With a population of almost 1.4 billion citizens, the 5th largest economy in the world, and know to be one of the largest democracies in the world; it is evident that there will be multiple different ideas and principles amongst citizens. In the constitution of India, it states and promises citizens freedom of expression. However, although the constitution of India has not changed, the right of freedom of expression has.
Freedom House, a non-profit organization known for political advocacy surrounding issues of democracy, political freedom and human rights has been able to show the timeline of changes from a political right and civil liberty standpoint. According to Freedom House, in 2017, India was free. India was known to have an electoral democracy with a competitive multiparty system at federal and state levels. However was known to have signs of democratic erosions in both politics and businesses. Some of these signs included censored news media and television and mistreatment of minority groups such as Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis). In this same year, with the recurring signs of democratic erosion, 13th president Pranab Mukherjee, elaborated that his presidency was aligned with India’s core values; tolerance, compassion, and patriotism. One of the main leadings to democratic erosion in the propaganda, wording, and misinformation put into speeches and public news; in the year 2017 this was upheld and respected allowing for this country to be labeled as free.
However, as of now in 2023, Freedom House has labeled India as partly free. “While India is a multiparty democracy, the government led by Prime minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has resumed over discriminatory policies and a rise in persecution affecting the Muslim population. The constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations, and the other government critics has increased significantly under Modi” (Freedom House 2023). Under Modi, freedom of expression has been taken away gradually.
Just recently on October 17th, 2023, journalist pleaded with President Murmu’s intervention for protection of media freedom. Pleaded by an unnamed journalist “Even as the majority in our profession face precarious working conditions, the use of draconian laws against journalist has gone up exponentially.” In the span of 6 years misinformation, misleading propaganda, and gender/racial inequality have caused India to fall into a deeper hole of democratic erosion. “Marginalized segments of the population continue to face practical obstacles to full political representation” (Freedom House 2022). Due to racial inequality, by the end of 2022, no national legislator belonging to the BJP identified as Muslim.
It is important to understand the effects of democratic erosion. India, being one of the largest democracies in the world, is slowly dying and falling into an authoritarian state right before us. In New York Times Bestseller “How Democracies Die” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, they state, “Authoritarians seeking to consolidate their power often reform the constitution, the electoral system, and other institutions in wats that disadvantage or weaken the opposition, in effect tilting the playing field against their rivals.” Note that many of these things have occurred and currently are continuing. There is censored media outlets, now 0 Muslims in a representative position, and most importantly the silencing of many journalists. The abuse of power is real.
It is important to focus and note that democracy is failing in India and the only way is to spread awareness and build the knowledge of citizens in different outlets. If this continues any longer, soon Indian citizens will not have a voice and will be forced to live in an authoritarian state and will not have the ability nor the opportunity to regain their democracy.