|A seminar organized by ANHAD in Delhi|
The Government of India canceled the foreign funding license of senior human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi's NGO, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD) last week, on the basis of “field agency reports” which suggested that it carried out its activities against “national interest”, but it gave no supporting evidence.
Revealing this, ANHAD in a statement has said that the argument is neither legally nor procedurally valid, and is there “arbitrary and unacceptable”, fearing this kind of vague argument renders organizations such as ANHAD “open to all manners of abuse”, and is an effort to create a “sceptre of anti-nationalism” and a political climate “where dissent warrants swift retribution.”
ANHAD warns, the move “has the potential to undermine globally India’s reputation on human rights”, recalling that in April 2016, Maina Kiai, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, had insisted that “the ability to access foreign funding is an integral part of the right to freedom of association”, and foreign funding restrictions on NGOs in India are “not in conformity with international law principles and standards.”
An Indian socio-cultural organization established in March 2003 as a response to 2002 Gujarat riots, ANHAD's Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license was reportedly canceled along with that of Ahmedabad-based Dalit rights organization, Navsarjan Trust last week for carrying out what was called “undesirable activities aimed to affect prejudicially harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic, regional groups, castes or communities”.
Recalling how ANHAD’s FCRA was renewed in March 2016 following an inquiry from the Home Ministry in June 2014 and November 2015, the same thing has happened to several other “respected national civil society organisations whose FCRA registrations were similarly renewed and then canceled.”
Pointoug that these include Lawyers’ Collective, Sabrang Trust, Centre for Justice, People's Watch, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), Institute of Public Health (Bengaluru) and Navsarjan (Ahmedabad), ANHAD says, “The persons who lead these organisations are highly respected in the human rights community, including Indira Jaising, Henri Triphagne, Teesta Setlavad, Martin Macwan, Anand Grover among others.”
ANHAD is proud to join this roll-call of India’s dissenters against the communal, anti-Dalit, authoritarian and anti-poor government of the day. It is important to underline that no official list of these organizations has been released by the MHA, making what should have been a transparent and democratic process even more opaque and arbitrary.
Condemning the “deployment of the FCRA as a tool of repression”, ANHAD says, “The current FCRA registration cancellations are the most immediate example of this escalating problem, whereby the government maligns and criminalizes those very organizations and individuals that stand for human rights and liberal values.”
“The double standards of the government are exposed at a time when it thinks it is fine to have 100 per cent FDI in many areas including defence, but cannot accept dissenting organisations to have any access to funds”, ANHAD says, wondering, “If this is one world for capital, why is this not one world for liberal and progressive civil society?”
Calling cancellation of FCRA an “openly repressive draconian measures”, ANHAD says, it believes, the “cancellation of our FCRA is a badge of honour because it confirms the fact that our voices and solidarity with the most marginalized, with justice and truth, and with the Constitution of India.”