Democracy Index: Declining civil liberties demote India to flawed category

The world's biggest democracy slipped 10 places in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s rankings


Hammad Sarfraz January 30, 2020
The world's biggest democracy slipped 10 places in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s rankings. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

KARACHI: India has been demoted to a flawed democracy, in the latest ranking of democracies around the world.

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) 2019 Democracy Index, which provides an annual comparative analysis of political systems across 165 nations, India, the world’s largest democracy, dropped 10 places to 51 as a result of declining civil liberties.

In its annual report card, the London-based research group recorded 2019 as the bleakest year for India's democracy. Since Narendra Modi's election in 2014, it said, the country has gradually slipped in the ranking.

Each year, the firm’s index provides a snapshot of global democracy by evaluating countries on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.

"Democratic values face renewed threats in today’s India. Freedom of speech, protest, even basic citizenship are under threat from a government that is bent on institutionalizing illiberal majoritarianism," said Syed Hassan Akbar, Director at Jinnah Institute.

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"With the permanent lockdown in Kashmir and the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens, it is no surprise that India is sliding on the democracy index," Akbar added.

Countries around the world fall under four types of governments: full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime, and authoritarian regime. India, this year, qualified as a flawed democracy due to its oppressive domestic policies at home and in the occupied Kashmir.

Under Modi, the country has reached new lows. After a six-month-long shutdown, longest in a democratic country, India earned the title of the global leader in Internet shutdowns. Modi's overall report card has disappointed many Indians. According to Transparency International, the country slipped from 78 to 80 compared to the previous year, primarily due to opaque political financing.

Bent on attacking diversity, the foundation on which India was built, Modi's government has proposed contentious laws and policies that will eventually deprive members of the Muslim community of their citizenship. Through his newest tool, called the CAA, analysts believe, Modi is aiming to create a Hindu-centric state and marginalize the country’s 200 million minority Muslims.

While it comes as no surprise, the recent slip in the global democracy ranking has earned Modi heavy criticism at home and abroad. The cover story for the January 23 edition of The Economist focused on the rise of an 'Intolerant' India under the Modi rule. Last week at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, informally known as Davos, billionaire philanthropist, George Soros, targeted Modi saying: "Narendra Modi is creating a Hindu nationalist state, imposing punitive measures on Kashmir, and threatening to deprive millions of Muslims of their citizenship."

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At home, the slip in the democracy index is seen as a threat to the country's constitutional values. "India slipping on the democracy index is the evidence that our constitution is under threat during BJP Government. They can't listen, they can only speak and attack our Democracy. A dangerous situation," cautioned Rohan Gupta, Chairman, Social Media Department, Indian National Congress.

Another politician from Chhattisgarh, TS Singh Deo, questioned Modi's election promises of making India the most developed nation:

"Is this the Vikas (which means development and progress in Sanskrit) that was promised?

The Indian government's oppression at home and in the occupied territory of Kashmir has shocked the world. As demonstrations over a citizenship law rock India, more accounts of harsh tactics by police and state officials are emerging from all parts of the country.

"What is even more worrying is the failure of the Indian Supreme Court which has failed to uphold the rights enshrined in the constitution," said Jinnah Insitute's Syed Hassan Akbar, who closely monitors the situation in India. "The exclusion and targeting of the Muslim majority by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party government raises serious questions about the values a saffron India espouses," Akbar cautioned.

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