scorecardNew citizenship law pulls India down in the democracy rankings — and 2021 is not looking better
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New citizenship law pulls India down in the democracy rankings — and 2021 is not looking better

New citizenship law pulls India down in the democracy rankings — and 2021 is not looking better
PoliticsPolitics6 min read
  • India slipped two places to come in at the 53rd position on the Democracy Index 2020 as compared to last year.
  • The dip in its score has largely been attributed to mishandling of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
  • “The increasing influence of religion under the Modi premiership, whose policies have fomented anti-Muslim feeling and religious strife, has damaged the political fabric of the country,” said the report by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
India is the world’s largest democracy but its 1.38 billion citizens do not seem to be enjoying many freedoms. According to the latest report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the South Asian giant fell another two spots to 53rd position in the Democracy Index 2020.

The primary reason for the massive fall was the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that came into being in January 2020.

India versus rest of South Asia
While being categorized as a ‘flawed democracy’, at first glance, India fares better than its neighboring countries. However, while India has been falling in the ranks, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Pakistan have improved marginally in 2020. Even those countries which saw a fall in scores, none were as massive as India’s drop.


Change in Democracy Index score from 2019 to 2020












No change



Sri Lanka


India’s ranking has been falling and it may get worse

The Economist Intelligence Unit calls it ‘democratic backsliding’ under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The instances of high handedness by the state have only increased. For instance, stand-up comedian Munawar Farooqui was arrested for a joke that he didn’t even crack. Not to mention the heavy language used by the judiciary while denying him bail.

The judiciary’s sensitivity was seen yet again when lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan was brought under the scanner for tweets criticizing the government.

Access to the internet was blocked in Kashmir for 213 days — two-thirds of a full year — after Article 370 of the Constitution was scrapped by the Modi government. Even today, internet shutdowns are being used to stifle the farmers' protest against India’s new farm laws along the borders of New Delhi.

Creators of shows like Tandav, Sacred Games, and others have been dragged to court after being accused of hurting religious sentiments.

Most recently, the Uttarakhand Director General of Police Ashok Kumar stated that the state police will track people posting ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-social’ posts on social media to be taken into consideration when verifying passport and arms.

Type of democracy

Number of countries

Percentage of countries

Percentage of world population

Full democracies

(E.g. Canada)




Flawed democracies

(E.g. The US)




Hybrid regimes

(E.g. Myanmar)




Authoritarian regimes

(E.g. China)




The issue with the new citizenship law
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) allows persecuted minorities who are, by religion, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian from ⁠— from neighbouring countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan — eligible for Indian citizenship. The fundamental argument against this bill is that religion was never a criteria and should never be.

When critics questioned why persecuted Muslims were left out of the Act, the government said that in the three countries specified, Muslims are the majority and not persecuted. However, many debaters have pointed out that Muslims are a minority in Nepal and Sri Lanka, and the amendment excludes them.

What’s worse, the government had planned to execute the National Registrar of Citizens, which would identify the undocumented and illegal migrants. However, if any non-Muslim gets caught without papers, he could be reinstated under the CAA. But a Muslim does not have the safety net that other communities have.

The fear of many Muslims, who have been living in India for decades or generations, losing their state led to the widespread protests going into 2020. It took a riot in Delhi and the pandemic thereafter to bring the protests to an end.

India scores well for its electoral process but takes a hit in political culture

India’s score

Electoral process and pluralism


Functioning of government


Political participation


Political culture


Civil liberties


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