Pluralism in dispute
India has been witnessing abject criticism of its policies on the global front lately. Much of that criticism has to do with the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), yet abrogation of Article 370 and National Register of Citizens in Assam have all had a part to play. In fact, even the Delhi violence last week which was criticised by countries and international organisations had its source in the contentious CAA. Given the premise, there should not be any surprises that the American organisation, Freedom House has ranked India relatively much lower in its Freedom in the World 2020 report. The report marks the freedom in a country. The annual report prepared by America's oldest organisation dedicated to the support and defence of democracy on the global front has placed India amongst "countries in the spotlight'' beside Haiti, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, Hong Kong and Ukraine. The "countries in the spotlight" distinction speaks for important developments that took place in a country, altering its democratic trajectory. The report has glaring observations that build up concern. It notes that India has distanced itself from the founding commitment to pluralism and individual rights, without which democracy cannot long survive. The report says that "several of India's neighbours have persecuted religious minorities for many years. But instead of stressing the contrast with its own traditions and seeking to propagate them abroad, India is moving toward the lower standards of its region." The report conveniently likens India to China in this regard.
While there is complete authority to deny the findings of the report and rather condemn such a report for commenting on India's internal issues or exaggerating the accusations, the moot question is the presence of such a report and the need for a foreign entity to label India in such light. India has always been ranked higher and rather commended for its secular and democratic ideals in practice. Why then shall it be suddenly ranked so below? Not like the US is particularly disappointed with India over any aspect. President Trump's visit reaffirms that. It is to realise how times have changed in the past six years under the current government. A recollection of events in the preceding year, since NDA's re-election, does not show a very democratic or development-oriented agenda even if it is categorised under those heads. The Freedom in the World 2020 report is merely an analysis by a third party of the state of affairs as it observed and unbiased presentation of the same. We may, in our defence, cite the armour of sovereignty to such global surveys and reports. But given the violence that happened last week in Delhi and the unprecedented protests by women and students over CAA, who are we lying to regarding the decline highlighted in the report?