New Delhi: India’s status was slipped from “free” to “partly free” for the first time since 1997 according to an annual ranking of democracies by the U.S.-government funded research group, citing worsening civil rights under Prime Minister Narendra Modi regime.
The world’s largest democracy downgraded in rankings this year because of continuing discrimination against its Muslim citizens and increased harassment of government critics and journalists, as per the ‘Freedom in the World’ report released by the Washington-based organization, Freedom House.
The report also listed several events in 2020 — 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.
India was among 73 countries downgraded for declines in political rights and civil liberties, affecting three-fourths of the world’s population. India’s status change means that less than 20% of the world’s people now live in a “free” country, the smallest proportion since 1995, the report said.
The changes in India took place since PM 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 further claimed.
The report ranked 210 nations also found that states designated “Not Free” have reached the highest since 2006. Those affected included not just authoritarian states like China, Belarus, and Venezuela, but also troubled democracies like the U.S. and India.
The Washington-based organization, Freedom House, was formally established in 1941 in New York to promote American involvement in World War II and the fight against fascism, according to its website.