March 2020 News

Kashmir Ranked 'Not Free' In 2020 Freedom House Report

5 March 2020
Kashmir Observer

Srinagar: Kashmir freedom status has declined from 'partly free' to 'not free' in the latest report of freedom in the world 2020 published by Washington based 'Freedom House', a non-profit advocate of democracy and human rights. In the latest edition of Freedom in the World, an annual report published by US government funded Freedom House, India has suffered the largest decline in its political rights and civil liberties score among the 25 most populous democracies because of the Narendra Modi government's 'alarming departures from democratic norms.' India has now been placed among 'countries in the spotlight.' This category lists countries where important developments in 2019 affected their democratic trajectory and deserve special scrutiny in 2020. While half the world's established democracies have deteriorated over the past 14 years, India's drop is the sharpest and could 'blur the values-based distinction between Beijing and New Delhi', the India chapter in the Freedom in the World 2020 report noted.| 195 countries are ranked out of 100 using 25 indicators within seven categories: electoral processes, political processes and pluralism, functioning of government, freedom of expression and belief, association and organisational rights, rule of law, personal autonomy and individual rights. India, which is ranked 'Free,' dropped from 75-100 in 2019 to 71 in 2020. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are ranked 38, 39 and 58 respectively. China is ranked 10. Freedom House, based in Washington, was founded in 1941 with the support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the rise of Nazism at the time. Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, the Republican presidential nominee who The report highlights the abrupt revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status on 5 August, 2019, the massive deployment of troops, the arbitrary arrests of hundreds of Kashmiri leaders and activists, the postponement or elimination of legislative elections, and shutdown of mobile and internet services. On Kashmir, the score declined in 14 of the 25 categories on which the ranking is based. It was zero in categories like freedom of assembly and whether people are able to make free political choices. On whether Kashmir has an independent judiciary, the report said, 'Courts are politicised and act as an extension of Indian executive and military authority. The government and security forces frequently disregard court orders.' Kashmir, the report said, 'experienced one of the largest single-year score declines of the past 10 years in Freedom in the World, and its freedom status dropped to Not Free.' In addition to the NRC, CAA and the suppression of protests, the report says there is rising intimidation in the academic space and educational system, with the government aiming to control the discussion of politically sensitive topics. On the state of India's media, the report said, 'Authorities have used security, defamation, sedition, and hate speech laws, as well as contempt-of-court charges, to curb critical voices in the media. India because of its Hindu nationalist policies, and China because of its 'campaign of cultural annihilation' against the Muslim Uighur minority, were highlighted as 'glaring examples' in the 2020 Freedom report, which is called A Leaderless Struggle For Democracy. The report notes that India is viewed as distinct from China, the other powerful country in the Indo Pacific region, because of its democratic values, but that distinction is getting blurred under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 2020 marked the 14th consecutive year of deterioration in global freedom. There were 64 net declines in 2019 and 37 net gains. Net declines have been more than net gains for the past 14 years. The highest number of net declines since 2005 was in 2015 when 72 countries declined and 43 countries improved. 'Democracy and pluralism are under assault,' writes Repucci. 'Dictators are toiling to stamp out the last vestiges of domestic dissent and spread their harmful influence to new corners of the world.' 'In fact, such leaders-including the chief executives of the United States and India, the world's two largest democracies-are increasingly willing to break down institutional safeguards and disregard the rights of critics and minorities as they pursue their populist agendas,' she writes. The United States maintained its score of 86 from 2019, but it is down from 94 in 2009. 'India and the United States are the largest and perhaps the most influential democracies in the world, and their drift from liberal democratic ideals is sending exactly the wrong message,' said Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. 'If major democratic powers fail to set strong examples and provide constructive leadership, it will be impossible to reverse the global trends that threaten freedom for all societies.'