NEW DELHI: The government on Friday termed as “misleading, incorrect and misplaced” the
Freedom House report
Under Siege’, which said India’s status as a free country declined to “partly free” in 2020.
The rebuttal came even as Freedom House found itself in the midst of a row over a truncated map of India which did not show J&K. The non-profit explained that this was because J&K was a separate report, but the picture of the map in its report, tweeted among others by Sanjeev Sanyal, principal economic advisor in the finance ministry, saw a heated discussion on social media.
An official statement by the information and broadcasting ministry said governments at the
and in states, often different, were appointed through a free and fair election process, which reflected India’s “vibrant democracy” and which “gives space to those who hold varying views”.
Freedom House, which rates people’s access to political rights and civil liberties in 210 countries and territories through its annual ‘Freedom in the World’ report, had on March 3 released its India report in which it pointed to a decline in the nation’s total score and status to a “partly free” country.
Separately, the report also referred to “Indian Kashmir” as “not free”. The report said India’s status declined from ‘free’ to ‘
’ due to a “multi-year pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies affecting the Muslim population”.
Rebutting the report’s claims of the government’s alleged discriminatory policies against Muslims with particular reference to the north-east Delhi riots in February 2020, the ministry statement said the government treated all its citizens with equality as enshrined in the Constitution and laws were applied without discrimination.
The government also took exception to the report’s assessment about the frequent use of the sedition law. ‘Public order’ and ‘police’, the statement said, were state subjects under India’s federal structure of governance. “The responsibility of maintaining law and order, including investigation, registration and prosecution of crimes, protection of life and property etc., rests primarily with the concerned state governments. Therefore, measures as deemed fit are taken by law enforcement authorities to preserve public order,” it said.
The government said the coronavirus-induced lockdown in India was based on states’ assessment of the spread of the virus and said the Centre took multiple measures to mitigate people’s distress during the lockdown period to provide food, healthcare and shelter to homeless and migrant workers, among other measures.
The government also said it has a robust human rights protection mechanism in the National Human Rights Commission and SHRCs.