India is now only a “partly free country”, an annual report on global political rights and liberties called ‘Democracy Under Siege’ by US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House has said.
According to the report, 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.
“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”.
The report notes that as countries fought the COVID-pandemic and violent conflict, there has been a shift in the international balance towards tyranny and authoritarianism.
It states that many beleaguered activists have faced heavy jail sentences, torture, murder whilst lacking international support. Since 2006, this year sees the most number of countries shift towards a ‘not free status’, according to the report.
Deterioration in Rights, Liberties, Says Report
“The fall of India from the upper ranks of free nations could have a particularly damaging impact on global democratic standards”, stated the report.
Asserting that there has been a deterioration in political rights and civil liberties in India since PM 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 PM 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, and added that “judicial independence has also come under strain” in the country.
On Love Jihad Laws and Lockdown
India’s controversial love jihad laws also found a mention in the report as well, which also raised concerns over the condition of millions of migrants workers during the COVID-induced lockdown in the country.
The report spoke about the love jihad laws in some details, noting that it was approved in December in Uttar Pradesh, going on the add that a number of Muslim men have already been arrested for allegedly forcing Hindu women to convert to Islam.
On the lockdown, the report stated that millions of migrant workers found themselves stuck in cities without “work or basic resources”. “Many were forced to walk across the country to their home villages, facing various forms of mistreatment along the way,” it adds.
The report concluded by saying that under PM Modi, “India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader”.