Having lost its place on global freedom ranking, India now faces embarrassment from international media with CNN top host Fareed Zakaria saying that the country had fallen short of democratic ideals before Modi but “rarely has it fallen so far and so fast.”
The Indian American journalist said in “What in the world” segment of his CNN show “Fareed Zakaria GPS that India could lose his distinction of biggest democracy if the slide continues which would have catastrophic consequences not only for India but also for the world.
In its recent report, the pro-democracy non-profit Freedom House downgraded India from “free” to “partly free” ranking for the first time in 30 years.
“India’s illiberal slide had been steady and swift under PM Narendra Modi and his BJP,” the host said.
He said over the past few years, Indian had clamped down tightly on freedom of speech and police had filed criminal charges against activists, journalists and opposition politicians for merely criticizing the government.
Even, he said, a climate activist Disha Ravi, in her 20s, was arrested on sedition charges for just drafting and sharing a document in support of the ongoing farmers protest which was later tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunber.
The police accused Ravi for attempting to spread disaffection against the Indian state.
Shehryar Afridi Zakaria also quoted an article saying that more than 7136 people faced sedition charges since Modi was elected as prime minister in 2014.
The press had been under relentless attack and intimidation, he added.
He also referred to The New York Times report saying that during the pandemic, Modi also pressured media to publish “inspiring and positive stories” about the government efforts.
His government had pressured the outlets to fire journalists who criticized the prime minister and also suspended the features that embarrassed Modi’s party.
He said the Indian illiberalism related to its efforts to promote Hindu nationalism and singling out the Indian Muslim minority. —Agencies