Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as IND by Abbreviationfinder, India is a functioning democracy, despite its spate of peoples, languages, social classes and conflicting political interests. Most problems that arise can be solved, or at least managed, within the system. In recent years, however, analysts have warned that Indian democracy is being hollowed out.
Political parties can be formed freely and the opposition is viable. In the federal system, everything from communist atheists to conservative religious can work for their ideals. Freedom of assembly and assembly is respected.
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Governments are appointed and set aside in states and at federal level according to the will of the majority of people in free elections. However, electoral violence occurs; In a number of states in mainly eastern and central India, the Maoist Naxali movement (see Naxali uprising) is trying to sabotage the electoral process. The level of violence in Jammu and Kashmir also tend to increase in connection with elections (see Conflict in Kashmir). It has also happened that supporters of a certain party have taken control of a polling station.
Indians have a constitutional right to form and join associations and organizations. The organizations must be registered with the authorities in order to operate. There is a law regulating the receipt of gifts and grants from abroad.
Religious intolerance is considered to be a growing problem (see Religion), as well as discrimination against ethnic minorities and Dalits (formerly caste) (see Caste system). Governments have tried to rectify this, but have sometimes been accused of not doing enough of the problems. Quotas exist for, among others, low castes and the aim is to have one third of female members in the legislative assemblies.
Corruption occurs in the justice system, the police force and in other parts of the state administration as well as in politics, both at the state level and at the national level. In 2019, India ranked 80th among 180 countries in Transparency International’s index of corruption in the world (see full list here). The country has been ranked at roughly the same level in recent years, despite promises and attempts by the government to reduce corruption in society.
Freedom of expression and media
In India there is freedom of the press and opinion, both according to the constitution and in reality. Indian press has old (British) traditions and many publications are of a high standard. The press is free, lively and independent of – and partly very critical of – the authorities. Newspapers and magazines often reveal abuses and scandals. However, articles that are deemed to threaten national security may be banned under the so-called Official Secrets Act, which has sometimes been widely interpreted.
Newspapers and magazines have the greatest spread in the middle class of cities, while radio and TV are more important as sources of information and knowledge for the vast majority. In the countryside, a newspaper can be read by four to five people, sometimes even more by reading aloud. In recent years, newspaper reading has increased thanks to a growing middle class and many new newspapers and magazines have been added. Unlike in most Western countries, both the number of newspapers and magazines and editions are increasing, although the use of the Internet and social media is also increasing.
Among young people in the cities, the Internet and social media are the most important channels of information. Political parties are now also running their election campaigns via social media to reach new electoral groups.
Despite the open debate climate and a large number of independent media, India ranked 142 out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders Index of Press Freedom in the World 2020 (see full list here). This is a deterioration compared to 2018 when India was ranked as country number 130. The surprisingly poor investment is mainly explained by widespread violence against journalists. At least parts of India, such as Kashmir and the northeastern states, are considered dangerous for journalists to work in. More than 40 journalists have been killed in India since 1992, according to the US-based organization Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ). The perpetrators are usually police, politicians, bureaucrats or criminal groups.
Reporters Without Borders has also criticized the authorities for arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression on the Internet. In Kashmir, the authorities often shut down the internet when violence erupts in the conflict-affected area.
It has become more common for Hindu nationalists to try to silence opponents, primarily through social media throwing but sometimes also through physical attacks. This has led to increased self-censorship among media workers.
Judicial system and legal security
The Indian judiciary is built on the British model. It is well-developed and, according to the Constitution, the courts should be independent of political power. However, corruption is prevalent in both the understaffed courts and the overloaded and often poorly educated police force. It is common for the courts to have so much to do that an accused may have to wait an unreasonably long time for his sentence or that the police simply do not care to investigate a crime.
India’s various religious groups are partly subject to different laws. For example, Muslims can be sentenced in accordance with Islamic Sharia law in civil cases, such as family disputes.
The death penalty can be punishable by serious crimes, but executions are rarely executed. In the 2000s and 2010s, a handful of people convicted of terrorist crimes were executed, including Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, who was the only survivor of the terrorist attack in Bombay in 2008. He was hanged in November 2012. Four men convicted of group rape and murder of a female student on a bus in Delhi 2012 was executed by hanging in March 2020.
