According to the report, “The world’s most populous democracy, India, is under threat. Its level of democracy has declined considerably over the past decade. The worrying trend concerns in particular freedom of expression and alternative sources of information, civil society, the rule of law and some electoral aspects.
Stressing that “much of these changes took place after the Bharatiya Janata party won parliamentary elections in 2014 and its leader, current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, took office,” the report describes it as ” a die-hard Hindu nationalist “. .
Providing a 10-year comparison, the report says, several indicators from the V-Dem Liberal Democracy Index show that “only one indicator – for the quality of the voter register – has improved … All others have either remained the same or have declined over the past ten years, and these include no less than 19 indicators.
The report estimates: “Although there are around 12,000 newspapers in circulation in India today, the media are increasingly censored. Several newly introduced or more severely enforced laws hamper freedom of expression and encourage censorship. For example, India’s libel law provides for prison terms of up to two years and is increasingly used to silence critical journalists.
“In addition,” he says, “the sedition laws that were upheld by the courts in 2016 even allow severe penalties for those accused of inciting ‘discontent’ – disloyalty and any sense of enmity. – to the government. Its existence has a deterrent effect and encourages self-censorship.
He continues: “The harassment of journalists is also on the increase. Many journalists have been murdered or threatened for critically reporting on the actions of the ruling party. Three journalists were killed in March 2018 alone. ”
“For example,” the report states, “editor-in-chief Gauri Lankesh, who was a well-known feminist and critic of the caste system as well as Hindu nationalists, was shot dead in September 2017. A die-hard Hindu nationalist was arrested in connection with it. murder but no conviction. “He adds:” The sharp drop in V-Dem indicators on freedom of expression – in particular self-censorship and harassment of the media – reflects the increasingly unfavorable environment for members of the media. ”
Regarding civil society, the report says: “The process of autocratization in India has also led to a partial closure of the space for civil society. The government is increasingly restricting the entry and exit of civil society organizations by using a law on foreign funding for NGOs, the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA). In 2017, 20,000 CSOs – working primarily on human rights and environmental issues – lost their licenses. After that, there are only 13,000 CSOs left to continue working without constraint. ”
The report also notes that “Three UN special rapporteurs have urged Prime Minister Modi to repeal the FCRA, saying it is increasingly used to” silence organizations involved in defending civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural, which may differ from those supported by the government ”.
Observing a “noticeably large drop in V-Dem indicators on ease of entry and exit, and the level of repression of civil society organizations in India,” the report says, suggests that “law enforcement gradually becomes less predictable, and that the state fails to effectively protect its citizens against politically motivated assassinations. ”
Even though it stresses that “the elections in Asia’s oldest democracy have remained free and fair and open to multi-party competition,” the report states that “nonetheless, several indicators showing how clean the elections are, have declined. . In particular, intimidation and violence increased at polling stations.
Thus, “party agents intimidate, harass and bribe voters, effectively preventing them from voting freely.