NEW DELHI - India on Friday condemned a report by a U.S.-based think-tank that dropped its status from free to "partly free" saying the claims made by Freedom House are "misleading, incorrect and misplaced".
Freedom House in its report https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2021/democracy-under-siege released on Wednesday titled "Freedom under Seige," said India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
Modi and his party are driving India toward "authoritarianism", it said, adding political rights and civil liberties have deteriorated since Modi came to power in 2014 and the decline accelerated after his re-election in 2019.
The report also said Modi's government and its state-level allies continued to crack down on critics and "ham-fisted lockdown" to stem spread of COVID-19 led to the dangerous and unplanned displacement of millions of migrant workers.
Responding to the report, India government said the ranking was faulty as many states in the country are ruled by other parties.
The government said it took steps to prevent distress to people and to alleviate problems of those worst-hit by the lockdown. India had registered "one of the lowest rates of active Covid cases and deaths globally", it said.
The Freedom House report said the 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".
India said it treats all its citizens with equality and follows due process of law in matters relating to law and order, irrespective of the identity of the alleged instigator.
India said it attaches highest importance to the safety and security of all residents and justified a move to temporarily shut internet services in parts of the country as a step needed to maintain law and order.
The Indian government also defended freezing Amnesty International's assets, saying it had remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by misclassifying it as Foreign Direct Investment.
Since 1973, Freedom House has assessed political rights and civil liberties around the world. Its reports are used as references by policy makers, journalists and others.
(Reporting by Nidhi Verma; Editing by David Gregorio) ((email@example.com; +91 11 49548031; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))