India is now an ‘electoral autocracy’: Report

Hyderabad: A Sweden-based research institute on Wednesday classified India as an ‘electoral autocracy’ because of “restrictions on multiple facets of democracy” such as civil society groups and free speech.

Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, an independent research institute founded in 2014 by political scientist Staffan Lindberg in Sweden, said that India registered a 23 per cent point drop on its 0-to-1 Liberal Democracy Index (LDI) scale, marking “one of the most dramatic shifts among all countries in the world over the past 10 years”.

The institute produces its annual report on the state of democracy around the world. India was previously ranked as an electoral democracy.

“India’s autocratization process has largely followed the typical pattern for countries in the ‘Third Wave’ over the past ten years: a gradual deterioration where freedom of the media, academia, and civil society were curtailed first and to the greatest extent,” the report said.

Calling democracy ‘broken down’ in India, the institute also noted most of the decline occurred following the Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in 2014 and their promotion of a Hindu-nationalist agenda.

The report particularly highlights the diminishing freedom of expression in India. “India is, in this aspect, now as autocratic as is Pakistan, and worse than both its neighbors Bangladesh and Nepal,” the report notes.

“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,” it said.

V-Dem institute said that India now joins Brazil, Hungary, and Turkey, who were ranked electoral autocracies by 2018.

Last week, India’s status on US-based Freedom House’s report on political rights and civil liberties was lowered to “partly free”.

“Political rights and civil liberties in the country have deteriorated since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, with increased pressure on human rights organizations, rising intimidation of academics and journalists, and a spate of bigoted attacks, including lynchings, aimed at Muslims,” the report read. “The decline only accelerated after Modi’s reelection in 2019,” it added.