The Indian-American journalist in his show on CNN also refers to relentless attack on the press in Prime Minister Modi’s regime
NEW DELHI – Citing Freedom House report which changed the status of India from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’, prominent Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria said that India was fast losing its democratic ideals under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and it could lose its anchor of democracy if it continues to slide.
“India has fallen short of its democratic ideals before Modi, but rarely has it fallen so far so fast. The country is not yet lost as an anchor of democracy in the world but it could be if it continues its slide. A result that could be catastrophic for it but also in a world where India has always stood as a shining beacon,” said Zakaria at his programme ‘What’s in the World’ broadcast at the CNN on Monday.
Today’s What in the World segment: how freedom is eroding in the world’s largest democracy pic.twitter.com/tdsIguRzbG
— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) March 7, 2021
He spoke about how the press in India, once known for its “dynamism”, has been relentlessly attacked and intimidated by the Narendra Modi government, particularly during the pandemic.
“The New York Times reported in April that Modi used the pandemic to harangue media outlets into providing favourable coverage,” Zakaria said on the show. “His government has pressured outlets to fire journalists critical of its policies and suspend features that critiqued it.”
Pointing to the charge against climate activist Disha Ravi, Zakaria said she was arrested “for doing nothing worse it seems, than drafting and sharing a document in support of the ongoing farmers’ protests”.
Talking about India’s fall from “free” to “partly free” in Freedom House’s “freedom score” for the first time in 30 years, he said the country used to be a rare bright spot in Asia as the countries around it were labelled “not free”. Zakaria located India’s illeberialism in the BJP’s attempts to promote Hindu nationalism and target the Muslim minority.
“India’s illiberal slide has been steady and now swift under Mr Narendra Modi and his BJP,” he argued. “Over the last five years India has clamped down tightly on freedom of speech…for merely criticising the government.”
Citing the report of a news website Article 14 about the sedition charges, Zakaria also talked about the growing number of sedition cases in the country as well as discriminatory policies launched by the government against Muslims referring to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposal of the NRC.
Referring to Freedom House’s assessment of the situation in Kashmir, he said the Himalayan region’s status fell to “not free” in 2020, putting it on a par with dictatorships and police states.