India listed as ‘repressed’ in global civility ratings report

South African non-profit organisation CIVICUS, in collaboration with a host of international civil society organisations has put out a list featuring India among the countries rated as ‘repressed’.

The list got published just ahead of the United States summit on democracy scheduled to begin from December 9.

According to the Civicus report called ‘People Power Under Attack 2021,’ 37 of the 110 participants of the summit, including India, consistently restricted civic rights that are “the bedrock of any open and true democracy”.

The report took into account deliberation factors like the detention of protestors and journalists for classifying the countries into five categories. Three of those categories include people in “open” nations having democratic freedom, and those in “repressed” nations and “closed” nations facing several restrictions.

Apart from India, countries that are put under the “repressed” category include Bangladesh, Myanmar and Afghanistan.

Repressed and obstructed account for the remaining two categories.

It cited the detentions made under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the Bhima Koregaon case, including those of activists Sudha Bharadwaj and Father Stan Swamy. While Sudha Bharadwaj was released on December 9 after spending over three years in jail, 84-year-old father Stan Swamy succumbed to a heart attack in July 2021 after spending over eight months in prison.

The report observed that the UAPA was abused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to put several individuals “in pre-trial detention on baseless charges and deny them bail”.

The report also took note of the farmer’s protest. It said that India “vilified and repressed the farmers’ protest movement against the three controversial farm laws that took place in spite of pressure from the central government. While the laws were repealed in November, 700 farmers lost their lives and suffered colossal damage.

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir with regards to regular curfews and restricting the freedom of the press also found a mention in the report. “Raids were conducted on the homes of HRDs [human rights defenders] and offices of CSOs [Civil Society Organizations] and newspapers,” the report stated.

In its conclusion, the report made recommendations to governments across the world that include the protection of journalists and human rights activists by “establishing effective regulatory protection of the environment on a diverse range of rights in line with international human rights law and standards”. It also called for independent investigations into cases where activists and journalists are targeted.

CIVICUS is a global civil society alliance that constitutes an influential network of organisations at the local, national, regional and international levels, and spans the spectrum of civil society. Its research partners include Asia Democracy Network (ADN), Forum-Asia, Asian Human rights Commission, European Civic Forum and a host of other local and international civil society organizations.