New Delhi: An independent research organisation based in Sweden called The V-Dem Institute has declared India an “electoral autocracy”, accusing the Union government of suppressing media and overusing defamation and sedition laws. Calling India as autocratic as Pakistan, the report ranked the nation worse than Bangladesh and Nepal when it comes to censorship. The report also pointed out that the Indian government before Narendra Modi rarely used censorship.Also Read - Lead India Foundation Honours India's 111 Most Powerful Women on International Women's Day

“India’s autocratization process has largely followed the typical pattern for countries in the ‘Third Wave’ over the past ten years: a gradual deterioration where freedom of the media, academia, and civil society were curtailed first and to the greatest extent. India is, in this aspect (censorship) now as autocratic as is Pakistan, and worse than both its neighbors Bangladesh and Nepal. In general, the Modi-led government in India has used laws on sedition, defamation, and counterterrorism to silence critics. For example, over 7,000 people have been charged with sedition after the BJP assumed power and most of the accused are critics of the ruling party,” reads the report.

Notably, V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) claims to produce the largest data set on democracy with almost 30 million data points for 202 countries from 1789 to 2020. Last year, the institute had said that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) closely resembles a “typical governing party in an autocracy”.

It claimed that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, amended in 2019, was being used to “harass, intimidate, and imprison political opponents” as well as against people protesting against the government’s policies. ”The UAPA has been used also to silence dissent in academia. Universities and authorities have also punished students and activists in universities engaging in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA),” the report further said.

The report also accused the government of restraining civil society and violating the Constitution’s commitment to secularism. “The BJP has increasingly used the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) to restrict the entry, exit and functioning of civil society organisations,” it said.

The report was released on Wednesday, March 10, in the presence of Sweden’s Deputy Foreign Minister Robert Rydberg. You can read the full report here.