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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 13, March 25, 2023

A Discourse on State of India’s Democracy | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 25 March 2023, by Arup Kumar Sen


While reviewing a recent book, To Kill a Democracy: India’s Passage to Despotism (Macmillan,2021), authored by Debasish Roy Chowdhury and John Keane, the eminent Dalit scholar, Anand Teltumbde, observed: “The Modi rule since 2014 has certainly accelerated its degeneration towards despotism on account of its anxiety to accomplish its long cherished dream of the Hindu rashtra in a compressed time frame”. (The Wire, March 14, 2023)

Anand Teltumbde substantiated his argument about “degeneration” of democracy in India with the findings of several international institutions. To put it in his own words:

“India’s democratic malaise is by now well known. The V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) Institute at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden), which tracks data on the health of democracies, in its 2022 report reclassified India as an “electoral autocracy”. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) placed her in the category of “flawed democracy” and its rank deteriorated sharply from 27 in 2014 to 53 in 2020 though it improved a bit to 46 in 2021. In its Freedom in the World 2021 report, Freedom House downgraded India from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’. Civil liberties in the country have been declining since 2014, it said, with rising intimidation of journalists, growing pressure on human rights organizations and increasing attacks on Muslims. Its 2022 report also confirmed India to be “partly free”. The qualitative observations from scholars and analysts on India’s democratic deficit are aplenty”. (ibid.)

One could argue that India’s ‘democratic deficit’ is nothing but a construct of Western countries to defame India’s democratic experiments. We would like to cite in this context observations made by Ashwani Kumar, a senior advocate and former Union Minister for Law and Justice: “Recurring reports about constitutional transgressions interrogate the depth and the quality of our democratic engagement...Such illustrations of institutional malaise point unmistakably to an eroded edifice of India’s constitutional democracy.” (The Hindu, March 1, 2023)

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