Freedom House Ranks India As Partly Free For Second Consecutive Year In 2022 Report
Freedom House, an internationally acclaimed U.S. government-funded organization that conducts research on democracy and political freedom, labeled India as “Partly Free” for the second year in a row in its recently released report on the state of global democracy. India’s democracy score fell from 71 to 67 in the past year.
“India, which has suffered a series of setbacks to political rights and civil liberties since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reelection in 2019, showed no signs of reversing course, as notable opposition figures faced arrest and surveillance,” the report stated.
On Freedom House’s India page for 2021, the organization cites several governmental failures as the reason behind the assessment: “The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has presided over discriminatory policies and increased violence affecting the Muslim population. The constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other government critics has increased significantly under Modi.”
Washington Post Columnist Rana Ayyub Booked For Calling Hindu Extremists “Terrorists”
Karnataka state police filed a report against internationally acclaimed India-based Washington Post columnist Rana Ayyub after she called Hindu extremists “terrorists” during a BBC interview for repeatedly harassing and intimidating Muslim girls who wear the hijab to school.
The police report was filed by a member of Hindu IT Cell, an extremist group that is known for harassing, threatening, and doxxing Muslims across the country.
“Another case has been registered against me… for ‘hurting Hindu sentiments’ in my interview on the Hijab ban and the intimidation of Muslim women. To the government and its cronies, THIS WON’T STOP ME FROM SPEAKING THE TRUTH,” tweeted Ayyub in response.
Ayyub has been the target of Hindu supremacist harassment for years due to her investigative reporting on the role of Amit Shah, India’s home minister and close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a series of extrajudicial killings of Muslims.
Because she is a vocal critic of Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Ayyub has received over over 26,000 rape and death threats through social media and faced judicial harassment, prompting United Nations and other media watchdogs to issue statements calling on the Indian government to ensure her safety.
In Karnataka, Muslims Demand Police to Drop False Charges Against 167 Muslims
Muslims in Karnataka state’s Kalaburagi district demanded that police drop false charges against 167 Muslims, including 10 women, who were arrested following a communal clash instigated by Hindu supremacists.
On March 1, a mob of extremists from the Hindu supremacist group Shree Ram Sena attempted to barge into a 14th-century Muslim shrine (dargah) in Karnataka state and hold a Hindu prayer inside to “purify” it. The extremists were led by five members of the BJP and were offered police protection to pray inside the dargah. However, 167 Muslims who protested and attempted to defend their space were arrested, while the Hindu extremists walked scot-free. Police also broke into Muslim residencies to conduct arrests. One Muslim woman was beaten all over her body in front of her daughter, after which police stripped off her scarf and used it to tie her hands behind her back.
Muslims are now demanding justice for the wrongfully imprisoned. Afzal Mehmood, a community leader, said that if the charges were not dropped, protests would be held against the district Superintendent of Police.
“They have falsely registered cases against innocent people under pressure from Union Minister of State for New and Renewable Energy Bhagwanth Khuba, local MLAs, and several Hindu group leaders. Khuba came with a large group when prohibitory orders were in place. However, no action was taken against him and others who violated the curfew orders,” said Mehmood.
Kashmiri Journalist Re-Arrested Hours After Being Granted Bail
Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah was arrested for the third time in less than a month on yet another set of baseless allegations. Hours after being granted bail in a separate case, Shah was arrested for reporting on an encounter with militants in which Kashmiri civilians gave quotes denying the official police narrative. He remains imprisoned in the Srinagar district of Jammu and Kashmir.
“This [police report] is totally based on his journalistic reportage,” said Umair Ronga, Shah’s attorney. “I don’t feel there is any need for any custodial interrogation or any other such sort of investigation.”
So far, Shah has been charged across multiple cases with “glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news & inciting general public for creating law and order (L&O) situations,” according to a police statement. However, Indian authorities have faced international backlash for targeting Shah, including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the United Nations.