In India, the land of the ‘free’, the glass is never half full

Politicians, police and courts are totally free to do what they like. So are vigilante groups, rapists and mobs. And yet, this US think tank says India is only ‘partly free’!

In India, the land of the ‘free’, the glass is never half full

Ranjona Banerji

How angry we patriots are that this US government-funded think tank Freedom House has had the temerity to report that India has fallen in democracy ratings! What? India? The largest, greatest, oldest, bestest, perfectest nation in the world under Shri Narendra Modi and BJP?? Whaaat?

And even worse, have you read this:

“India, the world’s most populous democracy, dropped from Free to Partly Free status in Freedom in the World 2021. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its state-level allies continued to crack down on critics during the year, and their response to COVID-19 included a ham-fisted lockdown that resulted in the dangerous and unplanned displacement of millions of internal migrant workers. The ruling Hindu nationalist movement also encouraged the scapegoating of Muslims, who were disproportionately blamed for the spread of the virus and faced attacks by vigilante mobs. Rather than serving as a champion of democratic practice and a counterweight to authoritarian influence from countries such as China, Modi and his party are tragically driving India itself toward authoritarianism.”

Freedom House indeed! The US Government. What does it think of itself?

(O hello Mr President Shri Biden Sir ji, how nice of you to call me. I expected the first phone call to be to me and I waited and waited. I thought you were angry because I pretended to love that Doland. That was all show. It’s only you.)

Doesn’t this Freedom House know about India? How we have one of the best sedition laws in the world, so that we can catch all thinkers, activists, children, scholars, did I mention children, and lock them up at will?

Doesn’t Freedom House know we have a judiciary that asks men accused of rape if they are willing to marry their rape victims? Doesn’t Freedom House know that in India farmers protesting against what they see are unfair laws can be arrested, assaulted, abused, teargassed and water cannoned without any consequences?

Doesn’t Freedom House know that in India you can lynch Muslims at will and there will be no negative consequences? In fact, a Union minister may come to your house to garland you on the off chance that you were arrested by mistake. Anyway, rest assured, bail is easy for the rape accused.

Doesn’t Freedom House know that in India you are free to keep people in jail for ages for thinking and talking and sharing thoughts? It doesn’t matter if these people are old or ill or there’s a pandemic on? Freedom to jail is freedom to jail.

Doesn’t Freedom House know that in India if you feel that you must discriminate against a Dalit, a woman, a religious minority, you are free to do so in spite of some document called a Constitution and some laws and so on?

Doesn’t Freedom House know that in India a chief minister of a state sadly known for its crime rate, especially against women, Dalits, Muslims, minorities, can freely travel around India lecturing other states on how to organize their law and order?

Doesn’t Freedom House know that every environmental law can be openly flouted so as to destroy our natural resources for electoral benefit all in the name of “development”?

Doesn’t Freedom House know that the Government of India is free to discuss a full Nazi-style strategy for media control, trying to “neutralize” all criticism of the Government?

Yes, we are free in India, not partly free but totally free to destroy everything we fought for some 75 years ago. Free to chip away at every institution. Free to exploit every loophole. Free to lie but of course all politicians are free to lie as Freedom House knows and mentions.

But the world, how could the world be so cruel to us? We who pretend the world is our family but then create citizenship laws which allow some people to enter and keep others out based on religion? We who want a place at the top table and want to spread our own people far and wide, but also want to ensure that everyone we don’t want in our land is abused as a termite?

Freedom, goes that famous song, is just another word for nothing left to lose.

And our own freedom house is empty right now. Empty of rights and privileges. Empty of fundamental promises. Empty of economic growth and future expectations. Empty of social development. Empty of conscience. Empty of hope.

We are free to be oppressed. Try that, Freedom House for all your big talk!

(The writer is a senior journalist and commentator. Views are personal)

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