Politics of Ethnicity: Sri Lankan Case Study
The Parallels of Totalitarian M.O. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher called man a “social animal” by nature. Human survival has been a key characteristic and this depended on man’s ability to become part of social groups. In old times, physical survival of these collective bodies depended on the in-group cohesion. From here the concept of us versus them, was sprouted. These distinctions have always tempted people to divide themselves into diverse groups. Humans consider themselves as part of a certain group on the basis of clan, family, ethnicity, race, religion and so forth. They recognize themselves as an in-group identity, to which generally positive characteristics are attached. For an in-group identity there must be the “other” group that is perceived as the out-group. This otherness has always been considered a threat which ultimately in many cases leads to hostilities and differences between the two groups. Conflicts are inevitable and can occur in different dimensions and in distinct dynamics. They can be ethnic and political in nature and together it gives rise to ethnopolitical conflict, which is fought between different factions. It is an intergroup conflict that disturbs communication and distorts perceptions between the groups. They foreground ethnic and religious differences which as a result alter the perceptions of the other side. (Souleimanov 2013). The ethnically diverse country constitutes 75 percent Buddhist Sinhalese and Tamils who are chiefly Hindus form 15.4 per cent, of which 11.2 per cent are Sri Lankan Tamils and 4.2 per cent are Indian Tamils. (Div-05 2016) The Indian Tamils were brought as laborers to Sri Lanka by the British. Ethnic differences between the two dominant ethnic groups, Sinhala and Tamils, coupled with rising nationalism generated the ethnopolitical conflict. The discriminatory rule of the British before independence and the culturally biased policies of the Sinhala government after freedom from the colonial rulers are considered the leading causes of the conflict. The politicization of ethnicity by Sri Lankan government resulted in the birth of LTTE. In 1948, Sri Lanka gained independence from the British. Sri Lankan people, before and after independence have been a victim of ethnopolitics. However, the ethnic politics became clearly manifested in 19th and early 20th centuries. The colonial phase of Sri Lankan history largely shaped the conflict. The British rule from 1815 to 1948 created borders which formed divisions between ethnic groups and also set the stage for the conflict. The British colonizers favored the minorities. The divide and rule strategy aggravated the differences between Tamils and Sinhalese. The minority under colonials in Ceylon were Tamils. The minority, after all, was more trustworthy to become an ally. This also led to Tamils enjoying more necessities than Sinhalese who were in the majority. For example, a larger number of Christian missionaries in the north meant Tamils having more access to English education. This resulted in Tamils accessing more positions in civil services and having a greater economic influence. (“Sri Lanka, Ethnic Conflict, and the Rise of a Violent Secessionist Movement” 2013). This marked the initiation of socio-economic and political divide between Sinhalese and Tamils. The tables turned when the island nation got independence from British rule. Tamils found themselves in a precarious position because the majority group sought to receive political and economic power. When Sri Lanka got independence in 1948, the Tamils now feared for the protection of their political, economic and cultural rights under the rule of now the major ethnicity of Sri Lanka. The major Sinhalese dominated political parties, relied on ethnic emotions to win Sinhalese support and exploited public opinion in 1950s. Different policies emerged in the next five decades which are regarded as a step towards ethnicization of politics. The first of these was the 1956 Official Language Act (of Sinhala-only language). The main source of this Act is considered the growing resentment from Sinhalese population for Tamil language being a national language. The impact of this was that it created greater job opportunities for Sinhala speakers and limited them for non- Sinhala speakers. Though education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels was provided in person’s vernacular, but with time in public service, Sinhalese became the lingua Franca (“Sinhala Only Bill | 1956, Sri Lanka,” n.d.). However, linguistic nationalism is one of many other driving factors for Tamil demand of separate homeland. After independence, issue of land ownership and access to it also was a consistent source of ethnopolitics. Certain ethnic groups in Sri Lanka are distributed in certain geographical areas. Tamils were majorly settled in dry zone areas of Northern and Eastern provinces. Colonization and resettlement of these areas was another problem faced by Tamils. (Perer 2001) Sinhalese and Tamil leadership at this time played a crucial role. The reason for Tamil distrust in Sri Lanka political system finds bases in Tamil elites trusting the Sinhalese government and Sinhalese breaking it, time and time again. Before the emergence of separatist movements, Tamils made several attempts to work through with the government. All these attempts went in vain when fake promises made by the government were completely ignored in the end. The Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam Pact that was abandoned at the end provoked more tensions between both two ethnic communities. In the same time period, Tamil Language Special Provisions Act, inspired by Sinhala