India's Democracy Deterioration: V-Dem Institute's 2024 Report

Image of the V-Dem Institute’s Democracy Report 2024 depicting India's democratic decline as highlighted in the report titled 'India's Democracy Deterioration: V-Dem Institute's 2024 Report
India's Democracy Deterioration: V-Dem Institute's 2024 Report [Source: V-Dem]

The V-Dem Institute’s Democracy Report 2024 has once again classified India as an electoral autocracy, with its democracy scores continuing to decline across various parameters. Titled “Democracy Winning and Losing at the Ballot,” the report highlights India’s persistent autocratization process, ranking it among the top 10 standalone autocratizers in 2023.

India’s Transition to Electoral Autocracy:

India's descent into electoral autocracy began in 2018, a status it has maintained through 2023. The report notes that of the top 10 autocratizers, eight were previously democratic nations. However, democracy collapsed in six of these cases, including India, leaving only Greece and Poland as democracies by 2023. The report highlights a study indicating that 80% of democracies undergoing autocratization ultimately fail.

Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Media Independence:

The V-Dem Institute’s report documents India's autocratization through the gradual erosion of freedom of expression, compromised media independence, social media crackdowns, and harassment of critical journalists. Additionally, attacks on civil society and opposition intimidation contribute to India’s declining democracy scores.

Suppression of Dissent by the BJP Government:

The report specifically implicates the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in using sedition, defamation, and counterterrorism laws to silence critics. The BJP government is also accused of undermining secularism by amending the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in 2019.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom and Academic Expression:

Under the Modi-led government, reports suggest ongoing suppression of religious freedom and increased intimidation of political opponents and protestors. The report also highlights a concerning trend of silencing dissent in academia.

Implications for the 2024 Elections:

With general elections scheduled for 2024, the report raises concerns about India's autocratization and its impact on the democratic process. It warns that a third consecutive term for the BJP and Prime Minister Modi could further accelerate autocratization, given the substantial decline in democracy under Modi's leadership and ongoing crackdowns on minority rights and civil society.

India's Global Standing:

The report places India's autocratization within a global context, noting that 42 countries, home to 35% of the world’s population, were undergoing autocratization in 2023. India, with 18% of the world’s population, accounts for roughly half of the population living in autocratizing countries. In contrast, only 18 countries, representing 5% of the world’s population, were experiencing democratization.

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