Civil society members condemn denial of FCRA licence to NGOs

New Delhi, Dec 15 (IANS) Civil Society members condemned the Union government’s move to reject the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) renewal applications of 25 non-government organisations (NGO) on Thursday. The members alleged that the government used FCRA “as a tool of repression”.

“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 refusals are the most immediate example of this escalating problem, whereby the government maligns and criminalises those very organisations and individuals that stand for human rights and liberal values,” reads a statement.

The civil society members include historian Ramchandra Guha, social activist Aruna Roy, anti-child labour activist Shantha Sinha, and wildlife biologist Ravi Chellam, who is attached to Greenpeace.

According to the statement, news media reports suggested that Lawyers Collective, Compassion East India, Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (People’s Watch), Sanchal Foundation Hazards Centre, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) and Institute of Public Health (Bengaluru) were among those 25 NGOs.

The members said that the few notices, issued by the government, were found to be “worded such that they can hardly be deemed legally or procedurally valid”.

“Cancellation of an organisation’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 organisations are working against ‘national interest’,” the statement read.

“The right to dissent, one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy, has been haunted by this spectre of anti-nationalism, creating a political climate where dissent warrants swift retribution,” it asserted.

The members said that they stood in solidarity with these 25 organisations and demanded that these cancellations be revoked.

“We also demand a revoking of the FCRA itself as a draconian and repressive law that not only lends itself to being a state-operated repressive tool, but is also in violation of the global human right to freedom of association,” the statement quoted the members as saying.