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India a ‘Partly Free’ Country? Why Did the US Report Downgrade Us?

India has been downgraded from ‘free’ to ‘partly-free’ by a US-based Human Rights Watchdog. 

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India is purportedly only a “partly free” country now, an annual report on global political rights and liberties called ‘Democracy Under Siege’ by US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House said recently.

According to the report, India has fallen from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’ status. It says 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-19 pandemic and violent conflict, there was a shift in the international balance towards tyranny and authoritarianism.

It states that many beleaguered activists have faced heavy jail sentences, torture, and 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,” states 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 notes 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 states.

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 find a mention in the report, which also raises concerns over the condition of millions of migrants workers during the COVID-induced lockdown in the country last year.

The report speaks about the ‘love jihad’ laws in some detail, noting that they were approved in December in Uttar Pradesh, going on to 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 states 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 concludes that under PM Modi, “India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader.”

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‘Misleading’ Report: Govt

The government on Friday, 5 March, issued a statement on the report , terming it “misleading, incorrect and misplaced.”

The government said in its statement 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.”

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

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