India Falls Ten Places on Global Democracy Index as Persecution Continues to Rise

ICC Note: India has fallen ten places on the annual Global Democracy Index (GDI) according to the group’s annual report released last week. This fall on the GDI has been caused by the growing strength of radical Hindu nationalists seeking to make India a Hindu-only nation. Persecution of religious minorities, including Christians, has become common place according to social leaders in India. Will this shrinking of religious and political freedoms continue as India’s government allows radical Hindu nationalists to operate with near impunity?  

02/09/2018 India (UCAN) – India has plummeted 10 places to 42nd on the annual Global Democracy Index (GDI) in the space of a year, causing civil society and political groups to express concern about where the country is headed.

Pro-Hindu groups are gaining strength and vigilantism or other forms of violence against religious minorities is becoming more commonplace, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which provides information about risk and opportunities to nations, industry and management.

Released last week, the 2017 GDI report showed India had suffered one of the severest drops from 2016 while the total score of all 89 countries on the list was lower than 12 months earlier.

It claimed India has become a more dangerous place for journalists, especially the central state of Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir in the north.

“The authorities there have restricted freedom of the press, closed down several newspapers and heavily controlled mobile internet services. Several journalists were murdered in India in 2017, as in the previous year,” the report stated.

This highlights how “something is going terribly wrong in the county,” said Subhash Bhatnagar, head of the National Campaign Committee for Unorganized Sector Workers.

“Through one survey or the other, such things are coming to the fore. This is certainly a concern,” Bhatnagar told ucanews.com.

India’s image as a secular nation where all religions are respected is “getting disturbed in recent years,” he said, urging governments to try to keep sectarian forces in check.

Rights activists say Hindu groups have been resorting to violence to further their goal of making India a single-religion state since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to power in New Delhi following the 2014 elections.

The BJP, which now controls 19 of 29 states as well as New Delhi, has been accused of unfairly supporting Hindu groups.

Reports such as the latest GDI list reflect “the true picture of how the democratic space in India has been shrinking and voices are being crushed with impunity,” said Sanjeev Kumar, chief of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. Dalits rank as the lowest caste in India and are also known as “untouchables.”

“Dalits are persecuted and lower castes [in general are] being denied their due rights. The situation is terrible,” Kumar told ucanews.com

The influence of the caste system and the rise of a conservative Hindu ideology only exacerbates matters, he said.

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