Freedom House, a US-based watchdog monitoring freedom in countries, has downgraded India's status from 'free' in 2019 to 'partly free' in 2020 stating that rights and civil liberties have been suffering under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's regime.
Raising alarm that the world's largest democracy was slipping into authoritarianism, the organisation in its annual report on rights and civil liberties, dropped India's overall score from 71 to 67 with 100 being the score for the freest country. India's rank fell from 83 to 88 out of a total of 210 countries.
"India's status declined from Free to Partly Free due to a multiyear pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies have presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies affecting the Muslim population and pursued a crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, academics, civil society groups, and protesters," the report said.
It stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government had presided over discriminatory policies. Increased pressure on human rights organisations, rising intimidation of academics and journalists, and a series of attacks targeting Muslims were primarily the reason behind the country's demotion.
"The decline deepened following Modi's re-election in 2019, and the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 featured further abuses of fundamental rights," according to the report.
"Under Modi, India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all," it added.
With the decline of the billion-plus nation in Freedom House's rankings, it highlighted that less than 20 per cent of the world's population lives in free countries, which is the lowest since 1995.