International think tanks ranking countries based on their democratic strengths or weaknesses are not biased against India but are a result of “anti-Indian” sources from the intellectual class, said Sociologist Dr Salvatore Babones at the India Today conclave in Mumbai.
The associate professor at the University of Sydney who came to limelight recently with his article ‘Indian Democracy at 75: Who are the Barbarians at the Gate?’ had argued that the negative rating of Indian democracy published by three major rating organizations seemed disproportionate to the actual evidence provided to support them.
He said organizations evaluate democracy in over 150 countries and most of the people involved gave no interest in India. “The problem is that all these rankings are based on surveys. So, all have the same methodology. They survey intellectuals, journalists, and academics based in the country they are studying or students in the country from outside. It is these (survey) reports that are biased,” Dr Babones said.
He further said that India’s intellectual class is anti-India, as a class and not as individuals.”Fundamentally, the biases don’t creep in because the organizations are anti-India. They creep in because, and forgive me, India’s intellectual class is anti-India; as a class and not as individuals,” he was quoted as saying.
Answering a question on whether they are anti-India or anti-BJP, he said they are a “bit of both” as individuals, not as a class and “certainly” have anti-BJP and anti-Narendra Modi stances.
Noting the key basis on which criticisms are made, namely the Ram Mandir, UAPA and other policies, the bases will remain in place. “But imagine that in a couple of years you get a UPA government. Will they tear down the Ram Mandir? Will they reverse the very policies that are being criticized in these rankings? Will they get rid of the UAPA? So, the basis on which the criticisms are made, those bases will probably remain in place. If they do, then the same criticisms will apply to them,” he said.
Babones called the notion of India being a fascist country an “outrageous proposition.”
Addressing India’s close links with Russia, India needs a Russian veto in the Security Council or it will be cast in the UN as a fascist state and noted the country is being wrongly portrayed as a fascist state by the global media, affecting its image. “The activism won’t stop at India’s doors. The demonization of India will continue in the international arena. That’s what you should be worrying about,” he said.
‘India is the world’s biggest democratic success story’
“India is the world’s biggest democratic success story,” Babones said, adding the nation is the “only post-colonial well-institutional democracy.”
He explained that there is no poor democracy as there is no country with a GDP per capita of less than $10,000 per year with a record of democratic elections going back more than a few decades. “India is the only post-colonial country to have remained a democracy throughout its entire history and it is the only well institutionalized democracy on the Eurasian continent between South Korea and Israel,” he noted.
Noting India’s ranking below Hong Kong in the press freedom index published by Reporters Sans Frontiers, he questioned how media in India could rank lower than the autonomous Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China with clampdowns following the security law, closing of Apple Daily and abduction of its publisher and “demolition of printing press.”
In an interview with CNN-News18 in September, Babones had argued that India is by far the poorest well-institutionalized democracy in the world. “India has not fallen into the same trap as other postcolonialism countries have,” Babones said. “Britain did not leave India a democracy,” he said. “Pakistan, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka were also carved out of British institutions, but India’s is a homegrown democracy.”
He has also earlier argued that the key assumption of international media regarding Indian politics has been that of “social exclusion of Muslims”. Babones in an interview with Australia Today stressed: “The need for frank assessment of Indian democracy is real… Prime Minister Narendra Modi is generally careful of being inclusive in his public statements, but some BJP politicians at lower levels are guilty of using blatantly anti-Muslim rhetoric. Nevertheless, the international assumption that all Muslims are estranged from the BJP is a lazy generalisation.”
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