News: US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House has accused the present government of driving India toward authoritarianism with a lockdown scapegoating of minorities and a crackdown on critics, and downgraded India’s status from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’, in its annual report.
Freedom in the World Report
- It is Freedom House’s flagship annual report, assessing the condition of political rights and civil liberties around the world.
- It is composed of numerical ratings and supporting descriptive texts for 195 countries and 15 territories.
- The report has been published since 1973, allowing Freedom House to track global trends in freedom over more than 40 years.
- Freedom House, which is largely funded through U.S. government grants, has been tracking the course of democracy since 1941.
- Political rightsindicators such as the electoral process, political pluralism and participation and government functioning.
- Civil libertiesindicators related to freedom of expression and belief, associational and organisational rights, the rule of law and personal autonomy and individual rights.
- Countries are declared as “free”, “partly free” or “not free”.
- India’s score was 67, a drop from 71/100 from last year(reflecting 2019 data) downgrading it from the free category last year (i.e., based on 2020 data).
Reasons for India’s Fall:
- Attacks on press freedom have escalated dramatically, and reporting has become significantly less ambitious in recent years, citing the use of security, defamation, sedition and contempt of courtlaws to quiet critical media voices.
- India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interestsat the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all.
- In a year when social mediacensorship has been hotly seated, while the government shut down Internet connectivity in Kashmir as well as on Delhi’s borders, India’s Internet freedom score dropped to just 51.
- Response to Covid-19included a hamfisted lockdown that resulted in the dangerous and unplanned displacement of millions of internal migrant workers.
- It added that Muslims were disproportionately blamedfor the spread of the virus and faced attacks by vigilante mobs.
- The government intensified its crackdown on protesters opposed to a discriminatorycitizenship law and arrested dozens of journalists who aired criticism of the official pandemic response.
- Uttar Pradesh’s law prohibiting forced religious conversionthrough interfaith marriage was also listed as a concern.