Only Bill and Senanayake- Chelvanayaka Pact were signed and abandoned because of pressure from certain Sinhalese. The inability to make concessions and keep promises had become an engrained norm of Sri Lankan government. From this point onwards, demands for a separate homeland in northern Sri Lanka-Tamil Eelam were made. Tamils also used non-violent means to achieve their political goals. Two major Satyagraha campaigns were adopted by Tamils. Both the instances of Satyagraha were response to the Sinhala Only Act in 1956 and 1961 respectively. (“Sri Lanka, Ethnic Conflict, and the Rise of a Violent Secessionist Movement” 2013). In Sri Lanka, the politicization of ethnic tensions further exacerbated the situation. As stated above that the conflict had historical roots but fuel was added by the politicians. They provided the spark that ignited violence in the country. The politicians took help of raw violence and votes. The above argument suggests and helps understand the emergence of Liberation of Tamil Tigers and other insurgent groups and movements. LTTE also state that “they are the product of the Sinhala violence and chauvinism”, or as Neil de Votta says the birth of the separatist movement is “Sinhala-inspired.” (Abdul Razak 2007). To please the Sinhalese voters, the political parties created an environment of distrust between Sinhalese and Tamils. Communal riots resulted in Tamil killings, beatings and many were maimed and forced out of their homes. The ethnocratic government and its ethnocentric politics lead to intense nationalism among Tamils. The unattended grievances by the Sri Lankan government drove the Tamils towards retaliation in the form of a violent rebel. LTTE was formed in 1976 as ethnic tensions rose in Tamil majority regions. The Tamil militants started the insurgency with low intensity to maintain control in the Tamil dominated areas. They declared the first Eelam war as a result of these violent riots. Initially, LTTE had the support of legitimate Tamil political representatives but Liberation Tigers with time became a violent entity and started to fight other Tamil factions. They massacred their opponents and came in power over the other separatist movements by 1986. They became the “sole representative of the Tamils.”(TamilNet 2005) The Sri Lankan civil war is divided into 4 phases named as Eelam wars. Each phase was bloodier than the previous one. Tactics used by Tigers with time became more lethal. The insurgent group targeted many high-profile personalities. The war officially started as a low-level insurgency in 1983 as a result of ethnic riots. LTTE soon was labelled as the terrorist group after the use of terror tactics including suicide bombs. (“The Sri Lankan Civil War and Its History, Revisited in 2020” 2020). On May 2009, the Sri Lanka army announced victory after killing the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. This marked the end of the civil war. (thoughtcodotcom 2009) The political development in Sri Lanka and ethnic strife proved that violence was the consequence of politicization of ethnic differences. The LTTE firmly believed that employed violence was validated because government had reacted violently to Tamil demands. The Sri Lankan government, on the other hand, justified its violence against Tamils and LTTE for safeguarding the territorial integrity of the Sri Lankan island. Ethno-political conflicts require resolutions that guarantee stability, ethnic peace and security. In ethnically divided societies power sharing and partition is a highly practical and achievable solution for security of ethnic groups. Other than partition, depending upon the conflict, ethnic peace needs to be sustained. The writer is of the view that India should avoid marring BD’s independence celebrations by creating ill-will against Pakistan. Bangladesh is celebrating its golden jubilee of Independence from 17-27 March 2019. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, will visit Dhaka in March to join the celebrations marking 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence and the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Earlier Indian prime minister has virtually inaugurated a string of projects including an ease-of –business bridge between Tripura and India. The way, India is utilizing the occasion to foment hatred against Pakistan is unfortunate. There is a tripartite agreement (1974) among India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to “forget and forgive” bitter memories of the 1971War. At India’s bidding, Bangladesh even tried some Bengali politicians at its “international” court and later hanged them. Though the tripartite agreement specifically outlawed such acts. The Agreement inter alia provided “having regard to the appeal of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the Government of Bangladesh had decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency. It was agreed that the 195 prisoners of war may be repatriated to Pakistan along with the other prisoners of war now in the process of repatriation under the Delhi Agreement”. India claims that BD is her close strategic and economic friend within its `Look East, neighbour’s-first policy”. But, the history of broken promises indicates that India looks to its own interest. A raft of issues from water disputes to religious tension mask mistrust in the relationship. India backed out of its agreement (December) with BD to supply 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University in cooperation with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The Institute announced that India had barred Serum from selling doses on the private market until everyone in India had received the vaccine. Later, Salman