Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP’s authoritarian policies have come under scathing criticism after India took a nosedive in its ranks as one of the least free democracies in the Freedom in the World 2020 report. What led to this plunge? What has happened to the worlds largest democracy?
Let’s take a closer look at some of the times the PM or the BJP government have blatantly ignored a democratic way of governance –
1. Toppling Democratically Elected Government’s
The BJP government has made it a habit to meddle in the result of democratic elections to tip the floor in their favour, illegally or not. While the Madhya Pradesh incident is the most recent example of how the party resorted to horse-trading and illegally poached MLA’s, it is not the first.
The Karnataka government witnessed the same immoral tactics by the BJP. Likewise, Maharashtra had to impose President’s rule as BJP broke the alliance promises with Shiv Sena.
2. Ignoring Parliamentary Procedures
Constantly trying to find ways to get bills passed without following the proper procedure, the BJP has become a leading expert in avoiding a debate in the Parliament at all costs. Whether it’s the Finance Bill, Triple Talaq Bill or the Aadhar Law, the BJP has ensured that they are termed as money bills and hence, bypass the Rajya Sabha where the BJP lacked a majority at the time.
Similarly, regarding the implementation of the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, which introduced a 10% quota for forward castes, the Government introduced the Bill in haste. Why? The new bill would breach the 50% cap as set by the Supreme Court. It too was passed by both Houses in two days with virtually no debate. Maybe it’s because they’re aware the laws they want to implement will not hold in a democratic practice or are just scared of the opposition’s voice.
Everybody is aware of the human rights violations taken in the controversial Kashmir valley. But, how did it all begin?
Well, the first major step was the BJP government’s unilateral slashing of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (art. 370), which they again did without following proper parliamentary procedure. Then, the Federal authorities took the place of the state’s elected institutions with appointees and abruptly stripped residents of their basic political and human rights.
The unconstitutional reorganization went hand in hand with a substantial deployment of troops and arbitrary arrests of hundreds of Kashmiri leaders and activists. Restrictions on the freedom of movement was imposed and there was a shutdown of mobile and internet services which made ordinary activities very hard for the people there.
Due to that, Kashmir underwent one of the five largest single-year score falls of the past decade in Freedom in the World, and its freedom status dropped from Partly Free to Not Free.
4. Imposes Internet Shutdowns
There have been more than 350 internet shutdowns in India since 2014, when the BJP government came to power. In 2018, 67% of the world’s Internet shutdowns were in India, while in 2019, 93 Internet shutdowns were announced in India and 167 areas were impacted, wich in that year itself led to a loss of over $1.3 billion.
The shutdown in Kashmir, which was imposed on August 5, is the longest ever in a democratic country.
5. Implements Unconstitutional Laws
A majority of the Indian subcontinent has come to the streets to protest against the unconstitutional laws that the BJP is behind, most importantly, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The CAA expedites citizenship for six non-Muslim religions from India’s three neighboring Muslim-majority countries. In other words, India will grant Hindus and other non-Muslims special protection from persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. However, Muslims, even those from vulnerable minority sects or from neighboring states like China and Sri Lanka, will not be at the other end of this advantage.
Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah has promised the country that he will repeat the Assam citizens’ register process, which had rendered 2 million people stateless in detention camps, across the nation, which has given a rise to fear of statelessness in the minds of Indian Muslims.
Apart from this, they also implemented the electoral bond scheme in 2019 which allows parties to receive monetary help from a third party. However, the BJP removed the cap in the amount that could be donated and further argued that the public has no right to know where the political parties get their money from, so long as that money is legitimate, hence, abolishing transparency. Unsurprisingly, the central government received 95% of funds in the total funds through electoral bonds and At Rs 1,450 cr, BJP got 61% funding via Electoral Bonds.
6. Doesn’t Respect the Fundamental Rights of its Citizens
Freedom of political expression remains under siege in Modi’s new India which is becoming less tolerant of the free expression of dissent. The government is abusing the use of the sedition law to silence dissent which is clearly an abuse of power and enough to scare people to quieten down. Many activists, journalists and intellectuals have been detained under this sedition law and deemed as anti-national. However, this isn’t a recent affair. In 2017, India fell three spots to 136th on the World Press Freedom Index and has been falling since.
Moreover, India is witnessing an unprecedented number of public protests, especially against the CAA and the NRC. While peaceful protests are markings of a free, democratic society, the Indian government decided it doesn’t like people disagreeing with them, even if in a constitutional manner. Their response was to deploy police personnel to lathi charge and water cannon the protesters, while detaining as many as they could get their hands on. The Indian Constitution has become a book of fiction under this regime.
7. Uses Democratic Institutions to its Advantage
Since the BJP government came to power in 2014, there has been a growing worry and fear about the weakening of democratic institutions. In January 2018, four Supreme Court judges held a press conference where they raised alarm bells about their concern about the independence of the judiciary. In 2019, Urjit Patel resigned as the RBI governor which cast aspersions over the RBI’s autonomy. Other similar instances have made it clear that the government is subverting Indian institutions, which is leading to a collapse of the Indian democracy.