Why FCRA amendments are 'blatantly' anti-people, anti-poor, anti-women, draconian-II

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ. Dated: 10/8/2020 10:26:03 AM

“These are not giving straight forward news and only disseminate their views with the name of news to mislead people” and expressed worry that these people are a threat to the national integrity and unity and implied upon the government to nip them in the bud.”

United Nations experts on human rights defenders, on freedom of expression, and on freedom of association have urged the government to repeal the law, saying it is “being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government.”
Besides, the fifteen organisations referred to above, several other concerned groups and individuals have lambasted the Government for the closure of AI. Interestingly, in an unprecedented development the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), issued a notice to the Union home secretary over Amnesty International India winding up its operations in the country because of an alleged witch-hunt by the government. A statement from the NHRC said:
“According to media reports, after the complete freezing of its India bank accounts, the Amnesty International Organization in India has reportedly halted all the work in which it has been engaged in the country, the NHRC said in a statement. The National Human Rights Commission has taken Suo motu cognisance of the matter and directs the issuance of the notice to the Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, calling for their comments on the allegations levelled by the Amnesty International as mentioned in the news report. It is alleged that this is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.”
Given the fact that several statutory bodies, like the NHRC (which are expected to be independent and non-partisan) are ‘controlled’ by the Government one cannot help wondering if the NHRC statement would remain at lip-service!
Then we have the draconian amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). A myth is being propagated by this Government and their ilk (like their crony capitalist friends) that only NGOs (and that too mainly Christian ones) receive foreign money; that the money received from abroad is being used for ‘conversion’ and other ‘anti-national’ activities!
Convenient bogeys for a regime which is on the backfoot on their miserable performance in governance! Even on the floor of Parliament, an MP of the ruling party, had to denigrate all Christians with that pathetic and false commentary on Rev Graham Staines – who was murdered by those who subscribe to the ‘Hindutva’ agenda!
The hard truth is that the Government is also heavily dependent on foreign money, on imports etc. (one cannot deny this! - in the height of the Chinese incursions into India, Modi and his Government apparently took a loan of more than Rs 9,000 crore from the Chinese.
Secondly, several organizations based in foreign countries which support the Hindutva Agenda have been sending voluminous amounts of money to their Indian counterparts to further their anti-democratic acts in the country; these of course will not be touched!
The amendments to the FCRA are certainly anti- people ; it is a retrograde step which will have an adverse effect on genuine NGOs which work selflessly for the poorest of the poor by providing them a whole range of services which include educational programmes, Medicare, poverty alleviation schemes , women’ s empowerment, environmental protection and other programmes and initiatives which are essential in ensuring that India truly moves ahead in every sphere.
The poor, the excluded and other marginalized sections of society are all bound to suffer. Research is an important component of any meaningful initiative; putting a new cap on the administrative expenses is bound to throttle significant work being done for the progress of all Indians and ultimately for the development of the nation.
The amendments to the FCRA are blatantly anti-people, anti-poor and anti-women. It is in every sense draconian! The current regime is afraid that the empowerment of these groups will ultimately end their fascist acts.
Voluntary Action Network India (VANI),the apex body/national association of Indian voluntary development organizations, strongly feels that the FCRA bill, 2020 will be a death blow to the development relief, scientific research and community support work of the NGO community as it prohibits collaboration with other Indian organizations. VANI said in a statement just before both Houses of Parliament passed the bill, to make it An act:
“With limited domestic philanthropy, such guidelines that criminalise activities of even those certified as FCRA compliant, thousands of small NGOs which enable good work and are dependent on legal funds obtained internationally, will shut down, also endangering livelihoods of those dependent on them for a vocation.”
Interestingly but in another significant development, Justice N Kirubakaran of the Madras High Court, exceeded his brief, made observations about NGOs that have become the bane of the Indian society. Justice Kirubakaran was hearing the bail plea of one Kalai Lingam, accused of placing bombs in Madurai and Thoothukudi districts of Tamil Nadu beneath the car of Narayanasamy, current CM of Puducherry when he was a union minister in 2014.Kalai Lingam was a member of the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army, a banned secessionist organization.
Justice Kirubakaran, while rejecting the bail plea considering the serious nature of the crimes committed by Kalai Lingam, made some unnecessary observations about such organizations promoting secessionism and enmity among fellow Indians based on race, religion, region, and language. His observation said:
“This kind of fringe elements are stated to be more active in Tamil Nadu and wearing the masks of NGOs, Human Rights Organisations and political groups are trying to create unrest in Tamil Nadu by way of continuous propaganda through media especially social media instigating the people to protest, creating fear psychosis and spreading hatred among the masses”.
He went on further to state:
“When these elements take Tamil Culture, Tamil Race and Tamil Language as weapons for their sinister plans. Our country is facing more danger in the hands of elements within the country rather than enemy countries. Therefore, the government, as well as the people, should be very cautious about those elements.”
He came down heavily on the human rights activists accusing them of supporting “Separatists, secessionist forces and those who celebrate our enemy countries and criminals in the name of violation of human rights. Sometimes these groups themselves make anti-national comments making use of the Right to speech and Freedom of Expression”.
About those in the media peddling the narrative of China, he observed “The recent Galwan valley conflict exposed people who are lovers of the neighboring nation, as they openly support the enemy country.
These are not giving straight forward news and only disseminate their views with the name of news to mislead people” and expressed worry that these people are a threat to the national integrity and unity and implied upon the government to nip them in the bud. All remarks which certainly did not come under his brief while considering a bail application, but which he made presumably to be on the ‘good books’ of the powerful of this land!
Writing in the ‘Deccan Chronicle’ (September 29, 2020), well-known journalist and former head of Amnesty India, Aakar Patel says:
“It is not in the interest of India or its people or even the government, to persecute and harass these organisations. Unfortunately, that is what has happened and is happening and the reality is that many of them, already under assault from the State, will have to wind up operations and others will have to scale down. India’s civil society is full of motivated people and much of their work will continue because these individuals are not doing this work because of the money. I have worked with people with a background in investment banking, law and of course the media who have chosen to work in an NGO for much less than in their corporate job. Such Indians will continue their work and it is a shame that they are being hindered”.
That says it all! It is a sad reality in India today: its vibrant civil society is being murdered in a very calculated manner! It is also true, that come what may, the struggle will continue relentlessly! (Concluded)

 

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