By Syed Ali Mujtaba
An International agency monitoring the health of democracy levels has come up with an alarming finding that India is ‘One of the worst autocratisers in the last 10 years. The 2023 V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) report is issued by Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
The V-Dem report lists 42 countries as “autocratising” at the end of 2022. In 2021, this institute classified India as an “electoral autocracy”, while in the same year, another agency, ‘Freedom House’ listed India as “Partly Free.”
Also in 2021, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance in its Global State of Democracy (GSoD) report classified India as a backsliding democracy and a “major decliner.”
The data made available by the GSoD report says that between 1975 and 1995 India’s representative government score moved from .59 to .69. In 2015 it was .72. However, in 2020 it stood at .61, i.e, closer to the score India had in 1975 when it was under Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the 2023 V-Dem report refers to India as “one of the worst autocratisers in the last 10 years.” This is mentioned in a blurb on page 10 of the report.
The V- Dem report places India in the bottom 40-50% on its Liberal Democracy Index and gives it 97 ranks out of 200 + countries. India also ranks 108 on the Electoral Democracy Index and is 123 on the Egalitarian Component Index.
The V- Dem report also points out some characteristics of autocratising countries. These include increased media censorship and repression of civil society, a decrease in academic freedom, cultural freedom, and freedom of discussion.
The report states that media censorship and repression of civil society are “what rulers in autocratising countries” engage in most frequently and this is found to the greatest degree in India.
The V-Dem report says that disinformation, polarization, and autocratisation reinforce each other. The report finds that academic freedom and freedom of expression have declined severely in many countries including India. It classifies India as autocratising country that has seen the “most dramatic” increases in political polarization.
The V-Dem report states that democracies can bounce back from autocratisation when a certain set of criteria are satisfied. These include mass mobilization against an incumbent, a unified opposition working with civil society, the judiciary reversing an executive takeover, critical elections, and international support for democracy.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com