Thursday, June 23, 2016

Top activists fighting 2002 Gujarat riots cases fear "extra-legal" move by Modi govt ahead of Supreme Court hearing

By Our Representative
Top human rights activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, whose NGO Sabrang Trust’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license was cancelled on June 16, apprehend that the powerful Modi government might use “extra-legal means” to suppress their activities.
Fighting communal riots cases ever since 2002, they have said in an interview that this became clear after the Supreme Court stayed their arrest on February 12, 2015 following the Gujarat High Court refusing to grant them anticipatory bail.
In their comprehensive interview, the husband-and-wife duo say, while “investigations” in their activities “have long been concluded”, and “not much has been found”, a process was “initiated” by the Gujarat police, with the active support from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) post-March 2015, to cancel the Sabrang trust’s license.
Asked what they think might happen in future, they say, “The next date of hearing in the Supreme Court is July 11, so let’s see”, underlining, “We are not dealing with normal legal procedures here. But a vindictive state at the very highest level at the Centre bent on using repressive, even extra legal means.”
Refuting point-by-point all the allegations levelled against them, the two day, on June 16, 2016, the Sabrang Trust’s license was cancelled because they used more than 50% of FCRA money for administrative purposes.
However, they say, saying, “Our annual returns to show that admin expenses during FY 2010-11 was 30%, and during FY 11-12 was 31.5%.” Calling the MHA claim “blanket”, they say they do not know how the figure 64.23% and 55.14% was arrived at.
The FCRA rule, they say, states that the prescribed 50% limit on administrative expenses would not apply to “the expenditure incurred on salaries or remuneration of personnel engaged in collection or analysis of field data of an association primarily engaged in research or training shall not be counted as administrative expenses”.
Refuting the allegation that a foreign funded payment of Rs 50 lakh was made to Sabrang Communications, a private limited company, they say, “Between FY 2009-10 and 2011-12, Sabrang Trust received grants from Ford Foundation in annual instalments for a 3-year project – Conflict Resolution and Peace Building”.
The Sabrang Communications, therefore, provided the necessary infrastructure, such as “office space, office equipment (computers, printers, photocopier, cable internet etc.) and staff”, which is not against any rules. The amount, however, was not used for publishing “Communalism Combat”, which has been the main work of Sabrang Communications.
To another question as to why Sabrang Communications purchased Rs 6,617 of bulk SMS facility out of the foreign contribution to Sabrang Trust, they say, the amount for publicizing the Maharashtra government’s minorities department educational scholarship schemes was wrongly billed “in the name of Sabrang Communications and inadvertently paid for by the accountant out of petty cash”, which was later corrected.
As for the allegation Rs 12 lakh foreign funds were paid through as expenses incurred through personal credit cards, they say, the Sabrang Trust “has only been charged for expenses related to the organisation’s activities.”
On the allegation how the foreign contribution for Maintenance of Places of Historical and Cultural Importance’ was used for building a memorial at Gulberg Society, one of the worst affected spots during 2002 Gujarat riots, they say, an amount of Rs 50,000 was received towards this end but project had to abandoned in 2012 due to “insufficient donor response”.

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