Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

New Delhi
Press Freedom Status: 
Partly Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

India maintains a robust electoral democracy with a competitive multiparty system at federal and state levels. However, politics (and business) are beset by corruption. The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the news media are vibrant, even as speech and reportage deemed seditious or harmful to religious sentiment is routinely censored and punished. India’s minority groups—notably Muslims, scheduled castes (Dalits), and scheduled tribes (Adivasis)—enjoy legal equality and sometimes benefit from affirmative action programs. However, they remain economically and socially marginalized and have been the victims of violent attacks.

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • Vigilante cow-protection groups associated with nationalist Hindu organizations engaged in a number of assaults on Dalits and Muslims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticized for failing to promptly condemn the attacks.
  • In February, the arrest of student protesters in Delhi on sedition charges raised concerns about freedom of expression on university campuses.
  • The government passed two major economic reforms in 2016—the Goods and Services Tax bill and a demonetization policy—aimed at reducing corruption.
  • Tens of millions of public sector workers went on strike for 24 hours in September to demand the establishment of a monthly minimum wage. 
Executive Summary: 

State elections in early 2016 brought mixed news for Prime Minister Modi’s incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which secured a legislative majority in the northeastern state of Assam for the first time, but failed to make significant inroads among voters in the south. In two of the most consequential economic reforms since economic liberalization in 1991, the government passed a major overhaul of its taxation regime and withdrew the two most common currency bills from circulation; the reforms were aimed at combatting corruption.

In February, sedition cases were initiated against student activists in connection with a protest marking the state execution of a Kashmiri separatist who was hanged in 2013 following a terrorism conviction. Separately, a professor at the University of Mysore was arrested in June in connection with a speech the previous year in which he allegedly insulted a Hindu deity. The events had a chilling effect among Indian intellectuals.

Meanwhile, threats to freedom of expression—including intimidation of and attacks against journalists and users of online social media—continued. There is increasing concern about the harassment of bloggers and social-media users by Hindu nationalists.

Explanatory Note: 

The numerical ratings and status listed above do not reflect conditions in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which is examined in a separate report.

Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 

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