Saturday October 16, 2021

Modi’s atrocities in Kashmir hurt India’s image

March 12, 2021

A US-based think tank Freedom House, in its Freedom in the World 2021 report “Democracy under Siege”, has downgraded India’s status as a democracy from free to “partly free”. It asserted that prime minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Jatana Party (BJP) were “tragically driving India towards authoritarianism.” The think tank in its report said that from a maximum score of 100 marking the “most free” country, India’s score declined from 71 to 67.

The report categorically stated that civil rights had deteriorated in India since Narendra Modi became the prime minister in 2014, and that overall ,the decline accelerated after Modi won a landslide second election victory in 2019. There has been an “increased pressure on human rights organisations, rising intimidation of academics and journalists, and a spate of bigoted attacks, including lynchings, aimed at Muslims” in India.

The think tank, based in Washington, DC, warned that India’s "fall from the upper ranks of free nations" could have a damaging impact on the world’s democratic standards. “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," it said.

According to the report, India’s score fell based on factors "including strained judicial independence, the use of sedition and other charges to deter free speech, the migrant crisis due to its Covid lockdown, dramatically declining internet freedom and the acquittals of those accused in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case."

The report pointed out to the vilification and subsequent arrest of members of Tableeghi Jamaat, after the BJP government linked the gathering in Delhi to coronavirus. The report declared: "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."

Another report from digital rights group Access Now pointed out that India led the world last year in internet shutdowns that affected hundreds of millions of people. It said India consistently restricts access more than any other country, accounting for the lion’s share in 2020 with at least 109 disruptions, according to the report. "Indian authorities cut off access and throttled bandwidth to quell demonstrations in recent years, including protests over a controversial citizenship law after it revoked the special autonomous status of Kashmir. Most recently, tens of thousands of protesting farmers blocked highways in defiance of the government’s decision to restrict phone and Internet access. India’s Supreme Court in January ruled that indefinite internet shutdowns in Kashmir were illegal following a legal challenge from civil society groups. The government has argued shutdowns were necessary to prevent disorder, curb fake news and hate speech."

The state terrorism in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the largest open air prison in the world, continues with the Valley becoming the new settler colonial project with over 12,000 civilians in custody of the Indian government or forcibly disappeared since August 5, 2019.