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Indian Democracy at 75: Who Are the Barbarians at the Gate?
That's the question I pose in a new article for Quadrant magazine
As India celebrates 75 years as an independent country, major international democracy rankings suggest that Indian democracy is in serious decline, or that India may no longer be a democracy at all. They suggest that India is now a “flawed democracy” or even an “electoral autocracy” on a par with Russia. The picture of India that emerges from the major international democracy rankings, if accurate, is truly alarming. If it is inaccurate, that may be more alarming still.
In advance of India’s August 15 Independence Day, I’ve conducted an in-depth examination of the international rankings of Indian democracy published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the Varieties of Democracy Institute (V-DEM), and Freedom House. A 5000-word article reporting the results of my research has just been published by Quadrant magazine, and is available online at:
My research shows that the stridently negative appraisals of Indian democracy published by the three major democracy rating organizations are wildly disproportionate to the actual evidence marshalled to support them. The rankings narratives are suffused with sloppy research and outdated references. In several instances, they smack of intentional deceit.
For example, allegations that the number of journalists killed in India is "the highest figure for any country" fail to adjust for the fact that India has a population of 1.4 billion; population-adjusted rates of violence against journalists in India are substantially lower than in the rest of the world. Similarly, figures suggesting that sedition charges are increasingly being used to quell dissent have clearly been massaged to create trends that don’t actually exist in the underlying data. And shrill claims that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) actively oppresses India’s minority Muslim population are belied by the fact that 19% of India’s Muslims actually voted for the BJP in the most recent national elections — compared to a Hindu vote for the party that only reached 49%.
Everyone knows that India is the world’s largest democracy, but few know that it is one of the world’s oldest, and by far the world’s poorest. No other postcolonial country has recorded such a successful record of democratic governance as India. As India turns 75, this heritage should be celebrated, not censured. The true barbarians at the India Gate, it turns out, are the international democracy rating organizations. They have compromised their objectivity and allowed their research to be weaponized for petty political gain.
If you’d like to join me for an in-person discussion of these topics, I’ll be interviewing Australia’s former prime minster Tony Abbott AC about his experiences of Mr. Modi and Indian democracy next Thursday, August 11 at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney:
Thanks to Quadrant magazine and Quadrant Online for making my article available in advance of its print publication. Please consider taking out a subscription to the magazine, which publishes my “Philistine” column at the front of every issue. I’m thrilled to be associated with Quadrant, and I know you’ll be thrilled to read it. You can find Quadrant on any newsstand in Australia, and online at Quadrant.org.au.