It has been a problematic few weeks for India as report after report has criticised the Indian government and downgraded the country's position on democracy indexes. Days after the 2021 Freedom in the World Index said India was no longer a 'free' country, non-profit organisation Access Now said the country was leading the world when it came to internet shutdowns. Now, V-Dem Institute's Democracy Report 2021 contends that India has turned into an "electoral autocracy".
"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," an excerpt from the report says.
It ranks India seventh on a list of the top 10 autocratizing countries between 2010 and 2020, contending that the country had morphed from an 'electoral democracy' into an 'electoral autocracy'.
From allegations of "harassment of journalists covering Covid-19 in India" to the use of "laws on sedition, defamation, and counterterrorism to silence critics" - the report cites several reasons for the decline. Most of the decline, the report alleges, occurred following the BJP’s victory in the 2014 elections.
"India’s level of liberal democracy registered at 0.34 by the end of 2020 after a steep decline since its high at 0.57 in 2013. That represents a 23-percentage point drop on the 0 to 1 LDI scale, making it one of the most dramatic shifts among all countries in the world over the past 10 years, alongside autocratizing countries like Brazil, Hungary, and Turkey," it explains.
While there has been no official response to this latest report, the government had previously decried the US report that deemed the country as being only "partly free". The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had released a multi-point rebuttal, deeming the report "misleading, incorrect and misplaced".
Incidentally, there have been several other reports over the last few months that took a somewhat critical stance against India. The Economist Intelligence Unit had, for example, downgraded India by two places to put it on the 53rd position on the 2020 Democracy Index. The country had also dropped a few rungs on the World Press Freedom Index last year.