Since the change of power in 2014, India has been attracted to the rest of the world, partly for increased violence against minorities and partly for a series of serious crimes against women, including a group rape in Delhi in December 2012 that led to the death of the victim and created an uproar debate throughout the country. In the wake of this, it was decided that special speed courts would be set up to try crimes against women, such as rape or assault. In 2013, the first so-called women’s court was established in West Bengal.
According to Amnesty International , Muslims in particular are “demonized” by hard-line Hindu activists and some government-friendly media. Hate crimes against Dalits are common. From 2014, attacks on people who trade or handle beef or leather became more common (cow is a sacred animal in Hinduism). This may include butchers, meat dealers or leather workers. These professions are rarely held by Muslims or Dalits. The attackers are often Hindu mobsters who lynch the victims, sometimes incited by Hindu nationalists. At least a dozen murders have happened this way. The BJP government has been criticized for delaying these crimes for too long, and in June 2017 it tried to impose a ban on beef trade but was stopped by the Supreme Court.
The military is accused of serious human rights violations in connection with the fight against terrorism and in the work for increased internal security in the country. Reports on this come especially from conflict areas like Jammu and Kashmir as well as states in northeastern India. Militant resistance groups are also accused of serious abuse. The UN Human Rights Council in 2018 criticized India for extrajudicial killing and “chronic impunity for violence perpetrated by security forces” in Kashmir. The Council criticizes the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1990 which states that soldiers in Kashmir cannot be prosecuted without the permission of the central government.
Many politicians among sex offenders
A report shows that hundreds of men accused of sexual abuse of women have been allowed to run for election in India in the last five years. Most of these were state elections, especially in poor states in the north with high crime rates. But even in elections to the federal parliament, large, established parties have lined up with dozens of male candidates who have been suspected of gross abuse of women.
Violence against women is highlighted
The group rape (see below) and the subsequent protests give rise to a debate across India on the widespread violence against women. The government appoints a commission to investigate what deficiencies in the work of the police and other authorities may have contributed to the crime and determine where the responsibility lies. Most sexual assaults are never reported to the police, investigations often take years and only around every four defendants are convicted. Criticism is also being directed at the government and the authorities for nonchalance in the face of women’s vulnerability in Indian society.
Wave of anger after brutal group rape
Violent mass protests erupt in Delhi following a group rape of a 23-year-old female student aboard a bus. Six men, including the bus driver, are arrested. The woman dies as a result of the injuries she receives from the abuse. Five of those arrested are charged with kidnapping, gang rape and murder, while the sixth man is to be tried in a special court for minors when he is under 18. The five indicted adults risk the death penalty.
BJP and Modi win the election in Gujarat
The controversial Prime Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, and his BJP who has ruled the state for 15 years, wins the fourth state election in a row. There is speculation that Modi may be the BJP’s next prime ministerial candidate. However, Modi and the BJP have received sharp criticism over the years for inaction during the religious riots in the state in 2002. At the same time, Modi has been praised for his economic policies, which have made Gujarat a relatively prosperous state.
Success for Singh’s reform policy
Both Parliament’s chambers adopt a law that allows foreign retail companies to invest in and establish themselves in the Indian market, which has not been allowed to date (see September 2012). The result of the vote is seen as a political success for Prime Minister Singh and his economic reform program.
Sentenced for the Mumbai deed 2008 is executed
The only surviving perpetrator behind the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008 (see Modern History), Pakistani Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, is executed by hanging in a prison in Pune. Qasab was sentenced in May 2010 to death for murder, possession of explosives and warfare against India.
New outbreaks of violence in Assam
New outbreaks of violence between Bodo and Muslims in Assam lead to an indefinite curfew in Kokrajhar district. At least six people must have been killed. At the current time, more than 36,000 people, the majority of Muslims, are estimated to be in one of the 80 refugee camps in the state. The ongoing repatriation of the refugees risks being halted due to the raging violence.
The government is rejuvenated by the change of minister
Prime Minister Singh is conducting a major government reform. Twenty-two new ministers are joining. The Foreign, Justice and Oil Minister are among those who are replaced. The purpose of the reform is to rejuvenate the government.
The government wants to see more foreign investment
In order to stimulate the slowing economy, the government decides to increase the permitted proportion of foreign direct investment in the pension sector and in insurance companies to 49 percent. However, it is uncertain whether Parliament will approve the reforms, which must take place for them to enter into force.