F. Rahman, a Cabinet minister and co-founder of the Beximco Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate, took over responsibility to distribute three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh. India is the biggest supplier of onions to Bangladesh, which buys a yearly average of more than 350,000 tons. India abruptly slapped a ban on onion exports to BD. Following the export ban, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50 per cent, prompting the government to procure supplies from elsewhere. In December 2020, both countries held a virtual summit where they discussed topics like boosting trade, investment and transportation links, but avoided the real issue of sharing the water of the Teesta River. It flows into Bangladesh from the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal. Bangladesh, being the downstream country, wants India to share more water from the Teesta. India parries the issue on the plea that water sharing with BD would result in drought in West Bengal like the Ganga did (Ganga water sharing deal in 1996). India claims, “Kolkata port has now become dead because of the diversion of water to Bangladesh. In addition, arsenic is being found in several areas as the ground water level has gone so low, endangering millions of lives”. Many a time skirmishes take place between the two countries resulting in casualties. In the past, India even accused the BD of providing safe conduit to Kashmiri freedom fighters or Al-Qaeda. According to the Press Trust of India datelined New Delhi, May 11, 2003 and Zee News, India gave a list of 155 ‘terrorist training camps’, allegedly operating in Bangladesh with the help of ISI and Al-Qaeda and asked her to shut them down. Bangladesh denied the existence of any ‘terrorist camps’ on her soil operating with or without Pakistan’s ISl’s help. At a high-level security meeting between the two countries, India also demanded that: (1) BD should exterminate fundamentalist groups supporting ‘terrorists’ in India’s. North East, (2) Deport to India 85 insurgents hiding in Bangladesh. The ‘Wanted’ include top ULF A leaders Anup Chetia and Babul Sarma, and several other activists from Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur. At the talks, India claimed, “We have information that ISI activities directed against India are on the rise in Bangladesh. ISI men along with Al Qaeda operatives are imparting training at several of the camps. Even terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir are also being sent via the Bangladesh border because of it being a porous frontier than the Western border. Earlier, the list of 155 militant training camps in Bangladesh, with pinpointed locations, had been submitted at the foreign-secretary-level meeting as also at a meeting between the Director Generals of BSF and Bangladesh Rifles recently”. The training camps, whose list was prepared by the Indian security agencies, including those run by the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM. The list also includes training camps run by People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Muslim United Liberation Tiger of Assam (MULTA), Achik National Volunteer Council, Chakma National Liberation Front (CNLF), and Dima Halam Daoga. The myth of Pakistani forces having killed three million people during the 1971 war is being propagated by India. This allegation was first made by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on January 8, 1972. Earlier, Serajur Rahman, then a journalist and broadcaster with BBC Bangla Service had earlier debunked the myth in his 2012 article for The Guardian. He stated, `On 8 January 1972, I was the first Bangladeshi to meet independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after his release from Pakistan. He was brought from Heathrow to Claridge’s by the Indian high commissioner Apa Bhai Panth, and I arrived there almost immediately. Mujib was puzzled to be addressed as “your excellency” by Mr Panth. He was surprised, almost shocked, when I explained to him that Bangladesh had been liberated and he was elected president in his absence. Apparently he arrived in London under the impression that East Pakistanis had been granted the full regional autonomy for which he had been campaigning. During the day I and others gave him the full picture of the war. I explained that no accurate figure of the casualties was available but our estimate, based on information from various sources, was that up to “three lakh” (300,000) died in the conflict. To my surprise and horror he told David Frost later that “three millions of my people” were killed by the Pakistanis. Whether he mistranslated “lakh” as “million” or his confused state of mind was responsible I don’t know, but many Bangladeshis still believe a figure of three million is unrealistic and incredible.” Sayyid A. Karim, Bangladesh’s first foreign secretary, in his book “Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy” gives a different explanation. He says, `As for the number of Bengalis killed in the course of the liberation war, the figure of 3 million mentioned by Mujib to David Frost in January 1972 was a gross overstatement. This figure was picked up by him from an article in Pravda, the organ of the communist party of the Soviet Union.”