Freedom House is a voluntary organisation based in the United States that collects, analyses and documents information on political freedom in countries worldwide. The reports of this agency, financially supported by the US government, are widely accepted and treated as authentic internationally. Their latest study, titled 'Freedom in the World 2021: Democracy Under Siege', was released two days ago. We Indians see India as a free country. However, a new report by Freedom House categorises India as a 'partially free country'. The report notes that since the Narendra Modi-led Hindu nationalist government came to power in 2014, civil and democratic rights violations have been steadily increasing in the country.
The report analyses that such policies of the regime have continued to intensify since its re-election in 2019. Threats were made against academicians and journalists. There were widespread attacks on Muslims. The central government and the BJP-ruled state governments cracked down on dissidents. The lockdown of the Covid era led to millions of migrant workers migrating home. Many travelled more than 1000 km on foot; some died on the way. The government told the parliament that it did not even have figures of such labourers or the casualties. The ruling Hindu Nationalist party encouraged the killing of Muslims, referred to participants in a Tablighi conference in Delhi's Nizamuddin to spread the word that Muslims are virus spreaders, the report said.
The Freedom House report also highlights the anti-Muslim genocide in Delhi last year and the court verdict in the Babri case. The official response of the central government to the Freedom House report has not been released yet. It is likely to be the the usual refrain that you should not interfere in our internal affairs . BJP social media spokespersons have already begun a campaign along those lines.
It is amidst the discussions on the Freedom House report that the report of a ministerial committee set up by the central government last year has come out. . The group, called Group of Ministers on Government Communication, comprises Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javdekar, S Jaishankar, Smriti Irani, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Hardeep Singh Puri, Anurag Thakur, Kiran Rijiju and Babul Supriyo. After six sittings and talks with prominent people, the committee's report presented to the government is quite strange: they plan to eliminate around fifty online media that criticise the government and to help those that praise the government. To get a full picture this report is to be read together with the new government regulations to put a leash on online media, social media and OTT platforms this committee report to get a full picture. It's simple, really: only those who exist as "His master's voice" will survive.
Freedoms that our Constitution and progressive democratic societies uphold, like the freedom of the press, freedom of organisation, freedom of religion, and the freedom of dissent, are being eroded in our country. This is what every new report, finding and statistics confirm. It's not that we don't know this. It has been mentioned several times earlier in this column alone. But bringing this up, again and again, is also an act of resistance. And therefore, we must speak up and keep speaking.