Funds axe on NGOs

Published; Dec. 16, 2016

New Delhi, : The Union home ministry today barred a non-government organisation run by a Narendra Modi-critic from receiving foreign funds, revoking its FCRA licence and that of three others for alleged “undesirable activities against public interest”.

The action, which drew accusations that the government was trying to stifle voices of dissent, means Anhad, run by Shabnam Hashmi, the Marwar Muslim Educational and Welfare Society, and the Gujarat-based Navsarjan Trust and the Rural Development Research Centre cannot receive foreign contributions.

NGOs need to renew their licences under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act every five years to keep receiving funds from abroad.

Yesterday, the ministry had cancelled the FCRA licence of two NGOs run by Teesta Setalvad, another Modi critic, and that of Greenpeace after “inadvertently” renewing them recently.

Shabnam, sister of theatre activist Safdar Hashmi who was beaten to death by goons while performing a street play, said Anhad had “faced an inquiry from the ministry” in June 2014, “immediately after Modi became Prime Minister”, and November 2015.

“In March this year the NGO’s FCRA (licence) was renewed,” she said. “Why did they renew the FCRA then and why have they cancelled it now?” she asked, adding the move was nothing but an attempt to stifle “dissenting voices”.

Anhad (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), set up after the 2002 Gujarat carnage, has been fighting for the riot victims.

Home ministry sources said the Intelligence Bureau had sent adverse reports against the NGOs, alleging that they were painting the government as “anti-Dalit” abroad, apart from misappropriating funds.

“Recently, it was detected that their licences were renewed inadvertently following a possible goof-up. This is why their licences have been cancelled with immediate effect,” said a senior official.

The ministry’s order said Anhad had come under “adverse notice for its undesirable activities against public interest” and that one of the conditions for granting registration under the FCRA was that acceptance of donation was not likely to affect “prejudicially the public interest”.

The licence of the Rajasthan-based Marwar Muslim Educational and Welfare Society was cancelled for its “undesirable activities that would increase inter-sectarian tension”.

On the Navsarjan Trust, the order said the association had come under “adverse notice for its undesirable activities” aimed at affecting “harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic (and) regional groups”. The Ahmedabad-based NGO works for Dalit rights and had brought up the issue of caste-based discrimination at a UN conference.

The allegation against the Rural Development Research Centre was diversion and misappropriation of funds.

In a statement, Anhad said: “We refuse to be cowed down by these draconian measures and mortgage the definition of ‘national interest’, ‘nationalism’ & ‘patriotism’. The present attack on us is a continuation of similar draconian measures taken during the past three years by the present government in almost every sphere of intellectual activity and freedom of expression.”

“We shall continue to resist the attack on the constitutional rights of the people of India,” the statement added.

Shabnam is also the co-founder of SHAHMAT, a voluntary organisation set up in the memory of Safdar that brings together artists and intellectuals for the cause of defending secularism and democratic rights.

The annual Safdar Hashmi memorial event has now become a part of Delhi’s cultural calendar.

Courtesy: The Telegraph-

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