. But where did Mujib get his hands on Pravda in London? That answer lies in an article written in “The Bangladesh Observer”, which was published on January 5, 1972 (and was a prosecution exhibit in the Golam Azam case) entitled, “Pak Army killed over 30 lakh people”. It reads: “The Communist party newspaper ‘pravda’ has reported that over 30 lakh persons were killed throughout Bangladesh by the Pakistan occupation forces during the last nine months, reports ENA. Quoting its special correspondent stationed in Dacca, the paper said that the Pakistan Military forces immediately before their surrender to Mukti Bahinis (freedom fighters) and the Allied forces had killed about 800 intellectuals in the capital city of Bangladesh alone.” Obviously, Pravda (Truth) spread out disinformation. It banks on its special correspondent, which in turn is quoted by the Bangladesh Observer. In a television interview, retired KGB Psychological Warfare Officer Yuri Bezmenov explains in detail how the USSR aided Mujib by using India. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief and former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Khaleda Zia herself has questioned the validity of the three million claim. “There is a debate about how many hundreds of thousands were martyred in the Liberation War. Different books and documents give different accounts.” Sarmila Bose’s book “Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangaldesh War” is skeptical of the figure. Bose has done a case-by-case body count. She estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people were killed on all sides, including Bengalis, Biharis, West Pakistanis and others. Dr. M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury, in his book “Behind the Myth of 3 Million”, points out that Pakistan Army was carrying out a limited counter-insurgency in East Pakistan, not a genocide. After the creation of Bangladesh, the de facto government offered to pay 2000 Taka to every family that suffered loss of life. Only 3000 families claimed such compensation. Had there been three million Bengalis dead, a lot more families would have come forward. Above all, the actual army in East Pakistan was 40,000 not 93,000. As such, when India invaded East Pakistan, the army was at a 50:1 disadvantage. India should not mar the celebration by resuscitating the 1971 skeletons. India’s neighbours first policy is a ruse. It is actually acting on Chanakya’s Matsynyaya (‘way of the fish’) policy (big fish eats the small one) and Mandal. The crux of the MandaI policy is that all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies. As such, immediate neighbours should be estranged and distant neighbours (like the USA) should be befriended. In any nation the three critical tools of statecraft are diplomacy, intelligence and armed forces. India has tried to upgrade the three tools with political will and effective delivery mechanisms. The major question which has been asked time and again with regard to India’s foreign policy under Modi government is whether there is a continuity or change in the foreign policy outlook. There has been references with regard to Non-Alignment 2.0 in the past, and it has been felt that India should maintain its strategic autonomy without compromising on its strategic interests and the core foreign policy fundamentals. The transition in India’s policy outlook has been with regard to multi-alignment with India specific attributes. The new foreign policy looks into what exactly are the potential sectors as well as possible areas of mutual collaboration, without a demand supply relationship, in any bilateral ties with any country. On scrutiny of documentation of the critical aspects of foreign policy outlook and the strategy that India has adopted, one can very well notice that there are proposals like SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), promoting connectivity (both physical and digital) and developing trade and investment with a major focus on exploring international markets while at the same time opening up Indian market with certain quid pro quo benefits. In the new regional approach, the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS), approach to the Caribbean and Latin American countries, Visegrad countries, Pacific island countries have added new dimensions to the policy approach. India has seen as a major transit in terms of investment and opening new foreign offices in those countries where there is less representation of Indian diplomats. Technology has been seen as an important component of India’s interaction with many of the technological powers. In fact, if one evaluates the last five years of foreign policy, joint statements and agreements one can very well discern that multiple agreements having focus on terrorism, technology, training, trade, investment and tourism has been signed with major countries and the visiting dignitaries have acknowledged the fact that India is very well on its way to become a knowledge hub. Interestingly, the reference about terrorism also tacitly acknowledges that Pakistan is the biggest perpetrator of terrorism across the world. In terms of education and knowledge, India has been taking giant leaps through the process of Digital India and Skill India processes. In many of the documents that India has signed with other countries, there has been structured agreements related to smart cities project, infrastructure development, waste management, energy efficiency, sewage treatment, renewable energy, and town planning. With regard to strategic partnership that India has signed with more than 33 countries, there has been a gradient and selective approach with many countries being given prefixes such as ‘preferred’, ’desired’ and ‘special’ strategic partners. What is interesting in India’s new approach with regard to foreign policy is that Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Iran are listed as strategic partners. Even though there is no strategic partnership agreement with Israel but it has become a critical security partner for India supplying military hardware, border security equipments, and other devices which can monitor India’s borders and also