Days after US-based human rights watchdog Freedom House downgraded India’s status from ‘free’ to ‘partly free’ and accused the Narendra Modi government of “driving India toward authoritarianism”, Union Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar slammed the think tank’s report, calling it “hypocrisy” by a set of “self-appointed custodians of the world”.
Speaking at the India Today Conclave South 2021 on Saturday about the country’s status on the freedom index, Jaishankar said, “You used the dichotomy of democracy and autocracy. You want a truthful answer? It is hypocrisy. We 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 to play. So they invent their rules, their parameters, pass their judgments and make it look as if it is some kind of global exercise.”
The Indian government, he said has been accused of “shrinking civil liberties” but the ground reality is very different. “Whatever you may say, nobody questions an election in this country. Can you say that in those countries?” Jaishankar said in a veiled attack at the US where former President Donald Trump had claimed the presidential election was ‘rigged’ in favour of Joe Biden.
“We are supposed to be the ‘Hindu nationalist party’, right? We are the nationalist guys. We have given vaccines to 70 countries in the world. Tell me, how many vaccines have the internationalist countries given? Which one of these countries have said that while I do (vaccinate) my own people, I will do (inoculate) other people who need it as much as we do. Where are these people?” he added.
In its annual report released on Wednesday, Freedom House accused Modi government of “driving India toward authoritarianism” with a “hamfisted lockdown”, scapegoating of Muslims, and a crackdown on critics, and downgraded India’s status from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’.
“Under Modi, India appears to have abandoned its potential to serve as a global democratic leader, elevating narrow Hindu nationalist interests at the expense of its founding values of inclusion and equal rights for all,” the report said.