2020 freedom report ranks Kashmir “not free”, says India suffered ‘alarming’ decline in civil liberties

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India has suffered the largest decline in its political rights and civil liberties score among the 25 most populous democracies because of centre’s  “alarming departures from democratic norms,” while Kashmir’s status has declined from “Partly Free” to “Not Free.” Says the latest edition of Freedom in the World, an annual report published by pro-democracy nonprofit Freedom House,

This 2020 report gives a damning assessment of the Narendra Modi government’s “pattern of Hindu nationalist policies,” including the persecution of religious minorities, abruptly revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomy, the adoption of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which it calls a “discriminatory citizenship law,” and the “aggressive” suppression of the anti-CAA protests that followed.

According to a report by HuffingtonPost, 195 countries are ranked out of 100 using 25 indicators within seven categories: electoral processes, political processes and pluralism, functioning of government, freedom of expression and belief, association and organisational  rights, rule of law, personal autonomy and individual rights.

India, which is ranked ‘Free,’ dropped from 75/100 in 2019 to 71 in 2020. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are ranked 38, 39 and 58 respectively. China is ranked 10.

“Indian government has taken its Hindu nationalist agenda to a new level with a succession of policies that abrogate the rights of different segments of its Muslim population, threatening the democratic future of a country long seen as a potential bulwark of freedom in Asia and the world,” Sarah Repucci, Freedom House’s Senior Director of Research and Analysis, writes in the report.

On Kashmir, the report highlights the abrupt revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K) special status on 5 August, 2019, the massive deployment of troops, the arbitrary arrests of hundreds of Kashmiri leaders and activists, the postponement or elimination of legislative elections, and shutdown of mobile and internet services.

On Kashmir, the score declined in 14 of the 25 categories on which the ranking is based. It was zero in categories like freedom of assembly and whether people are able to make free political choices.

On whether Kashmir has an independent judiciary, the report said, “Courts are politicised and act as an extension of Indian executive and military authority.
The government and security forces frequently disregard court orders.”

Kashmir, the report said, “experienced one of the largest single-year score declines of the past 10 years in Freedom in the World, and its freedom status dropped to Not Free.”

The report also mentions the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam as an example of the Modi government’s Hindu nationalist policies. While the NRC (an exercise to identify persons living without documents) in Assam was devised when the Congress Party was in power, it took on exclusionary religious overtones under the BJP, especially after Home Minister Amit Shah vowed to implement it at a national level.

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