help in detecting any tunnels which might be dug by terrorist or other subversive elements to infiltrate from Pakistan to India. The result of the dividends of these aggressive foreign policy outlook that India has adopted since the coming of Modi government has been the fact that Pakistan has been isolated and any overtures which were expected to be made from India to Pakistan for initiating the peace talks are gone. In other terms, as one can say that in organic chemistry the Indian approach to Pakistan has become inert. While approach towards China has been adopted with an iron fist under a velvet glove but with a confrontationist attitude and one can see in the case of a number of conflicting situations with China at the border be the case of Depsang, Doklam or even Pangong Tso lake stand offs. The stand offs have lingered but have shown that India can counter Chinese tactics. India’s Indian Ocean strategy now spans across the eastern and western Indian Ocean, and as a part of its outlook towards Indian Ocean it has adopted a strategy which calls Indo-Pacific approach as an extension of Indian Ocean strategy. As a result of which India has been engaging the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean through various initiatives which include capacity building, personnel training, defence exports, focussed aid, allocating more seats for ITEC programme and also conducting high level visits to these countries. The impact has been seen with regard to better relations with the eastern African countries as well as select Southeast Asian countries, and better and mature relationship with island countries. Interestingly, as part of the ‘double fish hook strategy’ it has been engaging the island states in Indian Ocean so as to create a viable radar and coastal security network with many of these countries. From the structural point of view there has been a new development in the institutional framework. Now one can see divisions such as New Emerging Strategic Technologies (NEST), Oceania, Indo-Pacific, and also a separate division addressing the concerns of the federal structure particularly states with regard to engaging border provinces in India’s foreign policy interaction with the neighbouring countries. There are also different divisions which have been created with regard to Development and Planning Assistance (there are three divisions in external affairs ministry now, earlier there used to be only one) to the countries which required India’s financial and material support in times of need. India’s approach through Act East Policy, think West Asia policy and connect Central Asia policy is now more mature and looks into various aspects which can be developed in collaboration with the countries of these regions. With regard to its relationship with Russia and the US as well as Asian powers such as Japan and Australia, it has been structured in a way that it is engaging while at the same time not depending too much on anyone power as an insurance to India’s security. Lately, India has been also making right kind of noises with regards to its candidature as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and it is clearly stating that a country with the population of 1.30 billion people should not be denied an entry into the high table because it will be counter-productive to democratic fundamentals of the UN. Multiple times it has been stated and narrated by many strategic thinkers that India has been reluctant power and has not clearly outlined its policy on many of the issues which are of international interest. However, Indian establishment openly believes that it is better not to say anything and let the action speak louder than words. In the case of evacuation of its citizens from Libya, Yemen and many other countries whenever there has been crisis or ongoing civilian unrest, India has taken an active interest. India has also thought about this prospect of unifying the department of foreign affairs and trade to look into viable opportunities and address its concerns both with regard to political interactions and trade development. However, this initiative could not gain that ground because of the large bureaucracy that India has, and the large workload regarding queries, addressing parliamentary questions and other issues that every department related has to deal with. In the late 2019 and subsequently because of the Covid-19 the political interactions have been held both online and offline which clearly states that COVID- 19 epidemic cannot stall the march of India’s emergence as a regional power and an Asian power. Modi has been successful in harnessing personal chemistry with the leaders of different countries because of which many times all those issues which are left unaddressed at lower level get addressed at the high table. One of the important rallying points for Pakistan at the international level has been the resonance of the Kashmir issue but now Pakistan is unable to rake up the Kashmir issue because it is just not getting the support that it used to get because of its concocted narratives. Further, its own human rights record is pathetic related to ethnic minorities and other religious communities. India has been very specific with regard to its requirement and the need before approaching Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)or even ASEAN Free Trade structures. The new approach that India has adopted with regard to participating in Shangri-la dialogue and also articulating its interest in the ASEAN plus dialogues (ADMM Plus) clearly shows that India is going to put its mind where its interests are. There is more outcome orientation in policy, and with the COVID vaccine diplomacy India is positioning itself as a major