The 2021 Freedom House report downgraded India to partly free from previous rating of free, a clear indicator of the raging Hindutva spread in the country
The 2021 Freedom House report downgraded India from a free country to a partly free country owing to the eroding social situation under the Ultra-Right-Wing Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party BJP. The Washington based Institute, which is funded by the U.S. government cited increasing attacks against Muslims and misuse of sedition laws to curb dissent, with Modi and his party “tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism.”
India in denial
Not surprisingly, the Indian government is denial about the reality and downplayed the findings in the report as “biased”. “The report is biased and (politically) motivated,” BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said while speaking to the media.
The spokesperson also criticized international organizations that keep an eye on human rights violations and said that they should be held accountable, following the norms of the country. “The adverse comments come in the wake of this government asking NGOs like Amnesty (International) to be more accountable and follow the norms of the country. Such supranational organizations have an ax to grind, and they influence such ratings,” Verma said. He also suggested that there is no discrimination on the basis of religion in India, quite the contrary to what India’s own media has been reporting for the last few years.
Calls for retrospection
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate was critical of the current government after India was ranked partly free for the first time. “After 73 years of freedom, if we are called partially free by an NGO which is funded by the US government, shouldn’t our heads be lowered in shame?” Shrinate said.
Government’s critics have also been vocal on the event, calling it very much expected in the midst of the political situation in India under BJP’s government. “It states the obvious. Under the majoritarian and authoritarian government all the constitutional safeguards are destroyed and compromised,” renowned public intellectual Prof. Apoorvanand Jha said.
“What Freedom House said is a lived fact in India today where a tweet, or a word of humor or a cartoon, or a comment or conversion or marriage outside your community or caste or an article or a book, may land you in jail or ensnare you in the judicial labyrinth,” said Zafarul Islam Khan, journalist and former chief of the Delhi Minorities Commission.
International community needs to step up
India has long been blowing the horn of being the world’s biggest democracy. However, the Hindu extremists have always harbored Hindutva designs where minorities have no place in society. Even if they exist, it is at a subservient level. The government that is led by such dark ideologies cannot lead a country with such diversity. It is important that the international community uses its influence to counter the extremism gaining root in India. The dissenting voices are being silenced and minorities are being abused increasingly by the day.