India's democracy status has been demoted from free to ‘partly free' in a report issued on global rights by the Freedom House. Freedom House is a US government-funded NGO that studies political freedom around the world. The report titled as ‘Freedom in the World 2021 - Democracy under Siege' stated that India ‘appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader.’
The report read, “India’s fall from the upper ranks of free nations could have a particularly damaging impact on global democratic standards.”
India has been granted the status of ‘free’ by the Freedom House in its reports in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and had maintained a declining score from 77 to 71 throughout this period. India scored 67 out of 100 in the latest report.
The latest report also brought to light that freedom rights in India have been disintegrating since 2014. This is dues to intensified pressure on human rights organisations, surging oppression of academics and journalists, and a ‘spate of bigoted attacks, including lynchings, aimed at Muslims.’
This deterioration of freedom in India accelerated during the year 2019 and boosted drastically during the novel coronavirus pandemic during which the government ‘included a ham-fisted lockdown that resulted in the dangerous and unplanned displacement of millions of internal migrant workers.’
The report said, “India is acting as a counterweight influence to authoritarian influence from countries like China rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice. The government and also the ruling party are tragically driving India towards authoritarianism.”
The Freedom House also cited incidents such as intensified and heated protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the arrest of several journalists who criticised the government's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic as factors that have contributed to the demotion of India's democratic status.
The report also said, “Judicial independence has also come under strain; in one case, a judge was transferred immediately after reprimanding the police for taking no action during riots in New Delhi that leftover 50 people, mostly Muslims, dead.”
India remains a multiparty democracy but the government has ‘presided over discriminatory policies and increased violence affecting the Muslim population.’ The harassment of journalists, non-governmental organizations and other critics to the government who dare to raise their voice has also been ‘increasing significantly.’
Freedom House acknowledged India's efforts to conduct free and fair elections and also gave high scores to it for the same but it also reflected deep concern over ‘opaque financing of political parties – notably through electoral bonds that allow donors to obscure their identities.’ The report said, “Political participation is generally free in India. But, some political actors have sought to inflame communal tensions with the goal of energising their own supporters.”
India received a considerably low score in the issue concerning the provision of full political rights and electoral opportunities to different ethnic, racial and religious minorities.