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India a key country witnessing autocratic trend, thanks to Modi's "hardline" Hindu nationalism: Swedish report

By Our Representative
A recent report  by a Swedish institute has identified India as one of the top countries where it has witnessed “disquieting trends” for the future of democracy. Other “key countries”, where a similar trend is visible are Brazil, India, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and the United States.
Pointing out that “the recent significant declines in liberal democracy in India and the United States alone have affected some 1.6 billion people”, the “Annual Democracy Report 2018”, prepared by the Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg, regrets, however, “Less than 1 million people benefited from the improvements”, and the countries involved are “Bhutan and Vanuatu.”
Aspects of liberal democracy in India: 2007 and 2017
Assessing 178 countries for Liberal Democracy Index (LDI), the report ranks USA 31, Brazil 56, Poland 50, India 81, Turkey 149, and Russia 151, noting, especially over “the last two years, there is a striking rise in the share of the world’s population living in countries backsliding on democracy” – about “one third of the world’s population – or 2.5 billion people.”
Other countries, which are part of what the report identifies as “global autocratization trend”, are Democratic Republic of Congo, Thailand and Ukraine, underling, “Thus, major countries across the democracy-autocracy spectrum are shrinking whatever democratic space was present.”
The report says, “The pattern of backsliding in the most populous democracy – India – exemplifies this trend”, adding, “In India, the infringements on media freedom and the civil society activities of democracy following the election of a Hindu-nationalist government have started to undermine the longest-standing and most populous democracy in the Global South.”
Even as pointing out that India’s “main indicators of the core electoral aspects of democracy do not show significant decline”, the report warns, “It remains to be seen if this trend will be reversed in the coming years or if India will descend further into the authoritarian regime spectrum – as during their authoritarian interlude from 1975-77.”
Countries registering positive and negative trends
between 2007 and 2017
Asserting that “India is at risk”, the report says, “The disquieting trend particularly concerns freedom of speech and alternative sources of information, civil society, the rule of law, and some electoral aspects”, adding, “Much of these changes have taken place after the BJP won the parliamentary elections in 2014 and its leader, the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi assumed office.”
Calling Modi a “hard-line Hindu Nationalist”, the report believes, the report complains, “While there are about 12,000 newspapers circulating in India today, the media is increasingly being censored. Several newly introduced or more harshly enforced laws hinder free speech and encourage censorship.”
Giving the example of “India’s law on defamation”, which “contains prison sentences of up to two years”, the report says, it is being “used to silence critical journalists at an increasing rate.” It adds, “Moreover, sedition laws that were upheld by the courts in 2016 even allow harsh punishment of people accused of inciting “dissatisfaction” – disloyalty and all feelings on enmity – towards the government.”
The report
The report further says, “The autocratization-process in India has also led to a partial closing of the space for civil society. The government increasingly restricts the entry and exit of civil society organizations (CSOs) by using a law on foreign funding for NGOs, the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).”
The report ranks countries not just for Liberal Democracy Index (LDI), but also other indicators. Thus, while for Electoral Democracy Index (EDI) is found to be ranking 82nd, Liberal Component Index (LCI) 78th, and Participatory Democracy Index 82nd, the main issues India is found to be facing are in Egalitarian Component Index (ECI), where it ranks 110th, and Deliberative Component Index (DCI), where it ranks 128th.
If ECI seeks to identify the egalitarian principle of democracy measures to what extent all social groups enjoy equal capabilities to participate in the political arena, DCI captures assesses the process by which decisions are reached in a polity through public reasoning instead of emotional appeals.
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Download report HERE

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
All right wing/fascist governments, by their very nature, are autocratic

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