India has slipped to 42nd place on an annual Global Democracy Index amid “rise of conservative religious ideologies” and increase in vigilantism and violence against minorities as well as other dissenting voices.
While Norway has again topped the list, followed by Iceland and Sweden, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), India has moved down from 32nd place last year and remains classified among “flawed democracies”.
Performance of various countries:
Top and bottom countries: Norway, Iceland and Sweden are the top three on the list while Chad, Syria and North Korea bring up the bottom.
The total score of 89 countries fell when compared to their ranking in 2016. India was one of the countries whose score declined the most. It fell ten places in the rankings from 32 to 42 as its score deteriorated by 0.58 points to 7.23 (on a scale of 0 to 10). In the ‘media freedom ranking’, India ranked 49 out of 167 countries that the index covered.
Asia recorded the biggest decline compared to other regions of the world. According to the index, Asia (5.63) lagged behind North America (8.56), Western Europe (8.38) and Latin America (6.26). Indonesia was the worst-performing nation, falling to 68th position from 48th rank.
Only top-19 countries have been classified as ‘full democracies’, while the hybrid regimes include Pakistan (110th), Bangladesh (92nd), Nepal (94th) and Bhutan (99th). Those named as ‘authoritarian regimes’ include China (139th), Myanmar (120th), Russia (135th) and Vietnam (140th). North Korea is ranked the lowest at 167th, while Syria is a notch better at 166th place.
What lies behind India’s poor performance?
The report has classified India as a flawed democracy and attributed the dip in India’s rankings to lack of freedom of speech and free media. The report notes that the rise of conservative religious ideologies has mainly affected India. The strengthening of right-wing Hindu forces in an otherwise secular country led to a rise of vigilantism and violence against minority communities, particularly Muslims, as well as other dissenting voices.
In some states in India, 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
A Human Rights Watch report published on January 22 had also alleged that Indian failed to protect its minorities in 2017. This report should serve as a warning sign for the country. Urgent steps are needed to protect democratic values of the country, without which our fundamental credentials as a democracy will be seriously undermined.