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Freedom in the World 2020 report ranks India among least free democracies

India has become one of the world’s least free democracies, according to a global survey, which warned that “the Indian government’s alarming departures from democratic norms under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could blur the values-based distinction between Beijing and New Delhi.”

The Freedom in the World 2020 report ranks India at the 83rd position, along with Timor-Leste and Senegal. This is near the bottom of the pile among the countries categorised as “Free”, with only Tunisia receiving a lower score. India’s score fell by four points to 71, the worst decline among the world’s 25 largest democracies this year.

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The annulment of autonomy and the subsequent shutdown of Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, as well as the crackdown on mass protests have been listed as the main signs of declining freedom in the report, released on Wednesday by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog, which has been tracking global political and civil liberties for almost half a century.

“These three actions have shaken the rule of law in India and threatened the secular and inclusive nature of its political system,” said the report. “While India continues to earn a Free rating and held successful elections last spring, the BJP has distanced itself from the country’s founding commitment to pluralism and individual rights, without which democracy cannot long survive.”

The report noted that India has long been seen as a democratic counterweight to China and hence a strategic partner for the United States in the region. However, that view is changing, with India attracting criticism similar to that levied against China.

Freedom in the World 2020 report ranks India among least free democracies
 

“Just as Chinese officials vocally defended acts of state repression against Uighurs and other Muslim groups before international audiences in 2019, Modi firmly rejected criticism of his Hindu nationalist policies, which included a series of new measures that affected India’s Muslim populations from one end of the country to the other,” said the report.

The report slammed the internet blackout in Kashmir, terming it the longest shutdown ever imposed by a democracy. It said freedom of expression was under threat in India, with journalists, academics and others facing harassment and intimidation when addressing politically sensitive topics.

The report derives its methodology from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. It covers 195 countries, awarding scores based on political rights indicators such as the electoral process, political pluralism and participation and government functioning, as well as civil liberties indicators related to freedom of expression and belief associational and organisational rights, the rule of law and personal autonomy and individual rights.

India scored 34 out of 40 points in the political rights category, but only 37 out of 60 in the civil liberties category, for a total score of 71, a drop from last year’s score of 75.

The report treats “Indian Kashmir” as a separate territory, which saw its total score drop precipitously from 49 to 28 this year, moving it from a status of “Partly Free” to “Not Free”.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 11:11:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/freedom-in-the-world-2020-report-ranks-india-among-least-free-democracies/article30988277.ece

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