In a series of actions aimed at non-governmental organisations receiving foreign funding, the Union government seems to have tightened its control on groups involved in social movements. In an order dated April 30, the Ministry of Home Affairs suspended in the public interest the permanent registration of the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a national forum of 700 social action groups and people’s movements, and froze its bank account for 180 days.
The letter, a copy of which is available with Frontline, said the acceptance of foreign contribution by INSAF is “likely to prejudicially affect the public interest”. Civil society organisations criticised the government’s move as arbitrary and an attack on social movements and expressions of dissent. INSAF was established in 1993 to create public awareness on issues of communalism, globalisation and divisive politics.
At a conference organised on May 14 in Delhi, a consortium of 300 organisations, action groups and grass-roots activists expressed solidarity with INSAF and saw the government’s action as the latest in a series of measures to curb foreign funding for NGOs that criticise the government and protest against its actions. The government had amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) in 2010 to put a bar on foreign funding for any organisation “which habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like bandh or hartal (strike), raasta roko (stopping traffic), rail roko (stopping trains) or jail bharo (fill up jails) in support of public causes”. In August 2011, INSAF challenged this amendment in the Supreme Court, which admitted the petition and asked the government to file a reply. The government is yet to do so.
Achin Vanaik, professor in the Department of Political Science at Delhi University, said, “The amended FCRA attacks bodies considered to be of a political nature. The government is indirectly attacking resistance to its policies. The government wants to prevent the globalisation of resistance.”
The recent activities of INSAF included the staging of a protest, in the form of a people’s front against international financial institutions, during the 46th Annual Board of Governors meeting of the Asian Development Bank in Greater Noida.