Skip to main content

Modi "acted" like Russian, Turkish illiberal strongmen: Foreign fund ban on Lawyers' Collective, Navsarjan Trust

Vladimir Putin with Modi
By Our Representative
“The New York Times” (NYT) has compared Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s actions of seeking to ban  foreign funding of several civil society organizations with actions of world’s two “illiberal strongmen” – Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose governments “regularly use imprisonment, threats and nationalist language to repress NGOs.”
Blaming Modi for “going after” NGO “money”, NYT’s commentary by Rohini Mohan, takes strong exception to withdrawing Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) license of Lawyers’ Collective, an advocacy group in New Delhi run by the prominent lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, and Gujarat’s Navsarjan Trust, which “played a leading role in the protests” against the flogging of four Dalits in Una July last year (click HERE).
Providing details, NYT says, the Lawyers’ Collective has for “three decades provided legal assistance to women, nonunion workers, activists and other marginalized groups, often without charge”, adding, its FCRA was cancelled for in December for “political reasons” –it had “represented critics of Modi’s sectarian record and environmental vision.”
Pointing out that FCRA prohibits the use of overseas funds for “activities detrimental to the national interest”, NYT insists, “Although accountability in the nongovernmental sector is necessary to control malpractice, the foreign funding law is better known as a tool of political retribution than transparent auditing.”
“The funding law is rooted in Cold War fears about foreign interference in domestic politics”, NYT says, recalling how in 1975, “Prime Minister Indira Gandhi raised the spectre of foreign hand, suspended civil liberties, arrested political opponents, and censored the press for an almost two-year dictatorial stretch known as the Emergency.”
Suggesting that at the root of the crackdown on civil society is the Congress-led government making FCRA “more stringent” in 2010, requiring the license to be renewed every five years, and allowing the state to suspend permits and freeze groups’ accounts for 180 days during any investigation”, NYT says, “The Congress government used the law to pressure civil society groups protesting corruption and a nuclear power plant.”
Criticizing the Modi government for doing it “even more openly”, NYT says, “It repeatedly denounces human rights and environmental activism as anti-national – a phrase that carries connotations of treason.”
The Lawyers’ Collective, NYT says, fought the case of Greenpeace’s Priya Pillai, who was traveling to London “to testify in the British Parliament about coal mining in central Indian forests by Essar Energy, a corporation registered in Britain”, adding, “Federal officers pulled Pillai off her flight, arguing that her deposition would have hurt India’s national interest.”
Similarly, it represented Teesta Setalvad, “campaigning for justice for the victims of sectarian riots in Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was the chief minister of the state. “Setalvad has sought to put Modi and other Hindu nationalist politicians on trial for allegedly overseeing or participating in the violence”, NYT adds.
As for the cancellation of FCRA of Navsarjan Trust, NYT says, “Indian newspapers quoted unnamed officials claiming that intelligence agencies have described seven civil society groups, including the Trust, as ‘working against public interest’ and painting the Modi government as anti-Dalit abroad.”
Yet, NYT underlines, “neither Modi’s BJP nor the Congress Party has had any qualms about accepting campaign funding from foreign businesses. In May 2014, a New Delhi court held both the BJP and the Congress Party guilty of receiving donations from a London-listed company in violation of the foreign funding law.”
In fact, says NYT, Modi’s government “found a way of legally transforming its donors from foreign companies to Indian ones. It amended the law to change the definition of a foreign business, retroactively making a wider range of companies permissible campaign donors. While the civil society groups working with the poorest Indians are being choked, India’s political parties found many more avenues to receive more money.”Yet, NYT underlines, “neither Modi’s BJP nor the Congress Party has had any qualms about accepting campaign funding from foreign businesses. In May 2014, a New Delhi court held both the BJP and the Congress Party guilty of receiving donations from a London-listed company in violation of the foreign funding law.”
In fact, says NYT, Modi’s government “found a way of legally transforming its donors from foreign companies to Indian ones. It amended the law to change the definition of a foreign business, retroactively making a wider range of companies permissible campaign donors. While the civil society groups working with the poorest Indians are being choked, India’s political parties found many more avenues to receive more money.”

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.