Political rights of India’s Muslims continue to be threatened: Freedom House

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Muslim women after voting| Agency photo/File

By Ubair ul Hameed

Freedom House, a US government-funded think-tank, in its 2023 report ‘Freedom in the World’ has said the “the political rights of India’s Muslims continue to be threatened.”

“In December 2019, Parliament adopted the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which grants special access to Indian citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants and refugees from neighboring Muslim-majority states. At the same time, the government moved forward with plans for the creation of a national register of citizens,” the report said.

According to the report, many observers believe that the register’s purpose is to disenfranchise Muslim voters by effectively classifying them as illegal immigrants. Importantly, Muslims disproportionately lack documentation attesting to their place of birth. Undocumented non-Muslims, meanwhile, would be eligible for citizenship through a fast-track process under the CAA.

The report said that “marginalized segments of the population continue to face practical obstacles to full political representation.”

“Muslim candidates notably won 27 of 545 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, up from 22 previously. However, this amounted to just 5 percent of the seats in the chamber, whereas Muslims made up some 14.2 percent of the population according to the 2011 census,” the report said.

“By the end of 2022, no national legislator belonging to the BJP identified as Muslim.”

Freedom House, in its report, said that “a number of Hindu nationalist organizations and some media outlets promote anti-Muslim views, a practice that the government of Prime Minister Modi has been accused of encouraging.”

“Attacks against Muslims and others in connection with the alleged slaughter or mistreatment of cows, which are held to be sacred by Hindus, continued in 2021. The BJP has faced criticism for failing to mount an adequate response to cow-related violence,” read the report.

“In 2020 individuals charged with orchestrating the illegal 1992 demolition of a prominent mosque in the state of Uttar Pradesh were acquitted by a special court, despite substantial evidence of their culpability,” the report said adding “among those exonerated were several high-profile members of the BJP.”

According to the report, Prime Minister of India Modi had laid the foundation stone for a new Hindu temple on the site a month earlier, after a long-awaited 2019 Supreme Court judgment had permitted the construction of a temple there.

“The mosque had stood on the site for centuries prior to its unlawful destruction,” the report said.

In 2020 and 2021, according to the report, several BJP-led states passed or proposed laws meant to stem the alleged practice of “love jihad”—a baseless conspiracy theory according to which Muslims marry Hindu women with the goal of converting them to Islam.

“The legislation effectively created obstacles to interfaith marriages and raised the risk of legal penalties, harassment, and violence for interfaith couples,” the report said.


“The BJP has increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents. Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis) remain economically and socially marginalized,” the report said.

The  report said that “colonial-era and other laws have increasingly been invoked in recent years to penalize perceived criticism of the government by ordinary citizens. Activists, Muslims, and members of other marginalized communities are routinely charged with sedition for criticizing the government and its policies.”

“Online ‘troll armies’ associated with the BJP routinely harass individuals—notably Muslims—and organizations for voicing criticism of the government and for engaging in behavior that supposedly deviates from Hindu orthodoxy,” the report said.

The report said that “several key Supreme Court rulings in recent years have been favorable to the BJP, including the 2019 decision allowing the construction of a Hindu temple on the site of a historic mosque.”

The report also made a mention of the Karnataka government’s Hijab ban.

Moreover, the report stated that Muslim homes had allegedly been demolished in retaliation for protests.

“Authorities in several regions demolished Muslim-owned properties during the year. In April, authorities in Delhi, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh responded to unrest by demolishing Muslim-owned buildings. Authorities in Uttar Pradesh destroyed Muslim-owned homes in June after protests held that month,” the report said.

The report rated India as a “partially free” nation for the third year in a row.

India got 66 marks out of 100.

Some of the assessed parameters in the report were ‘electoral processes’, ‘political pluralism and participation’, ‘functioning of government’, ‘freedom of expression and belief’, ‘associational and organisational rights’, ‘rule of law’ and ‘personal autonomy and individual rights’.

The Freedom House evaluated 195 nations based on factors including political freedoms and civil rights. The organisation can classify a certain nation as “free,” “partially free,” or “not free” based on the cumulative score.

The report said that “the constitution guarantees civil liberties including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, but harassment of journalists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other government critics has increased significantly under Modi.”

“The BJP has increasingly used government institutions to target political opponents. Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis) remain economically and socially marginalized,” the report said.

The Indian administration, in the past denied allegations that it is losing ground when it comes to democracy and freedom in the country.

In March 2021 after Freedom House downgraded India from a free democracy to a “partially free democracy”, India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishanker said, “You use the dichotomy of democracy and autocracy…You want the truthful answer – it is hypocrisy.”

“Because you have a set of self-appointed custodians of the world, who find it very difficult to stomach that somebody in India is not looking for their approval, is not willing to play the game they want it to be played. So they invent their rules, their parameters, they pass their judgments and then make out as though this is some kind of global exercise,” Jaishanker had said.

courtesy Muslim Mirror

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