India drops 10 places in Democracy Index in ‘tumultuous year’ for Asia
The Democracy Index referred to the changes in Jammu and Kashmir and the controversial implementation of the (NRC) in Assam.Updated: Jan 22, 2020 14:35 IST
India dropped 10 places in the Democracy Index’s global ranking to 51st place, with the survey describing the erosion of civil liberties in the country as the primary cause of the democratic regression.
The Democracy Index - prepared by Economist Intelligence Unit, the research and analysis division of The Economist Group - provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide in 165 independent states and two territories.
It is based on electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties.
India’s overall score, on a scale of 0-10, fell from 7.23 in 2018 to 6.90 in 2019, with the survey listing India among countries where there were “regressions”. In the Asia and Australia region, India ranked eighth, behind countries such as Timor-Leste, Malaysia and Taiwan.
By contrast, Norway topped the index, with a score of 9.87, while North Korea was at the bottom of the global rankings, with a score of 1.08. China’s score fell to 2.26, and it is now ranked 153rd, close to the bottom of the rankings.
The Democracy Index described 2019 as a “tumultuous year” for Asian democracies. The biggest change occurred in Thailand, whose score improved by 1.69 points compared with 2018, to 6.32, resulting in a rise of 38 places, while introduction of a “fake news” law in Singapore led to a deterioration in the score for civil liberties.
The Democracy Index referred to the changes in Jammu and Kashmir and the controversial implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam while describing what it said was the “democratic regression” in India, the world’s largest democracy.
“The Indian government stripped the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state of its special status by repealing two key constitutional provisions granting it powers of autonomy,” it said, referring to Article 370 of the Constitution and Article 35A, which prevented residents from other states from purchasing land or property in Kashmir.
“Following the removal of these provisions of the Constitution and the passage of a new Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act of 2019, J&K no longer enjoys statehood and is now divided into two union territories: one that retains the name Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh,” it said.
“Ahead of the move, the government deployed a large number of troops in J&K, imposed various other security measures and placed local leaders under house arrest, including those with pro-India credentials. The government also restricted internet access in the state,” it added.
The Democracy Index noted that the “citizenship registration exercise” in Assam had “excluded 1.9m from the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC)”.
“The vast majority of people excluded from the NRC are Muslims,” it said, adding the ruling BJP “says that most of the people excluded from the list are immigrants from Bangladesh, whose government denies this”.
It added: “Critics claim that the exercise targets the Muslim population and will lead to demographic changes along religious lines. There are almost 200m Muslims in India: the figure was 195,810,000 in 2015, representing 14.9% of the total population of India and 10.5% of the total Muslim population of the world... At current growth rates India will be home to the world’s biggest Muslim population by 2060, with a Muslim population of more than 333m or 19.4% of the total population.
“The new citizenship law has enraged the large Muslim population, stoked communal tensions and generated large protests in major cities.”
Three countries - Chile, France and Portugal - moved from the “flawed democracy” category to the “full democracy” category, while Malta moved in the opposite direction, falling out of “full democracy” to become a “flawed democracy”.