Over 50 eminent citizens today came out strongly against government for refusing to renew FCRA licences of 25 organisations, alleging that the action is part of a “systematic and sustained” agenda of suppressing the dissenting voices.
In a hard-hitting statement, they said rejection of FCRA renewal of Indira Jaisingh’s Lawyers Collective, Compassion East India, Indian Social Action Forum and Institute of Public Health (Bengaluru) among others reflected criminalisation of the organisations which stand for human rights and liberal values.
Those who signed the statement included Ramchandra Guha, Aruna Roy, John Dayal, Harsh Mander, Mathew Cherian, Amitabh Behar, Biraj Patnaik, Kavita Srivastava and Shantha Sinha.
Amnesty International, Centre for Equity Studies and some other organisations also endorsed the statement.
“No official list of these organisations has been released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, relegating what should have been a transparent and democratic process to a shadowy exercise of arbitrary power.
“We unequivocally condemn the present use of the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) 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,” they alleged.
They said 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.”
They alleged those who have worked for the most marginalised and disempowered sections of society, while holding the government to account are being “persecuted by the State.
The citizens said the right to dissent is one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy, which has been “haunted by this spectre of anti-nationalism, creating a political climate where dissent warrants swift retribution.”
“We stand in solidarity with these 25 organisations and demand that these cancellations be revoked, and a fair and transparent judicial procedure be guaranteed to them,” the statement said.