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Fraudulent Reports on Threat to Democracy

Understanding that in our country for more than 70 years elections were held in a smooth manner and leaving aside a brief period of emergency (imposed by their Prime Minister Indira Gandhi), democracy is getting mature day by day, there is a question mark on the understanding of Sweden’s agency which compares India with a country like Pakistan. — Dr. Ashwani Mahajan


Reports of the so-called decline of democracy in India have been coming through some ‘special’ international agencies for some time now. Recently, a Swedish agency V-DAM (Variety of Democracy) Institute published a report that India is no longer world’s largest democracy, and has become electoral autocracy. The Institute has based its report on ill treatment with the media and excessive use of the treason and defamation laws.

Significantly, a week earlier, Freedom House, a US agency, had reduced India’s position to ‘Partly Free’. The agency believes that India’s score in the year 2013 was the highest at 0.75, which came down to 0.34 by the end of 2020. The report also said that all this decline in rankings started with the advent of Narendra Modi’s BJP government since 2014. It has even been said that the Indian government has tried to silence its critics by crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, academics, civil society groups, and protesters.

The interesting part of the report is that India has been put at par with Pakistan; and Bangladesh and Nepal have been placed above India. The report says that now only 32 countries remain free democracy. This number was 41 a decade ago. Globally, the level of democracy has reached the level of as low as of 1990 by 2020. Interestingly, this report concedes that the electorate autocrats remain popular ruler. The report says that autocracy has spread in 25 countries where one third of the world’s population i.e. 260 million people live. These countries include Brazil, India, Turkey and USA.

The important thing is that the report, which considers the Modi government as electoral autocracy, is itself accepting that Modi is very popular. This confirmation is also proved through repeated opinion surveys. This means that most of the people in the country believe that the policies of this government are in the right direction. Whereas, the action on critics of the government under the laws of treason and defamation has led these agencies to regard this government as autocratic, it would be necessary to understand whether this is indeed true in the present circumstances of India or not.

The report mentions that government took action against those who opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act. If we see carefully, the clear intention behind the Citizenship Amendment Act can not be considered against any creed of India. The intent behind the introduction of the Citizenship Amendment Act is that non-Muslim (Hindus, Christians, Bodh, Sikhs) citizens living in undivided India, persecuted due to religious bigotry, xenophobia and terror in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and who have taken refuge in India due to this reason, they should be given citizenship of India. In such a situation, the statement of the opponents that the Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh should also have equal right to seek asylum in India cannot be justified under any circumstances, because they form majority community in those countries and there is no reason or example of their persecution. In such a situation, the movement which was done to incite the Muslims of India has also been forced on people of our country for months (Shaheen Bagh) and the government also did not forcibly cracked down the sit on (dharna).

However, in the guise of those protests, when some miscreants belonging to some political parties incited violence, in order to ensure the safety of life and property of the citizens, legal steps taken by the government against such people involved in the violence, has perhaps made Swedish agency to term India as electoral autocracy, it cannot be justified under any circumstances. Here the example of France is notable, when a citizen was slaughtered by a person of a particular religion due to piety, the French government imposed several restrictions against that particular religious group. But the matter of surprise is that this agency of Sweden did not even mention that case of France.

If we take a closer look, legal action has definitely been taken against some journalists and other persons. But this legal proceeding was not done without reason. Action was taken against a journalist (who had to lose his job as well) because he broadcasted the fake news that a farmer died due to police firing during the Farmers Agitation. Violence could have been caused due to this. Whereas the truth was that the driver of a tractor himself had accidentally died due to his own mistake. Similarly, legal action was taken against some so-called ‘social workers’ because they either indulged in violence themselves or were promoting violent activities.

There are millions of NGOs working in our country. Many of them receive foreign funding with the permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Governmental or non-governmental organizations have been receiving foreign aid for the development of the country and the upliftment of the poor. But for some time, it has been felt that some NGOs are advancing the agenda of foreign forces with foreign funding. In many places, they are involved in many objectionable tasks including stopping development projects, promoting religious conversions and instigating anti-national movements. After scrutiny of foreign funding of such institutions, the license for foreign funding of about 15,000 NGOs has been cancelled. Many foreign agencies that spread lies globally are also influencing the reports of organizations such as Sweden’s V-Dam Institute and America’s Freedom House.

It is the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order in any country. In case there is any threat to public order, it’s duty of the state to take appropriate steps to ensure peace. But for some time, some unwanted elements have not only been misleading the people of the country in general, but are even becoming a hindrance to the internal security and law and order of the country. Apart from causing inconvenience to the general public, they are also joining hands with anti national forces. Protests and movements are both integral parts of the democratic system. But both of these should be within the purview of law, without endangering law and order and without causing inconvenience to the people. In any civilized society, no one can justify disturbance to social fabric and violence on the basis of religion and caste. In such a situation, legal proceedings against some people cannot be held undemocratic even if they are journalists or political activists. During the Delhi violence, some political parties first attempted to create a political atmosphere against the actions taken against the public representatives of a political party. The government’s action against such violent elements is not a threat to democracy, but the silence of that political party is indeed dangerous for democracy. Many such examples are found in the past.

We should understand that after every six months, there is a major election involving two or more bigger states, democracy is actually getting matured in the country, as there is always a peaceful transfer of power in centre and states. Influence of army in politics is not even heard of. Many countries send their teams to learn democratic system of India. Political parties should analyze the policies of the government properly, rather than indulging in sectarian politics based on religion and caste. There should be a national debate on the effects of new laws, policies for public welfare. Political parties should support the government for good policies and criticise them for wrong policies. This is the path to strengthening of democracy. Violence and threat to law and order cannot be justified in the name of democracy. Understanding that in our country for more than 70 years elections were held in a smooth manner and leaving aside a brief period of emergency (imposed by their Prime Minister Indira Gandhi), democracy is getting mature day by day, there is a question mark on the understanding of Sweden’s agency which compares India with a country like Pakistan.

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