Modi govt rebukes Freedom House report calling India ‘partly free’, pushes blame on states

Hyderabad: The central government on Friday released a rebuttal following an international report marking India as a ‘partly free’ country. The Centre called the report “misleading, incorrect and misplaced” and offered a clarification to all the points raised against India.

“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 Freedom House report said on India’s status change to ‘partly free’.

In its defence, the ministry of information & broadcasting released a statement on its website stating that the federal structure where most states are ruled by parties other than the one at the national level through an election process which is free and fair, conducted by an “independent” Election Commission. The statement claimed this reflects the working of a “vibrant democracy that India stands for”.

Very clearly, the Centre was trying to portray that India is ruled by more than one national party, the BJP in this case, but it failed to point out that right now it is the single largest party that runs the Indian government (BJP has 303 Lok Sabha seats out of 543). Smaller regional parties only run some state governments, as the BJP also runs many of them. 

The statement by the Centre on Friday gave a specific point by point rebuttal on the allegations made by countless human rights reports, international media and the Freedom House report.

On the 2020 Delhi riots

In the alleged allegation of discriminatory policies against Muslims in India and the North East Delhi riots, the government claimed that it treated all its citizens with equality and that all laws are applied without discrimination. However, the reality is that the BJP-run Centre has faced criticism from various sides on the CAA, as it does discriminate on the basis of religion. 

With reference to the north-east Delhi riots that transpired in January 2020, the Centre claimed that law and enforcement machinery acted in an “impartial and fair manner”.

Azra Khatun weeps as she waits to receive the body of her nephew Ashfaq Hussain (22), who was killed during communal violence in Northeast Delhi area, outside the mortuary of GTB hospital in New Delhi. (Image: PTI)

This statement contradicts Delhi hight court hearings. Among the several lapses noticed, a bench headed by Justice S Murlidhar expressed anguish over the inability of the Delhi Police to control the riots and its failure to file FIRs against four BJP leaders for their hate speeches.

Critics deferring from the government’s statement referred to the New York Times report and countless other reports from different media houses across the planet which accused the Delhi police of participating in the violence shoulder-to-shoulder with the rioters.

The Delhi police has been accused by many of ignoring thousands of distress calls during the pogrom.

A video on social media also showed the Delhi police attacking Muslims in northeast Delhi along with a mob, among other things. In another instance, a mob had replaced a flag on a mosque with a saffron Hindutva flag. If that is not incompetency and lapse of duty, then one can wonder what else it is. 

Targetting of journalists

A major criticism of the Centre and states run by the BJP is the usage of the sedition law to curb dissent. The highest number of sedition cases on journalists and activists were filed in states allied with the central govt.

Refuting the allegation of using the law to curb freedom of speech, the govrnment shifted the blame instead on states saying, “The responsibility of maintaining law and order, including investigation, registration and prosecution of crimes, protection of life and property, etc., rests primarily with the concerned State governments.”

Misuse of Sedition law

Most recently, the sedition law was also used against Sikh and farmers who have been protesting the farm laws brought in by the Narendra Modi government. A Delhi court on that front said that the law of sedition cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants. 

Regarding the “authoritarian lockdown” implemented in March 2020, the Centre again shifted the blame to on state and Union territories. It said that it was necessary to curb the COVID-19 virus.

Curbing of human rights

In response to Freedom House’s report on the BJP government curbing humans rights, the Centre said, “The Indian Constitution provides for adequate safeguards under various statutes, including the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 for ensuring the protection of human rights.”

However, apart from a spate of lynchings, of mostly Muslim men by Hindutva goons, the Centre has been found at fault on more than one occasion. Case in point is the arrest of the Delhi police, controlled by union home minis Amit Shah, for simply sharing a tool kit on Twitter, which was share by global climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Mohammad Zubairr
People supporting the Citizenship amendment Act beat a man during a clash with those opposing the law in New Delhi, February 24, 2020. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

Like that, on most accounts, the Centre’s rebuttal can be easily taken down by anyone who is aware of facts and what is happening in India today. The statement on the Freedom House was shared by the Press Information Bureau, which is the Centre’s wing that disseminates information to the public.

It may be noted that the PIB also runs a ‘Fact Check’ process, which ironically has also been called out for publishing unsubstantiated information like this one fact check by Alt News.

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