The government wants to open the retail sector for foreign ownership
The government plans to open the Indian retail market for foreign ownership in order to boost the economy. Protests against the proposal are breaking out among both the opposition and trade unions. One party in the government coalition, the Trinamool Regional Congress Party, is leaving government cooperation in protest of the bill. However, the government still has a majority in parliament.
Reduced subsidies on diesel
As part of efforts to reduce the state’s budget deficit, the government cuts subsidies on diesel, which means that the price of diesel will rise by 14 percent. Protests erupt.
Gujarat massacre prison in 2002
Thirty-two people are sentenced to long prison terms for participation in the Gujarat massacres in 2002, when Hindu nationalists killed around 2,500 people, the vast majority of whom were Muslims. A former BJP prime minister is sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in the murder.
Coalgate breeze – the government again in blustery weather
Another corruption scandal, by the opposition called Coalgate, is revealed. The OAG announces that taxpayers have lost the equivalent of more than SEK 400 billion when the government sold mining rights and mining fields to private companies for prices well below market value in 2004-2009. Coalgate strikes against Prime Minister Singh personally, as he was responsible minister for the coal mines during the current period. However, Singh’s report does not mention Singh. Nevertheless, BJP demands Singh’s resignation and halted Parliament’s work by failing to attend the sessions in protest of Singh remaining. Hundreds of people are demonstrating against the corruption in Delhi, but they are stopped by the police as they begin to move towards the Prime Minister’s residence. The BJP demands an independent investigation of Coalgate and that the contracts are renegotiated.
Rumor spread leads to mass escape
In cities in southern India, around 20,000 guest workers suddenly originate in Assam. The mass escape is caused by rumors spread through social media that Muslims are planning revenge campaigns against people with roots in Assam. The Indian government states that most threatening text messages and images have been sent from Pakistan. Shortly thereafter, the situation calms down and the guest workers begin to return to the cities in the south.
The battles in Assam are getting tougher
The violence in the northeastern state of Assam has claimed nearly 100 deaths and the number of refugees has risen to around half a million. The leader of the local party People’s Front of Bodoland (BPF) is arrested, suspected of contributing to the outbreak of violence. BPF is a member of the state parliament and is affiliated with the ruling Congress party.
New explosions in Pune
Several explosive charges explode in just a few minutes in Pune at night. At least one person is injured. Police believe the bombing is planned and coordinated. India’s interior minister would have visited Pune that evening but canceled the trip at short notice.
Increased economic cooperation with Pakistan
The Singh government decides that people and companies from Pakistan should be able to invest in India. The decision is part of the two countries’ efforts to increase economic exchange among themselves.
State of emergency in Assam
A state of emergency is introduced in parts of Assam since fighting erupted between the Bodo and Muslim settlers. About 60 people are killed and over 170,000 are fleeing. Battles between bodo and settlers have been on fire for many years.
Political veteran becomes president
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who previously held a number of heavy ministerial posts, wins the presidential election over the opposition party BJP’s candidate Purno Sangma.
Singh travels to Myanmar
Prime Minister Singh visits Myanmar (formerly Burma) as the first Indian head of government since 1987. He meets there with Myanmar’s president Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The two countries enter into a series of cooperation agreements in trade and diplomacy.
Successful test of long distance robot
India makes a successful test launch of a long-range robot capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The Agni-V missile has a range of 500 km and can reach targets in China.
The BJP wins the election in Delhi
The Hindu Nationalist BJP wins the election in Delhi by a good margin over the Congress Party. Thus, the BJP-led state government in the multi-million city can sit for another term of office.
New life sentences for the rattles in Gujarat 2002
An Indian court sentenced 18 people to life imprisonment and five people to seven years in prison for the murder of 23 Muslims in the village of Ode in Gujarat in connection with the religious riots in 2002 (see Modern History and March 2011).
The Congress Party backs in state elections
The popular dissatisfaction with the Congress party-led government is evident in several state elections. In the politically important Uttar Pradesh, the Congress Party is stepping back sharply. There, the party’s election campaign was led by Rahul Gandhi, son of Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi. The result is seen as a personal hardship for him. The Congress Party also backs in the states of Punjab and Goa.