India’s status as ‘free’ in the Freedom House 2021 report falls to partially free. In 2020, the Freedom House report ranked India as “free” on political rights and civil liberties but in the annual 2021 report, it was lowered to “partly free” by the United States government-funded non-governmental organization’s annual Freedom in the world rankings.
The report states that the spiral down in India’s status from the “upper ranks of free nations” may have a harmful impact on international democratic standards. It also states “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 also states, “The decline only accelerated after Modi’s reelection in 2019.”
“The Narendra Modi-led Indian government and its allies in states continued to crack down on dissent during 2020, the report stated. It also highlighted that the coronavirus-induced lockdown “resulted in the dangerous and unplanned displacement of millions of internal migrant workers”.
In 2020, millions of migrants lost their jobs, owners threw them on streets and due to the lockdown, cops finding them on roads beat them up badly, some were humiliated made to do bunny hops, in some places, they were fumigated with a pesticide kind of liquid instead of the normal human hand wash. Humiliated and hungry, they chose to walk back to their villages. Sometimes if kind workers ask them if they had eaten, they would burst into tears, and in one statement, they said, “They treat us just like dogs.”
That long walk back home by the migrants got many dehydrated, starving and sick, and per reports of journalists and social workers, a hundred or more were killed by moving vehicles en route. Some slept on railway tracks not knowing the train services had been restarted and a family was killed that night. The BJP government kept no data of their death nor the whole tragic exodus, and it is only social workers and activists who helped these poor people on the ground.
The Freedom House report also stated: “The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus and faced attacks by vigilante mobs.”
It went on to state, “Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi, and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism.”
This was in reference to the vilification of members of the Tablighi Jamaat in 2020. The Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic evangelical organisation present in several countries, has its headquarters at the Banglewali Masjid Markaz in Nizamuddin locality of Delhi. Several media houses added to the vilification, placing insult over injury and this hate spread to the “nationalized” BJP masses.
The Freedom House report also noted the laws against religious conversions that BJP-ruled states have adopted, saying that critics fear this “will effectively restrict interfaith marriage in general”. It said:
“Under Modi, India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all.”
Freedom House report also stated: Right-wing Hindutva activists allege that Hindu women are forcibly converted by Muslims through marriage. They call the conspiracy theory “love jihad”. Many Bharatiya Janata Party ruled states have already implemented or are contemplating enact laws aimed at preventing inter-faith marriages.
BJP-governed Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have recently passed such laws. Other BJP-ruled states decided to follow suit and place anti-conversion laws. The Haryana government has formed a three-member drafting committee to frame a law for this and now the Assam and Karnataka governments have declared the same.
A report was prepared by the intelligence unit of The Economist Group and the 2019 Democracy Index released in January that India slipped by 10 ranks to the 51st position, a terrible downslide!
Such divisive hate will destroy the world’s biggest democracy. It will affect India’s trade with other nations, in turn affecting the economy and lose partners, and eventually lose tourism. Our economy will be shattered to smithereens because we are a large diverse nation with a very rich topography and demography.
By losing the status of democracy, India cannot ally with the giant partners of democracy to create pathways of progress. It will hinder India in superpower alliances in a multi-power entrepreneurial world that encourages innovation with liberty, India will be curbed and will be hindered in decisions with friends in the United Nations. India’s voice in international policies, politics, and free marketing will be muffled.
If India’s democracy falls, she will lose her freedom once again, as she did on August 24, 1608. Is this what we really want?