NEW DELHI - India must overhaul its antiquated laws and cumbersome legal system which are increasingly being misused to silence dissent in the Hindu majority country, a global writers group said in a report Monday.

Hardline Hindu groups have been accused of fomenting intolerance of religious and other minorities since nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power at general elections in 2014.

Pen International said a survey of authors, lawyers, activists and journalists this year found that this "culture of intolerance has taken root in India and has grown more menacing".

Defamation, sedition and those laws pertaining to hate speech were being misused by "intolerant individuals and groups" to severely restrict freedom of expression, it said.

"Their (those surveyed) accounts suggest that the unchecked abuse of India's vague and overbroad legislation, and its inefficient legal system, have helped to create a chill within Indian society and throughout its public sphere," the report, also by PEN Canada and the University of Toronto's law faculty, said.

A student union leader at a prestigious New Delhi university was arrested and charged with sedition earlier this year for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans.

The arrest brought thousands of students and teachers onto the streets in protest and fuelled mounting concern about freedom of speech.

The British-era sedition law carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Prosecutions are rare but it has frequently been used against critics of the government of the day.

Several authors last year returned a prestigious award in protest at what they called government inaction over the murder of atheist scholars and the lynching of a Muslim man suspected of eating beef.

Those interviewed for the report also spoke of endless harassment and threats, particularly online, to silence criticism.

The report said writers and journalists now faced frequent "implied and direct threats".

"Some face more immediate violence from the groups and individuals who wish to silence them. These censors are seldom reprimanded, much less prosecuted," it said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoys strong public support over two years after winning power, with most people happy with his efforts to tackle corruption and other problems plaguing India, a poll showed Monday.

Eighty-one percent of voters surveyed by the US-based Pew Research Center said they were satisfied with the Hindu nationalist premier, whose party won a landslide general election victory in 2014.

Main opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, who heads the Congress Party, was seen favourably by 63 percent of the public, almost unchanged from last year.

Modi suffered a dip in the intensity of his support, with 11 percent of those surveyed this year switching to "satisfied" from "very satisfied" when questioned in 2015.

Forty-nine percent thought he brought people together while 29 percent believed he was divisive.

Modi has been criticised since coming to power for failing to rein in hardline Hindu nationalists accused of attacking Muslims and other minorities and fostering a culture of intolerance.

He had come under fire over communal riots in his home state of Gujarat when he was chief minister in 2002. The unrest left at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.

But he swept to power nationally on a promise to reform and revive the then-struggling economy and help find jobs for the unemployed youth.

More than half of those surveyed approved of Modi's efforts to tackle India's grinding poverty and unemployment (62 percent), terrorism (61 percent) and corruption (59 percent).

Sixty-five percent were also satisfied with the way things were going in the country, up nine percentage points from 2015 and 29 points from 2014.

A total of 2,464 people were interviewed face-to-face for the survey, which has a 3.2 percent margin of error.