India no more a free country on the list of global freedom watchdog

New Delhi: Freedom House, a Washington-based watchdog has downgraded India from a ‘free’ country to partly free citing violence and crackdown on civil and human rights.

The Freedom House report observed that the free world had shrunk as a result and that the country was being driven towards ”authoritarianism”.

Freedom House is a Washington-based non-profit, non-government organisation that has been conducting research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights since 1941.

”Political rights and civil liberties in the country have deteriorated since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, with increased pressure on human rights organizations, rising intimidation of academics and journalists, and a spate of bigoted attacks, including lynchings, aimed at Muslims,” the report reads.

The report also raised concern on declining representation of Muslims as well as other minority communities in electoral politics of India.

”Muslim candidates notably won 27 of 545 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, up from 22 previously. However, this amounted to just 5 per cent of the seats in the chamber, whereas Muslims make up some 14 per cent of the population,” the report said,

The report added that with enactment of CAA and the proposals of nation-wide citizenship tests under NRC the ”political rights of India’s Muslims continue to be threatened”.

”Last year, the government intensified its crackdown on protesters opposed to a discriminatory citizenship law and arrested dozens of journalists who aired criticism of the official pandemic response. 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 left over 50 people, mostly Muslims, dead,” the report pointed out.

It took note of the law curbing inter-faith marriages in Uttar Pradesh.

Freedom House mentions key developments of 2020 for this decline in the freedom index. These included the Delhi riots which killed more than 50 people, most of them Muslims, amidst violence over anti-CAA protests; use of sedition law and IT Act against journalists, students, and private citizens in response to critical speech on CAA and Covid-19 pandemic; hardships faced by migrant labourers and escape-goating of Muslims as alleged spreaders of virus in the initial days of country-wide strict lockdown enforced by central government to curb the spread of coronavirus; and acquittal of BJP leaders who are seen as alleged conspirators in the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 by a Hindu nationalist mob.

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