow one. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] Oh, really? 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] Yeah. 


Ravi Gupta: The caretaker of the house. An old woman that my father recognized, greeted us. She was already preparing us a meal. I guess she’d heard from someone in the village that we were there. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] [?] Maybe 50 years has gone by since I saw her last time. 


Ravi Gupta: As we chatted, she hinted to my dad that she would have never recognized me as a Gupta. [woman speaking and Avdesh laughing]. 


[clip of Ravi Gupta] What’d she say?


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] She said you look like an Englishman. [laughter]


Ravi Gupta: Even in my dad’s village. I couldn’t shake the skepticism that someone who looked like me could be Ravi Gupta. She showed us around the house. Finally, we stopped in my grandfather’s room. [clip of people talking indistinct]


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] He used to sleep right here. He used to sleep right here, he had a little cabinet type thing that had all these religious books. And these windows–


Ravi Gupta: My dad translated the memories of my grandfather that the caretaker shared with us. 


[clip of Avdesh Gupta] Basically, he used to narrate Bhagavad Gita and some other things like that. And then she remembers that he used to sleep on the floor. Um, just one little blanket. Actually it was made of straw. And he used to have just one little cloth that he would wear. 


Ravi Gupta: I lingered there in my grandfather’s room for a while, imagining what he must have been like. He passed away before I was born, but I’d heard so many stories about him. How disciplined and spiritual he’d been. I thought about how he’d given up everything for Gandhi’s cause, and how he’d pushed his kids to overcome nearly insurmountable odds to become professionals in the United States. Eventually, my dad and I made our way up to the roof, where we could look over the narrow cobblestone lanes of the village. It was there on that roof in conversation with my dad that I learned something else important. My father was the youngest of nine. His father was old by the time my dad was born and was functionally like a grandfather. And when I asked my dad about their relationship, he admitted they didn’t really have one. Maybe that’s why my dad struggled as a father. Maybe he didn’t have a model for how it was done. The traffic back to Banaras was brutal and made worse by a train that got stuck on the tracks, creating a mile long traffic jam in the middle of nowhere. My dad and I didn’t arrive back until about nine. That night in the courtyard of our hotel, my dad and I had the most honest conversation we’ve ever had. We talked about his childhood, his struggles adjusting to life in the US, and what he wanted out of his remaining years. How he wanted to be more present for his kids. He didn’t outright say it, but I think he confronted something in going home, perhaps something to do with his father’s ghost. As I set off the next morning, he hugged me and thanked me for taking him home and said it was the best day of his life. It was one of the best days of my life too. The whole experience was a gift and a brief respite from the realities of Modi’s India that I had come face to face with during my reporting. I’m embarrassed to say that I came to India nostalgic for a place and time I hadn’t experienced. The years before my father’s birth, when my grandfather joined the independence movement, when Mahatma Gandhi’s pluralistic ideals brought together people from diverse backgrounds to stand against British rule and create a fledgling democracy. But I found an India that had become something else. I can’t help but think of something Atul Dev had told me when I interviewed him in New York City. 


[clip of Atul Dev] A friend of mine was visiting here and we were talking about it. And you know, when you’ve had a few drinks and you’re sort of talking about and he was like, you know what it feels like? And again, it’s it’s like all the joy has been drained from the society. 


Ravi Gupta: The Loya story tells us a lot about the forces that might make someone feel this way. How cynicism and distrust have so eroded people’s faith in each other that they stop engaging altogether, and how impunity infects and spreads through institutions until they can no longer be trusted. But not all hope is lost. As we were finishing the series, many of the people I’d met were fanning across the country, organizing for their chosen candidates in the country’s national elections, an opportunity for citizens to render their judgment on Modi and shot at the ballot box. And then something truly unexpected happened. 


[clip of unnamed journalist 5] Modi celebrating victory, but not the type he had hoped for. 


[clip of unnamed journalist 6] The ruling BJP lost seats to a stronger than expected opposition. 


[clip of unnamed journalist 7] Here the Congress called the result a victory for democracy and an indictment of Prime Minister Modi. 


[clip of unnamed journalist 8] The country has unanimously and clearly stated we do not want Mr. Narendra Modi and Mr. Amit Shah to be involved in the running of this country. 


Ravi Gupta: Next time we’ll take stock of these surprising results and what they mean for India’s future. [music break] Killing Justice is an original podcast from Crooked Media and the Branch media. I’m your host, Ravi Gupta. Our executive producers are me, Ravi Gupta, Katie Long, Ben Rhodes and Alison Falzetta. With special thanks to Sarah Geismer, Madeleine Haeringer, and Kate Malekoff. Our senior producer is Khrista Rypl, and Lacey Roberts is our story editor. Our associate producer is Sydney Rapp. Fact checking by Amy Tardif. Sound design and mixing by Sarah Gibble-Laska, with assistant editing by Nathalie Escudero. And original score by Karim Douaidy. [music break]