A Swedish report has downgraded India from being “the world’s largest democracy” to an “electoral autocracy”, accusing the Union government of suppressing media and overusing defamation and sedition laws.
The fifth annual democracy report by Sweden’s V-Dem Institute, titled ‘Autocratisation goes viral’, has drawn the conclusion based on 30 million data points gathered from over 200 countries between 1789 and 2020.
The report attributes the decline to BJP’s victory in 2014 and their “Hindu nationalist agenda”. “India is, in this aspect (censorship) now as autocratic as is Pakistan, and worse than both its neighbors Bangladesh and Nepal. In general, the Modi-led government in India has used laws on sedition, defamation, and counterterrorism to silence critics. For example, over 7,000 people have been charged with sedition after the BJP assumed power and most of the accused are critics of the ruling party,” the report stated.
The report is critical of the Modi government for its “frequent use of defamation law to silence journalists”. The V-Dem report states that the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) aims to limit the rights of the civil society, which is against India’s constitutional commitment to secularism.
The report states that the BJP uses the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) to restrict the entry, exit and functioning of Civil Society Organisations.
Overall, it’s not just India but democracies across the world are on the decline, states the annual report of V-Dem. Liberal democracies have diminished over the last 10 years from 41 countries to 32 countries. “The global decline during the past decade is steep and continues in 2020, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. The level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2020 is down to levels last found around 1990,” says the report.
The report uses the word “electoral autocracies”, which it says best suits popular regimes of the day, that rule over 68 percent of the world’s population.
Besides India, the report names several G20 nations like Brazil, Turkey and the US being impacted by the autocratisation wave that has engulfed 25 countries, home to one-third of the world’s population — that is 2.6 billion people.