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India’s economic progress is overshadowed by internal conflicts, human rights issues, and democratic backsliding, as highlighted by recent reports.

In recent years, India has basked in the glow of international acclaim for its rapid economic growth, technological prowess, and millennia-old cultural heritage. Yet, beneath this surface of progress lies a troubling reality marked by persistent socio-political challenges and deep-rooted systemic issues. Recent reports have once again cast a harsh spotlight on these festering problems, revealing the stark and often overlooked struggles within the nation and underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive reform.

On May 14, the “Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID)” from the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre presented a grim assessment of the situation in South Asia. According to the report, 2023 witnessed an alarming 69,000 internal displacements across the region, largely fueled by conflict and violence. Startlingly, the vast majority of these displacements occurred within India’s borders. Manipur, a state fraught with ethnic tensions and insurgencies, accounted for an astounding 97% of South Asia’s internal displacements. These figures underscore India’s glaring inability to address entrenched issues of social unrest, political instability, and systemic human rights abuses within its own territories.

Adding to this disconcerting narrative, a report published by the online platform Access Now on May 15 titled “The most violent year: internet shutdowns in 2023” highlighted another troubling aspect of India’s governance. The report revealed that India had led the world in Internet shutdowns for the sixth consecutive year. Authorities often justify these shutdowns as necessary for maintaining law and order, but critics argue they are tools for stifling dissent and curbing freedom of expression. These shutdowns, which infringe upon fundamental rights and stifle economic activity, represent a significant challenge to India’s democratic principles. The reliance on such draconian measures to suppress dissent underscores a worrying drift toward authoritarianism and significantly tarnishes India’s self-image as the world’s largest democracy.

These reports have profoundly damaging ramifications for India’s global standing. They expose a glaring disconnect between India’s image as an emerging global power and the grim realities faced by many of its citizens. Despite notable advancements in the economic and technological arenas, India remains mired in internal conflicts, human rights violations, and a disturbing trend of democratic backsliding. The government’s apparent failure to effectively address these issues not only perpetuates human suffering but also undermines India’s credibility on the international stage.

These revelations should serve as an urgent call to action for Indian authorities. The widespread internal displacements and frequent Internet shutdowns highlight a critical need for deep and meaningful reforms in governance, conflict resolution, and the protection of human rights. India must transcend mere rhetoric and implement tangible actions to address the root causes of these crises, including socio-economic inequality, political marginalization, and institutional corruption.

Furthermore, the international community must take heed of these reports and hold India accountable for its human rights record. As a country that aspires to be a global leader, India bears the responsibility of upholding universal values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Ignoring internal abuses and violations risks tarnishing India’s reputation and diminishes its influence on the global stage.

While India’s achievements are indeed commendable, they must not obscure the pressing issues that continue to afflict the nation. The stark revelations from the GRID report and Access Now’s findings provide a sobering reminder of India’s ongoing challenges. It is imperative that Indian authorities respond to these warnings with decisive action to address the underlying issues of conflict, repression, and inequality. Only through such concerted efforts can India aspire to fulfill its potential as a vibrant democracy and an emerging global power.

Muhammad Zain Ul Abdin is a lawyer based in Islamabad, Pakistan. Muhammad holds a Master's degree in International Relations. His areas of interest include India-Pakistan relations, South Asia, Afghanistan, and China.