Freedom Of Expression Is Shrinking In India: Civil Rights Rating Agency
India’s democratic space shrank in 2019 as per the rating agency Civicus Monitor which has dropped our ‘civic space rating’ from “obstructed” to “repressed”.
Civicus Monitor is a global research collaboration which rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries. A repressed rating for civic space means that democratic freedoms, including freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are constrained in India.
The report called – “People Power Under Attack” report for 2019 expressed its concern about muzzling the voices of human right activists, violent attacks on journalists and civil society groups, and the clampdown in Jammu & Kashmir post the abrogation of article 370.
“The Narendra Modi government seems to be turning its back on civic freedoms by going after its critics including activists and journalists,” said Josef Benedict, a researcher at CIVICUS.
He highlighted that assault on expression is done in the country with an array of restrictive laws.
The organisation said that in 2019 the central government used restrictive laws like the National Security Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to harass, detain, and criminalise opponents. Author, Dalit activist and Management Professor, Anand Teltumbde’s investigation for his alleged connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence case near Pune also found a place in the report.
The report also said that the students were also targeted and were slapped with sedition charges for allegedly shouting ‘anti-India’ slogans. The report raised its concern on the BJP government’s animosity to human rights NGOs.
The report also alleged that the BJP government has been using “draconian” Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) to cut foreign funding and probe non-governmental organisations which are critical of the government.
Taking the cognisance of the communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir, the report noted that the people in Jammu and Kashmir have suffered a violation of their fundamental freedoms.
Rebuking the government, the report said that instead of ensuring justice, the government further increased repression with detentions and restrictions on the access to information.