Washington, March 04 (KMS): In the latest edition of Freedom in the World, an annual report published by Washington-based pro-democracy nonprofit Freedom House, India has suffered the largest decline in its political rights and civil liberties score among the 25 most populous democracies because of the Narendra Modi government’s “alarming departures from democratic norms,” while Kashmir’s status has declined from “Partly Free” to “Not Free.”

On Kashmir, the Report 2020 highlights the abrupt revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) special status on 5 August, 2019, the massive deployment of troops, the arbitrary arrests of hundreds of Kashmiri leaders and activists, and shutdown of mobile and internet services.

Kashmir, the report said, “experienced one of the largest single-year score declines of the past 10 years in Freedom in the World, and its freedom status dropped to Not Free.”

Interestingly, the Freedom House was founded in 1941 with the support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the rise of Nazism at the time.

The 2020 gives a damning assessment of the Modi government’s pattern of Hindu nationalist policies, including the persecution of religious minorities, abruptly revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the adoption of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which it calls a discriminatory citizenship law and the aggressive suppression of the anti-CAA protests that followed.

100 countries are ranked out of 195 using 25 indicators within seven categories: electoral processes, political processes and pluralism, functioning of government, freedom of expression and belief, association and organisational rights, rule of law, personal autonomy and individual rights.

India, which is ranked ‘Free,’ dropped from 75/100 in 2019 to 71 in 2020.

“Indian government has taken its Hindu nationalist agenda to a new level with a succession of policies that abrogate the rights of different segments of its Muslim population, threatening the democratic future of a country long seen as a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the world,” Sarah Repucci, Freedom House’s Senior Director of Research and Analysis, writes in the report.

India has come under increasing international pressure following the Modi government’s revocation of J&K’s special constitutional status and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, which critics say makes religion the basis of granting Indian citizenship and discriminates against Muslims.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Michelle Bachelet, has filed an application before India’s Supreme Court asking the UN be made a third party in the petition that has been filed against the CAA.

The Modi government’s failure to quell the recent communal violence in Delhi, which was raging even while the US President Donald Trump was in the Indian capital, has also been criticised in the international media. Neither leader condemned the violence that followed a two-month long sit-in protest against the CAA. Modi appealed for peace three days after the violence erupted.

India because of its Hindu nationalist policies was highlighted as glaring example in the 2020 Freedom report, which is called A Leaderless Struggle For Democracy.

The report said, “The BJP has distanced itself from the country’s founding commitment to pluralism and individual rights, without which democracy cannot long survive.”

“Several of India’s neighbours have persecuted religious minorities for many years. But instead of stressing the contrast with its own traditions and seeking to propagate them abroad, India is moving toward the lower standards of its region,” it said.

At the global stage, the report said the countries that suffered a decline in their rating outnumbered those making gains by nearly two to one, which includes 25 of 41 democracies.

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