pharmaceutical hub of the world. While it is completely addressing this issue of international global social responsibilities, it is also looking for a structured support for its initiative from all the international leaders and the countries concerned. Quad meeting acknowledged the need for strengthening India’s pharma sector through investment and financial support. Many positive things have been written with regard to the success of the Indian foreign policy but there are certain flaws also. While interacting with many countries, the political leadership has made too many pronouncements and therefore expectations have increased with regard to deliverables. In terms of aid, assistance as well as Lines of Credit (LoC)the need of the hour is to structure it and stagger it in such a way that India should not default from its commitments. Also, Modi’s own personal interaction with leaders have overpowered the structural mechanism because of which if in case Modi leaves office then there is a critical vacuum which will be created. India’s strong outlook has a times led to criticism in the international community with regard to India’s hard-line approach in a number of ways. The case of Balakot air strikes or Uri military operation it is seen that while India has managed the international community but there are certain flaws in its approach in engaging the domestic interest groups. On aspects related to trade and foreign direct investment requires structural changes. These structural changes can only be brought about when the bureaucracy is sensitised, and there is an active intervention of the commercial processes which can suggest changes to these tardy procedures. The single window system which is adopted by many of the Asian countries can be explored and also the environmental ministry clearances with regard to investment and setting up a factory or a group of industries in India should be facilitated in a better way. It is stated that India’s foreign policy outlook has become much more assertive in recent times but it is also believed that India’s cautious outlook on a number of issues in the past because of the fear of international backlash and condemnation has decelerated momentum. This mindset has relegated India into the league of few of the nations which were reluctant or shy powers but do have the potential to rise at the regional and international space. India’s acceptance of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue which it has entered with the US, Japan and Australia clearly shows that there is huge potential and spinoffs. The approach that it has taken with regard to developing skills and technologies, and entering into joint ventures on critical aspects of technologies such as space and cyber clearly shows that India has a blueprint with regard to its next phase of foreign policy as well as progressive strategic outlook. India’s new policy outlook is futuristic and has adopted an outcome approach. Coming close on the heels of an uncontrolled, un co-ordinated and questionable farmers’ agitation continuing in areas around Delhi, there have been a few developments that must have somehow embarrassed the government of the largest democracy in the world. India has been degraded to a “partially free democracy,” by the US-based Freedom House. Within days, the Sweden-based V-Dem Institute went a step further and in its latest report on global democracy, described it as an “electoral autocracy,”. The Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) however, came up with a more objective analysis in which it described India as a “flawed democracy.” Some of the major reasons that have been outlined for sudden and aggressive political downgrading of India, is the supposed increased pressure on human rights group, intimidation of journalists and activists and a spate of attacks on Muslims. As expected, the Indian Foreign Minister, S Jaishankar questioned the very basis of these assumptions and described them as, ‘hypocrisy.’ It would however be interesting to note that human rights activities continue unabated in India. According to one submission made by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to the Supreme Court in 2015, there remain more than 31 lakhs of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who are continuing with their activities in various parts of the country. This number is more than double the number of schools and much more than number of hospitals in the country. This number is indicative of the fact that the civil society activism is very much alive and kicking in the country and that NGOs are being freely allowed to operate. There have been allegations of harassment to global human rights organisations like Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the like. The relevant CBI report to Supreme Court further clarifies that only 10 percent of the active NGOs have complied with the legally mandated requirement of submitting respective income-expenditure statements, balance sheets and receipt of foreign contribution under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010. It is astonishing that when notices have been sent and appropriate legal actions have been taken against some of them, allegations of witch-hunting and victimisation are being played up against the government by some of the most cash-rich national and global NGOs in India. In addition to, some of the bigger NGOS in India have been up in arms against some of the very important strategic projects being worked on in certain parts of India. While their clamour formally relates to the issue of environment and land acquisition from the poor, one cannot ignore the fact that there have been instances of such protests being stage-managed, foreign-funded