Centre suppressing dissent, say NGO representatives

Updated - April 03, 2016 02:20 am IST

Published - April 10, 2015 12:39 am IST - NEW DELHI:

In reaction to the MHA move to suspend Greenpeace’s registration for alleged “anti-development” activities, a cross section of NGO representatives The Hindu spoke to said that civil society was being actively muzzled by the NDA government. Pointing out that it would be misleading to label Greenpeace as a “foreign-funded organisation”, Samit Aich, its executive director told The Hindu that nearly Rs. 21 crore of their funding during the last financial year April 2014-March 2015 came from Indian donors.

Only recently, the Delhi High Court had spoken disapprovingly of the Centre’s “arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional” manner of stopping Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from going to London, thus ruling in the organisation’s favour, he said. “The judicial response in January regarding the blocking of funds for us from Greenpeace International has also been in our favour,” Mr. Aich added.

Ashish Kothari, founder-member of environmental group Kalpavriksh, said the government’s actions were an indication of the times to come. “Although there have always been attempts to stifle civil society by governments, it was only during the Emergency that things had gotten this bad before.” he said.

“Though governments previously have tried to suppress dissenting voices, the NDA government is taking it to new heights,” environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman of Vettiver Collective said. “But what the government ought to understand is if funds are cut, NGOs may not survive, but local resistance to projects affecting communities will continue.”

Minority rights activist John Dayal said minority groups working for empowerment of their communities would be seriously impacted if curbs were placed using the FCRA. “The FCRA has become an instrument to blackmail if not coerce and threaten NGOs carrying out such work to keep them in “line”,” he said.

“Though I am not a funded activist, either by domestic agencies or by foreign ones, and do not have an FCRA account, I have found my own work severely impacted both by restraints on friendly groups that support human rights work, and the often threatening environment created by religious-nationalist groups,” he said, adding that Indian CSR funds never donated for human rights or empowerment work.

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