Freedom House on Wednesday has accused PM Narendra Modi’s government of descending the world’s largest democracy into authoritarianism. The U.S based human rights watchdog has downgraded India’s status from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ in its annual report.
The democracy research institute is independent but receives U.S. funding. It has pointed to ham-fisted lockdown, mob violence against Muslims, persecution of journalists, and arising judicial interference since Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won power in 2014.
“Under Modi, India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all,” said Freedom in the World 2021.
“The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus and faced attacks by vigilante mobs,” it said.
India’s freedom score, calculated using political rights and civil liberties indicators, dropped four points to 67 this year, dragging the country down into the ‘Partly Free’ category. In a year when social media censorship has been hotly seated, while the government shut down Internet connectivity in Kashmir and Delhi’s borders, India’s Internet freedom score dropped to just 51.
Freedom House has been tracking the course of democracy since 1941. Pointing to a decline in global democracy over the last 15 years, it said that less than 20 percent of the world’s population lives in free countries, the lowest since 1995.