and politically motivated. Further when one comes across the recent revelations of the involvement of Chinese security agencies in creating political, economic, scientific and strategic disruptions in countries like the US, Europe, Japan and India, one really cannot overlook such activities from the NGOs, howsoever big their names could be. And most importantly, the right to legal course remains available to one and all and if and when the government is accused of doing something that goes beyond the ambit of law, such organisations are very much empowered to approach courts. In most cases, they have not and used media to attack the government instead of substantiating their alleged facts. Then there is a big issue being played up regarding alleged intimidation of journalists and activists. As of March, 2018 there are more than one lakh publications operating in India with a combined circulation going beyond 240 million copies. According to media reports, 47 journalists have been killed in the country during 1992-2020 while in the last six years, 21 journalists have lost their lives allegedly for their professional investigative work. The recent ‘Getting Away With Murders” report of Thakur Foundation that has been widely used to paint the current government as dictatorial, authoritarian,’ has acknowledged that out of these killings, only one has been traced to the involvement of assailants having links with the ruling party while most have been attributed to criminals, mafia, terrorists, communists and personal enmity. In its analysis on World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), India has been placed at lowly 142 in 2020. One needs to realise that while the current government has specifically been targeted on this score, under the previous government which was highly regarded by many of the global media outlets, India’s ranking on WPFI slipped from 122 in 2010 to 131 in 2012. A decline of Nine rankings within two years whereas under the current incumbent, the ranking has gone down further Nine in six years. As for the intimidation of journalists, a closer look onto the India media scene will show that the ruling party and the Prime Minister Modi is being routinely chastised and even abused by many of the opposition politicians, journalists and intellectuals. And none of them have been put behind bar on that ground. In fact, the much disgraced Sedition Law has been used by some of the opposition-ruled states including Punjab. There have been incidents of attacks on academicians and journalists including states of West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu (ruled by non-BJP governments) and it indicates that the malaise of intolerance to media criticism, is not limited to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) but is prevalent across the political spectrum. As for the RSF rankings, its portrayal of countries like Afghanistan, Kuwait, UAE, Chad, Uganda, Mozambique, Malaysia and many others with a very limited and broadly regulated media, much ahead of India, seems questionable and needs to be critically assessed. As for the action against activists, in spite of the very militant and illegal activities committed by a section of agitators in Delhi in January, the fact that they are still being not disturbed, in spite of blocking roads/highways for months and creating illegal civil, health and sanitary issues, shows that the government in fact has been giving too much leeway to them. A year ago, the government did not take stringent action against protestors, on the passing of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) issue who violated several civil laws. In fact, wherever activists have been detained or arrested by local police authorities, including Disha, they have gone through the usual legal process and given relevant relief as per the law. As for the alleged killing of Muslims, supposedly responsible for the ‘downgrade’ of India as a democracy, actual figures reveal that while communal violence has indeed increased 28% under current Indian government, the law and order issue as per the Indian law is a state subject and each of the constitutionally elected government of states are responsible for the safety and security of citizens. A good number of atrocities committed against Muslims as well as women have taken place in states, both ruled by BJP and non-BJP governments. While Uttar Pradesh (UP) currently ruled by PM Modi’s party tops the list with 1488 incidents of communal violence during 2010-2020 with 321 deaths, it was ruled by other opposition politicians before 2017. And importantly, the highest number of communal deaths 943 in one single year, was reported under the Indian National Congress (INC) regime way back in 2008. As for the many reported incidents of mob lynching, many of them have occurred in tribal/rural regions on issues of suspicious child-lifting and only few of them were specially targeted against Muslims. Also, such incidents took place in states like Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Punjab and West Bengal, all ruled by non-BJP governments. In the backdrop of such analysis, one cannot help but question the very credibility of exercises conducted by such prestigious institutes. Such exercise needs to be more objective, serious, fair and unprejudiced. Only then, the governments in whichever nations they are, will be compelled to stick to the basic principles of freedom and liberty while citizens will get a fair and equal treatment, in line with the laws of the land. Qatar’s non-discriminatory minimum wage comes into force, applying to all workers, of all nationalities, in all sectors, including domestic workers…. 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