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‘Misleading’: Govt on Report Downgrading India to ‘Partly Free’

The report by Freedom House, released on Wednesday, said that India has fallen from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’ status.

Updated
India
3 min read
Image used for representational purposes.
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The government on Friday, 5 March, issued a statement on the report by US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House in which it had said that India’s status as a free country has declined to “partly free”, terming it “misleading, incorrect and misplaced.”

The report, released on Wednesday, had said that India has fallen from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’ status, stating that political rights and civil liberties in the country have deteriorated since PM Narendra Modi took over in 2014.

The government said in its statement that the fact that the report was misleading was “evident from the fact that many states in India under its federal structure are ruled by parties other than the one at the national level, through an election process which is free and fair and which is conducted by an independent election body.”

“This reflects the working of a vibrant democracy, which gives space to those who hold varying views,” the government said in its rebuttal.

WHAT HAD THE REPORT SAID?

“Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism,” the report said, as it spoke about the “ham-fisted lockdown”, the “government’s crackdown on critics” and “the scapegoating of Muslims”.

Asserting that there has been a deterioration in political rights and civil liberties in India since Modi’s tenure began, the report noted that there has been “increased pressure on human rights organisations, rising intimidation of academics and journalists, and a spate of bigoted attacks, including lynchings, aimed at Muslims”.

The decline has only increased with Modi’s re-election in 2019, the report further stated.

Freedom House also raised concerns over the crackdown in the country amid the CAA and NRC protests, as well as India’s controversial love jihad laws. It also criticised the condition of millions of migrants workers during the COVID-induced lockdown in the country.

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WHAT DID THE GOVERNMENT SAY ON THE REPORT?

“The Government of India treats all its citizens with equality as enshrined under the Constitution of the country and all laws are applied without discrimination,” the statement read.

“With specific reference to the North East Delhi riots in January 2019, the law enforcement machinery acted swiftly in an impartial and fair manner. Proportionate and appropriate actions were taken to control the situation. Necessary legal and preventive actions were taken by the law enforcement machinery on all complaints/calls received, as per law and procedures,” it added.

With regard to the criticism of the lockdown and its effects on the migrants, the government said that any mass movement of people “would have spread the disease rapidly throughout the country.”

“Taking into consideration these facts, the global experience and need for consistency in the approach and implementation of various containment measures across the country, a nationwide lockdown was announced.”
Government in its statement

It also added that the government was fully conscious of possible distress faced by people during this period and took various steps to address the situation.

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Further, in response to the report’s comments about the government’s “rising intimidation of academics and journalists” and the “crackdown on critics”, the statement said, “The Government of India attaches highest importance to the safety and security of all residents of the country, including journalists. The Government of India has issued a special advisory to States and Union Territories on safety of journalists requesting them to strictly enforce the law to ensure safety and security of media persons.”

The government also defended itself staunchly on the questions of internet shutdowns as well as the crackdown on Amnesty International mentioned by Freedom House in its report.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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