HomeLatest NewsIndia among ‘worst autocratisers’ in recent years, says Sweden’s V-Dem Institute

India among ‘worst autocratisers’ in recent years, says Sweden’s V-Dem Institute

STOCKHOLM: India has been one of the “worst autocratisers” in the world in recent years, Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy Institute said in a report released on Friday.

The country remained an “electoral autocracy” at the end of 2023 after first being categorised as one in 2018, the institute said in a report titled “Democracy Winning and Losing at the Ballot”.

The Sweden-based institute categorises countries into four transitional phases between democratisation and autocratisation: liberal democracy, electoral democracy, electoral autocracy and closed autocracy.

It defines an electoral autocracy as one in which multiparty elections for the executive exist albeit with “insufficient levels of fundamental requisites such as freedom of expression and association, and free and fair elections”.

The V-Dem report said that the process of autocratisation is ongoing in 42 countries – including India – that collectively account for 35% of the world’s population. “India, with 18% of the world’s population, accounts for about half of the population living in autocratising countries,” the institute said.

The report said that the Narendra Modi-led government in India has used laws on sedition, defamation, and counterterrorism to silence critics.

“The BJP government undermined the constitution’s commitment to secularism by amending the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2019,” it added.

The 2019 amendment allowed the Union government to proscribe individuals as “terrorists”. It also empowered more officers of the National Investigation Agency to investigate cases.

V-Dem said that India, along with El Salvador and Mauritius, was among the worst government offenders when it came to increasing efforts to censor the media.

The report said that the Indian government also continued to suppress the freedom of religion. “Intimidation of political opponents and people protesting government policies, as well as silencing of dissent in academia are now prevalent,” it added.

The institute said that the BJP was expected to win a third term in the upcoming general elections and remarked that this could lead to further autocratisation “given the already substantial democratic decline under Modi’s leadership and the enduring crackdown on minority rights and civil society”.

The institute said: “Over the years, India’s autocratization process has been well documented, including gradual but substantial deterioration of freedom of expression, compromising independence of the media, crackdowns on social media, harassments of journalists critical of the government, as well as attacks on civil society and intimidation of the opposition.”

India also ranked at 104 out of 179 countries surveyed in the institute’s Liberal Democracy Index for 2023. This index “captures both liberal and electoral aspects of democracy” based on 71 parameters included in two sub-indices: the Electoral Democracy Index and Liberal Component Index.

The parameters include “the importance of protecting individual and minority rights against both the tyranny of the state and the tyranny of the majority”, “male and female suffrage”, “the degree to which government policy is vested in elected political officials”, “the importance of protecting individual and minority rights against both the tyranny of the state and the tyranny of the majority” and “checks and balances between institutions, in particular limit the exercise of executive power”, among other indicators of democratic principles.

The Ministry of External Affairs has not responded to this year’s report. However, in March 2021, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar – referring to reports by V-Dem and US-based non-government organisation Freedom House alleging that democracy was receding in India – asserted that the country does not need approval or tedious moral lectures from a “set of self-appointed custodians of the world”.

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