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

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Moving towards sustainable development? Social, environmental implications of HCES data

By Dr Vandana Sehgal, Dr Amandeep Kaur*  Sustainable development, the high time agenda, encompasses economic, social, and environmental dimensions, aiming for a balance between all these aspects to ensure long-term well-being and prosperity for all. One of the crucial aspects of sustainable development is consumption patterns. Consumption patterns refer to the way individuals, households, and societies use resources and goods. Sustainable consumption patterns entail using resources efficiently, minimizing waste, and considering the environmental and social impacts of consumption choices.

Sanction to persecute Arundhati Roy under UAPA politically motivated: PUCL

Counterview Network  Top human rights group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, has demanded that the authorities should immediately withdraw the prosecution against top author Arundhati Roy and Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmir academic, under the " unconstitutional"  Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA), calling the Delhi  Lieutenant-Governor nod for the Delhi police move "politically motivated".

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.