“Amid an intensifying crackdown on nongovernmental groups that receive foreign funding, Indian activists are accusing the government of stifling their right to dissent in the world’s largest democracy,” The Washington Post’s Rama Lakshmi, reports from New Delhi:
India has tightened the rules on nongovernmental organizations over the past two years, following protests that delayed several important industrial projects. About a dozen NGOs that the government said engaged in activities that harm the public interest have seen their permission to receive foreign donations revoked, as have nearly 4,000 small NGOs for what officials said was inadequate compliance with reporting requirements.
The government stepped up its campaign this month, suspending the permission that Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a network of more than 700 NGOs across India, had to receive foreign funds. Groups in the network campaign for indigenous peoples’ rights over their mineral-rich land and against nuclear energy, human rights violations and religious fundamentalism; nearly 90 percent of the network’s funding comes from overseas.
India’s authorities are violating the right to freedom of association which, a leading UN expert insists, not only includes the ability of individuals or legal entities to form and join an association but also to seek, receive and use human, material and financial resources from domestic, foreign, and international sources.
The ongoing crackdown on civil society groups’ ability to receive foreign funding is a violation of international law, according to a recent report from Maina Kiai, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
Whereas the economic interests which bring the BRICS together are inherently fragile and instrumental, a shared commitment to democratic values provides a more secure and sustainable basis for foreign policy and relations.
But India’s authorities appear to be taking a page out of the book of such authoritarian governments as Russia’s, which recently passed a law requiring foreign-funded NGOs engaged in political activities to register as “foreign agents.”
“The government’s action is aimed at curbing our democratic right to dissent and disagree,” said activist Anil Chaudhary. “We dared to challenge the government’s new foreign donation rules in the court. We opposed nuclear energy, we campaigned against genetically modified food. We have spoiled the sleep of our prime minister.”