Diminishing space for dissent in world’s largest democracy



As of today, Amnesty International will no longer be able to work inside India. Following years of official threats, intimidation and harassment, Amnesty India’s accounts have been frozen without any official notice. The human rights research and campaigning our colleagues were carrying out has come to a sudden halt, notes Rajat Khosla, a senior director at Amnesty International.

They have had their means to make a living snatched from them. And the millions of people who were helped by their work will no longer have a powerful voice to amplify their own calls for justice, he writes for The Guardian:

This decision was not motivated by any question of law, as the Indian authorities now claim. It is not about Amnesty India’s sources of funding, which are entirely legitimate and involved no lawbreaking. This is punishment for standing up for humanity’s core values in the world’s largest democracy. …Our work is not some sinister plot to tarnish India’s reputation. It is inspired by the country’s own tradition of egalitarianism.

“What worries me tremendously is what is happening to core democratic values in a country like India,” Khosla told The Washington Post.

The announcement reflects the diminishing space for dissent in the world’s largest democracy, where critics of government policies increasingly face probes by authorities or even arrest, The Post adds. 

The government is “treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence,” said Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India. Its goal is to “stoke a climate of fear.”

Critics also say the government is pushing a Hindu-first agenda, undermining the secular foundations of India’s democracy and raising fears among its 170 million Muslim minority, Reuters reports.

But India’s democrats have their work cut out as populist presidents and prime ministers like Modi stay in office twice as long as non-populist ones: on average, six and a half years compared with three, according to Yascha Mounk, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, a contributor to the NED’s Journal of Democracy, and the author of The People vs. Democracy.


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