New Delhi: For the first time since 1997, India was downgraded to the status of “partly free” in an annual ranking of democracies by the U.S. government-funded research group called Freedom House, stating worsening civil rights situation under PM Narendra Modi’s government as the reason.

According to the “Freedom in the World’ report released by the Washington-based research group, India has slipped in rankings this year because of alleged discrimination against Muslim citizens and crackdown on dissent by critics and journalists.

“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 alleges.

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The report has several events of 2020 mentioned, these include Delhi riots, use of sedition laws against critics and plight of migrant workers after PM Modi announced a sudden lockdown to control the coronavirus spread in the country.

Several criticial comments have been made against PM Modi and the BJP led NDA government over the changes witnessed in the country.

“The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus and faced attacks by vigilante mobs. Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism,” the report on the website claims.

India is among 73 nations downgraded over concerns of curbing political rights and civil liberties, affecting three-fourths of the world’s population.

The report ranking 210 nations stated that states termed as “Not Free” have reached the highest since 2006. Besides China, Belarus, and Venezuela, there was concern raised against troubled democracies like the U.S. and India.

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India’s status change means that less than 20% of the world’s people now live in a “free” country, the smallest proportion since 1995, the report states.

It further goes on to allege that “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”.

Earlier, India also dropped on the rankings of the World Press Freedom Index.

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