Civil society members condemn use of FCRA as ‘tool of repression’

The members called for the FCRA cancellations to be immediately revoked, and demanded the repeal of the FCRA itself.

Published - December 16, 2016 10:59 am IST - NEW DELHI

Civil society members and activists have condemned the Union home ministry’s (MHA) rejection of FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) renewal applications of 25 NGOs, describing it as a move to “use the FCRA as a tool of repression” against organisations that stand for human rights and liberal values.

Expressing solidarity with the 25 organisations whose FCRA applications were rejected, the statement, issued late on Thursday, charged the state with “following a systematic and sustained agenda of suppressing those very dissenting voices that have consistently challenged the system.”

The signatories to the statement condemning the government move included social activists Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, Shantha Sinha, Amnesty International, Ravi Chellam of Greenpeace India, journalist John Dayal, and historian Ramachandra Guha, among others.

Taking special note of the treatment meted out to Lawyer’s Collective, an organisation run by senior advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, whose FCRA registration was permanently cancelled, the statement said, “Lawyer’s Collective has repeatedly furnished them with detailed counters to the government’s allegations…what should have been a routine process is now an exercise in repression by the state.”

While the complete list of the 25 organisations has not been made public, it includes Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), run by activist Shabnam Hashmi, Marwar Muslim Education and Welfare Society, Gujarat-based Navsarjan Trust, and Rural Development Research Center (RDRC), Ahmedabad. Other NGOs which find mention in the statement as being targeted by the government include Center for Promotion of Social Concerns (People’s Watch), Sanchal Foundation Hazards Center, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), Institute of Public Health (Bengaluru) and Compassion East India.

Charging the government with “abuse of legal procedures”, the civil society members pointed out that the notices were worded in a manner “that can hardly be deemed legally or procedurally valid”. Noting that the MHA has suggested that some of these NGOs were working against ‘national interest’, the statement observed that this terminology renders these NGOs open to all manner of abuse. “The right to dissent…has been haunted by this spectre of anti-nationalism, creating a political climate where dissent warrants swift retribution.”

The members called for the FCRA cancellations to be immediately revoked, and demanded the repeal of the FCRA itself “as a draconian and repressive law that not only lends itself to being a state-operated repressive tool, but is also in violation of the global human right to freedom of association.”

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