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How is majoritarian regime in India targeting rights organizations?

After facing a “continuing crackdown” and “harassment” by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amnesty International has stopped working in India. Read GVS News Analysis to understand how India is being transformed under PM Modi. Must-read for the students of Politics, International Relations, and CSS aspirants.

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After facing a “continuing crackdown” and “harassment” by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization focused on human rights and has more than eight million members and supporters around the world, has stopped working in India.

Analysts argue that the Indian democracy under PM Modi has lost its democratic sheen which, as a result, has transformed the country into a new majoritarian regime in South Asia.

The human rights watchdog said the bank account of its India branch has been frozen by the right-wing government, forcing it to lay off staff and stop campaign and research work in the South Asian nation.

It also accused the government of running an “incessant witch hunt” campaign against human rights organizations over “unfounded and motivated” allegations.

The group said it has been facing a crackdown over the past two years over allegations of financial wrongdoing that it said were baseless. Its bank accounts were frozen on September 10, the group said.

Read more: India and Pakistan’s finger pointing battle on discrimination

“The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental,” said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India reported Al Jazeera.

Activist Kavita Krishnan told Al Jazeera it was a “very deliberate” attempt by the Indian government to suppress an international human rights organisation. “It’s a direct attempt by the Indian government to tell international human rights group that if you document rights violations by the Indian state we won’t let you continue to function in India,” said Krishnan, who is also the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA).

India is a flawed democracy

India slipped 10 places to 51st position in the 2019 Democracy Index’s global ranking, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit which cited “erosion of civil liberties” in the country as the primary cause for the downtrend.

According to The Economic Times report, India’s overall score fell from 7.23 in 2018 to 6.90 in the index that provides a snapshot of the current state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories.

About India, the report said, the country dropped 10 places in the Democracy Index’s global ranking to 51st. The primary cause of democratic regression was the erosion of civil liberties in the country. The index is based on five categories — electoral process and pluralism; the functioning of government; political participation; political culture; and civil liberties.

India was included in the “flawed democracy” category. Meanwhile, China’s score fell to 2.26 in the 2019 index, and the country is now ranked 153rd, close to the bottom of the global rankings.  “Over the past year discrimination against minorities, especially in the north-western region of Xinjiang, has intensified. Digital surveillance of the population continued apace in 2019, representing a further constraint on individual freedoms,” the report said.

How is PM Modi transforming India?

It is important to note that Indian politics is being shaped by the extremist politicians and strategists who intend to wipe out the Muslim minority from India. Dr. Moeed Pirzada, the prominent political commentator and columnist, recently noted that “Ram Rath Yatra, Mandal Commission, Ram Janma Bhoni movement, Attack on Babri Mosque, Demolition of Babri Mosque, Bombay riots, Nuclear Explosions of 1997, Kargil Conflict, Attack on Indian Parliament, Mobilization against Pakistan, Gujrat Pogroms, Mumbai terrorism everything in one or the other was skilfully utilized in redefining Indian narrative and politics moving it ever closer to the realization of a Hindu Rashtra which now exists in reality though it still needs a legal and constitutional cover”.

Apoorvanand, who teaches Hindi at the University of Delhi, believes that the BJP is attempting to hegemonize the diverse India which is likely to backfire. He opines that “the BJP and the RSS are trying to hegemonize diverse, regional and cultural spaces and paint them with a broad Hindu brush. Slowly and gradually, they are trying to gain control over institutions – religious and cultural – by putting their people there”.

Read more: Religious freedom a myth in “secular” India: RSS & Jesus Statue

He further notes that “they are trying to create a Hindu umbrella, which will shelter all these diverse traditions and give people a feeling of being part of a unified whole called Hinduism. They are also eyeing the tribal traditions. This entry into their holy and cultural spaces is now conspicuous”

Saleha Anwar, a Lahore-based political analyst, opines that “India under Modi has become a battlefield between Muslims and Hindus placing the economy second in the list of priorities. This is likely to be the biggest challenge for the Indian liberal and secular voices to maintain order in a highly diverse and complex society. Treating 200 million people as minority, that too vulnerable, may adversely impact India’s current political settings. The emerging trends in India offer us sufficient amount of evidence that the rise of identity politics in India is to overshadow Modi’s dismaying economic performance. This is wrong with identitarian politics in the age populism”.