New Delhi: The Indian government on Friday was seen in a complete dismissal of the US-based think tank report that downgraded India’s status as a free country to “partly free”, calling it “misleading, incorrect and misplaced”.
The ruling BJP government alleged in a point-by-point rejoinder that the ranking was faulty and it was evident from the fact that “many states in India 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”, said the government.
“This reflects the working of a vibrant democracy, which gives space to those who hold varying views,” the statement read.
The Washington-based organization, Freedom House, in its annual report ‘Freedom in the World’ listed several several events of 2020 which descended world’s largest democracy into authoritarianism. The democracy research institute said referred to religious riots in Delhi, use of sedition laws against critics and hardships endured by migrant workers after PM Modi announced a sudden lockdown to control the coronavirus pandemic, “a multi-year pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies have presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies,” the report read.
However, denying the assessment, Centre said, “The Government of India treats all its citizens with equality as enshrined under the constitution of the country and all laws are applied without discrimination. Due process of law is followed in matters relating to law and order, irrespective of the identity of the alleged instigator.”
“With specific reference to the North East Delhi riots in January 2019, the law enforcement machinery acted swiftly in an impartial and fair manner. Proportionate and appropriate actions were taken to control the situation. Necessary legal and preventive actions were taken by the law enforcement machinery on all complaints/calls received, as per law and procedures.”
While, on the use of the sedition law, the government said “public order’ and ‘police’ were state subjects and the responsibility of maintaining law and order and investigating crimes was upto the state governments. “Therefore, measures as deemed fit are taken by law enforcement authorities to preserve public order,” it said.
Replying to criticism of the lockdown, the government said any mass movement of people would have spread the disease rapidly throughout the country. “Taking into consideration these facts, the global experience and need for consistency in the approach and implementation of various containment measures across the country, a nationwide lockdown was announced,” the centre said.
Whereas, clarifying to the ‘ham fisted lockdown’ the government listed various steps it said were taken to prevent distress to people and to alleviate the problems of those worst-hit by the lockdown. India had registered “one of the lowest rates of active Covid cases and deaths globally”, it said.
In response to criticism of “Intimidation of academics and journalists and crackdown on expressions of dissent by media”, the government argued that Indian constitution safeguards freedom of expression under Article 19.
“Discussion, debate and dissent is part of Indian democracy. The Government of India attaches highest importance to the safety and security of all residents of the country, including journalists. The Government of India has issued a special advisory to States and Union Territories on safety of journalists requesting them to strictly enforce the law to ensure safety and security of media persons.”
Furnishing explanation on Internet shutdowns, the Centre said such decisions were taken with the “over-arching objective of maintaining law and order under strict safeguards.”
As per Freedom House Wednesday report, India was among 73 countries downgraded for declines in political rights and civil liberties, affecting three-fourths of the world’s population. The report ranked 210 nations also found that states designated “Not Free” have reached the highest since 2006.
“The changes in India since Modi took charge in 2014 form part of a broader shift in the international balance between democracy and authoritarianism, with authoritarians generally enjoying impunity for their abuses and seizing new opportunities to consolidate power or crush dissent,” the report claimed.