In the words of Joseph Naye, “The soft power is the ability to get what you want, but through attraction rather than coercion and that includes; Culture, Values and foreign policy”. And these are the areas where India has contradictions. The Indian face today has become the identity government for a Hindu “Rashtra” (state) by the “majoritarian” rule of the BJP, endorsing xenophobia, communal hatred and minority insecurity within the country. It raises big question mark on the Indian democracy pushing the Indian liberal democracy under threat. Lessons must be learnt from history to fathom not just about how democracy can get toppled and undermined from within, but also why such populist and authoritarian figures relish high admiration amongst the working and middle classes, many of whom claim that they do not identify with fascist agendas. In the contemporary history, the world’s largest democracy does not enjoy most of the freedom of expression and has slipped down from democracy to electoral autocracy says the V-Dem report 2021.
The Sweden based Institute, The Varieties of Democracy; (V-Dem) is an independent organization working in the University of Gothenburg Sweden has published report titled “Autocratization Turns Viral”. The V-Dem produces the largest dataset on democracy with almost 30 million data points for 202 countries from 1789 till date, based on local knowledge, it meets the global standards. The V-Dem report findings, based on methodological and theoretical expertise, factual information, have explained that India with 1.4 billon people is no longer an electoral democracy owing to human right abuses and atrocities (though India is not alone in this group). The report analyses that India has moved from top 50% of the 180 countries to the bottom 50%. India is the country which is leading towards third wave of Autocratization, whereas 68% of world population lives under autocratic regime types. After this report, Indian claim to establish its soft image across the globe on the basis of the largest democracy in the world is questioned.
The report illustrates that the media, academia and civil society in India are not free enough for them to be called a democracy. However, it has largely been curbed over the past ten years. The Hindutva centered BJP’s policy, together with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) from 1967, conceived about 50 years ago and amended in August 2019 and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has deteriorated the situation while growing into a poisonous tree today. The CAA has generated problematic discrepancies between different groups of people, segregated on the basis of religion. It can be well argued as a chase towards Divide & Rule policy of India. However, the religious discrimination, enshrined by CAA is regarded as unconstitutional and a negation of Indian secular constitutional ethos. Such patterns of Indian government have no place in the modern democratization. This situation is even more concerning in pandemic.
The discriminatory policies of India are alarming whereas the scope and frequency is aggravating substantially with the rise of Hindu nationalism connected with Narendar Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party. Today India’s failure to comply with International human rights’ obligations has called to serious attentions to the regional peace at large. The laws which are established to inhibit cases of agitation and apathy against the state are implied in broad terms. Based on these issues, V-Dem statistical and quantified report illustrate that India’s level of liberal Democracy has been pushed to a decline score to 0.34 (On a scale of (0-1) by the end of 2020 while earlier it was 0.57 in 2013. In the words of Joseph Naye, “The soft power is the ability to get what you want, but through attraction rather than coercion and that includes; Culture, Values and foreign policy.” And these are the areas where India has contradictions. The freedom of speech remains open for the Hindutva-led parties. The religious ideology of extremism has strengthened its roots in the political ideology which gave rise to religious Hindutva that eventually transformed itself to political Hindutva which is not only detrimental to India itself but for the regional peace as well. The journalists have been put behind the bars on the charge of defamation. It is worth mentioning, despite these statistics, India is part of G-20 countries, among which 5 countries including India are down sliding. The electoral autocracy is the most common regime type in the world with 62 countries.
The V-Dem report is an eye opener for the world regimes, and it is a timely contribution for the betterment of the societies because it is time to defend democracy rather than ‘democracy promotion’. This is a third wave of Autocratization and 1/3rd, 2.6 billion people, are affected by it. The liberal democracies have shrunk to 32 countries out of 41. Third wave of Autocratization continues and accelerates. The global decline has been steep over the past decade. The outlook is however more worrying. Because it says that countries in Autocratization outnumber the countries that are advancing on democracy as no less than 25 countries are declining by 2020 and this number was less than 10 only 10 years ago. Also, it is noteworthy that there are similar patterns across countries when they autocratize and this process gradually develops over years. The leaders coming to power through electoral procedure begin to undermine democratic norms.