India was downgraded to “partly free” for the first time since 1997 in an annual ranking of democracies by the U.S.-government funded research group Freedom House, which cited worsening civil rights under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The world’s largest democracy slipped in rankings this year because of continuing discrimination against its Muslim citizens and increased harassment of government critics and journalists, according to the “Freedom in the World’ report released by the Washington-based organization.
The report cited “a multi-year pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies have presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies.” It listed several events in 2020 like religious riots in Delhi, use of sedition laws against critics and hardships endured by migrant workers after Modi announced a sudden lockdown to control the coronavirus pandemic.
India was among 73 nations downgraded for declines in political rights and civil liberties, affecting three-fourths of the world’s population. The report, which ranks 210 nations, 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.
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 since 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 said.
Freedom House was formally established in New York in 1941 to promote American involvement in World War II and the fight against fascism, according to its website.