At the India Today Conclave South 2021 held on Saturday, at the Taj Coromandel in Chennai, External Affairs Minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, expressed disagreement with the repealing of India’s democracy status in reports by two international organizations.
A US-government funded NGO, Freedom House, rolled back India’s freedom status from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ in a report titled ‘Democracy Under Siege’. The report cited curbing freedom of speech among journalists and academics, violence targeted at Muslims, and unlawful arrests, among many other non-democratic practices, as a reason for India’s downgrade to ‘partly free’ and its score dropping from 71 to 67, on a scale of 100.
In a report by the V-Dem Institute of Sweden, it was stated that India has changed from an ‘electoral democracy’ to an ‘electoral autocracy’; equal rights, inclusiveness, and fair treatment at the hands of the law have seen a sharp downturn since the BJP rose to power in 2014. The reinstatement of the Modi government in 2019 only continued to aggravate the issue.
Jaishankar claims that these organizations have hypocritically appointed themselves as custodians of the world, making their own rules, regulations, and parameters with which to pass judgment on countries. He said that the reality is very different from what these reports make it out to be, stating that the elections in India have never been questioned the way it has in some other countries.
Also refuting the tag of ‘Hindu nationalist country’, Jaishankar said that India would not be giving out lakhs of vaccines to other countries, if they cared only about their nationalist ideals and their own people, implying that India sees only human beings first and all other differentiating aspects second.
However, none of these statements adequately counter the ‘Hindu nationalist’ tag; the country continues to terrorize citizens to censor themselves for fear of arrest, has months-long Internet blackouts, turns a blind eye to communal violence towards minorities, curbs peaceful protests, etc.
Further, addressing a question on India-China’s weakening ties, Jaishankar said India did want to be on good terms with its neighbors but if China continues to point a gun at our country, they will face reciprocation.
On Monday, the minister acknowledged another matter of concern—discrimination in the UK against Asians. In light of the recent bullying and harassment of Rashmi Samant, the first Indian woman to be elected as President of the Oxford University Students Union, a BJP MP raised his concerns about the discrimination and cyberattacks Samant faced from peers and a faculty member. Samant was forced to resign from her post after her social media posts were deemed anti-Semitic, insensitive, and racist. A faculty member even posted publicly, criticizing her parents’ Hindu faith. Jaishankar said that the issue will be taken up with Britain when required and will not let such intolerance go unnoticed.