Press Statements

Cancellation of foreign funding licence ‘badge of honour’ : ANHAD

'This is a political battle and we shall fight it politically,' ANHAD founder Shabnam Hashmi told a news conference here.

ANHAD wears as a badge of honour the news that it received from the media that the Home Ministry, Government of India, has cancelled the FCRA Licence (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)) of ANHAD. The central government today is the most openly intolerant government that India has seen except for the 18 months of the emergency. It is openly repressive of any kind of liberal and progressive civic dissent.

In the kind of flip-flops that have become another trademark of this government during the currentdemonetization fiasco, ANHAD’s FCRA was renewed in March 2016, after ANHAD faced an enquiry from the Home Ministry in June 2014. In November 2015 the Home Ministry undertook a second enquiry where 4 trunk full of material was sent to them. After this, ANHAD’s FCRA registration was renewed in March 2016. Less than nine months later, it stands cancelled!

ANHAD’s cancellation has not come alone. There are a number of leading and highly respected national civil society organisations who’s FCRA registrations were similarly renewed and then cancelled. These include Lawyers’ Collective, Sabrang, Centre for Justice, People's Watch, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), Institute of Public Health (Bengaluru) and Navsarjan (Ahmedabad). The persons who lead these organisations are highly respected in the human rights community, including Indira Jaising, Henri Triphagne, Teesta Setlavad, Martin Macwan, Anand Grover among others. ANHAD is proud to join this roll-call of India’s dissenters against the communal, anti-Dalit, authoritarian and anti-poor government of the day.  It is important to underline that noofficial list of these organizations has been released by the MHA, making what should have been a transparent and democratic process even more opaque and arbitrary.

We refuse to be cowed down, and will continue our work with Indian donations, and if these are unavailable, then with no funds. But we strongly condemn the deployment of the FCRA as a tool of repression by the current government.  The State is following a systematic and sustained agenda of suppressing those very dissenting voices that have consistently challenged the system. The current FCRA registration cancellations are the most immediate example of this escalating problem, whereby the government maligns and criminalizes those very organizations and individuals that stand for human rights and liberal values. Those who have worked for the most marginalized and disempowered sections of society, while holding the government to account are being persecuted by the State.

We also condemn the abuse of legal procedures by the current government vis-à-vis the FCRA. The few notices that have come to light are worded such that they can hardly be deemed legally or procedurally valid.  Cancellation of an organization’s FCRA registration by citing a reason as vaguely termed as ‘on the basis of field agency reports’ is arbitrary and unacceptable. The MHA has also suggested that these organizations are working against ‘national interest’: terminology that then renders these organizations open to all manner of abuse. The right to dissent, one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy, has been haunted by this sceptre of anti-nationalism, creating a political climate where dissent warrants swift retribution.  

This move by the government has the potential to undermine globally India’s reputation on human rights. InApril 2016 Maina Kiai, The United Nations Special Rapprteur on the Rights of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Assocation, reiterated that the ability to access foreign funding is an integral part of the right to freedom of association, and said that the FCRA restrictions were not in conformity with international law principles and standards.  

The double standards of the government are exposed at a time when it thinks it is fine to have 100 per cent FDI in many areas including defence, but cannot accept dissenting organisations to have any access to funds. If this is one world for capital, why is this not one world for liberal and progressive civil society? 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.

ANHAD refuses to be cowed down by these openly repressive draconian measures and be pressurised by a false and emotive discourse on ‘national interest’, ‘nationalism’ & ‘patriotism’. We are convinced that the nation is its people, and most of all its oppressed people, therefore loving the nation means standing in solidarity with its disadvantaged people. The cancellation of our FCRA is a badge of honour because it confirms the fact that our voices and solidarity with the most marginalized, with justice and truth, and with the Constitution of India. (Released 20 December 2016)

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