Sunday, June 14, 2015

Human Rights Watch blames previous Congress govt for starting process of Modi clampdown on India's NGOs

Meenakshi Ganguly
By Our Representative
The Human Rights Watch (HRW), well-known US-based elite NGO, has blamed the previous Congress-led UPA government for kick-starting the process of suppressing civil society organizations, which has taken new proportions under the current Narendra Modi government. Top Canadian online news site, thestar.com quotes HRW's South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly as saying that the "clampdown began, in a way, with the previous government by the Congress party."
Ganguly has said, the Congress-led government had, in fact, "expressed the view that community protests against development projects that were supported by NGOs might sometimes be motivated by foreign donor interests”, adding, the present government has here pursued a "policy of increased restrictions on both NGOs and funders,”
In a report, the news site says, "Hundreds of NGOs and charities -- environmental and other -- have been under the government radar since last June, when the Intelligence Bureau leaked a report accusing several foreign-funded NGOs of stalling infrastructure projects." Suggesting the report was prepared under the UPA, the site says, "By the time the intelligence agencies’ report was leaked last June, a new government had been elected."
It recalls how the CBI report named several activists and organizations but singled out Greenpeace as a “threat to national economic security”, adding, "The report also said the global organization was using its 'exponential' growth in terms of 'reach, impact, volunteers and media influence' to create obstacles in India’s energy plans.
The site believes, while organizations like Greenpeace, "a mammoth organization with offices in 40 countries and many millions of dollars in donor money, has been able to deal with the clampdown, it hasn’t been so easy for smaller NGOs." It quotes the director of an environmental NGO, refusing to be named, as saying, “We can’t afford lawyers... if something goes wrong.”
Things, of course, have reached a new height under the Modi administration, the site suggests.
"A very public, ongoing battle between the powerful Indian government and the environmental organization that began a year ago with the release of an intelligence report singling out Greenpeace as a 'threat', made headlines again when a campaigner was denied entry into the country. Australian Aaron Gray-Block was put on a flight to Malaysia last week after he landed in Bangalore because his name figured in a 'blacklis't”, it says.
Quoting Priya Pillai, who was "offloaded" at the airport in Delhi this January even as she was going to Britain to brief MPs on how a UK-listed energy company was harming environment through coalmining, the site says, it has been "no let-up to attacks on Greenpeace" ever since.
 “For the past one whole year, it feels like we have been constantly firefighting” and the "organization's work is suffering", Pillai tells the site.
"And the situation isn’t unique to Greenpeace", comments the site, adding, .while Greenpeace India's offices have undergone inspections, its bank accounts have been frozen and at least three staffers, including Pillai, have been refused permission to either enter or leave India, recently, the Indian government revoked the licences of nearly 9,000 foreign-funded non-profits for allegedly failing to disclose financial sources."
"Highly respected organizations like 350.org and Sierra Club have been added to watch lists", the site says, adding, "India’s home ministry is now turning its attention to charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and even the Ford Foundation, prompting the US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, to express concern."

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