New Delhi, May 14, 2013
Government wants to rein in people’s struggles related to land, forests, water and for dignity: Chitranjan Singh
Globalisation of resistance cannot be resisted, said Prof Achin Vanaik
Freezing of bank account cannot stifle democratic voice of dissent, said Anil Chaudhary
More than 300 organisations, action groups and grassroots activists, journalists, writers stand in solidarity
Following the suspension of the registration of Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) under Foreign Contributions Regulation Act and freezing its bank accounts for 180 days, INSAF organized a press conference at Press Club in Delhi, which was addressed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Prof Achin Vanaik (Former Dean, Dept of Political Science Delhi University, Social Activist Shabnam Hashmi and INSAF general secretary Chitranjan Singh. INSAF is a network of more than 700 NGOs involved in grassroots activities and people’s struggles. INSAF was created, post-Babri Masjid demolition, so that public consciousness could be raised on issues related to communalism, globalization and divisive politics. The Home Ministry has stated that according to information available with the Government agencies, the foreign funding received by INSAF is likely to be ‘prejudicial to public interest’.
Prof Vanaik said, after globalisation, globalisation of resistance is here to stay. It cannot be resisted. The double standard of the government is quite visible. It is so beholden to foreign direct investment (FDI) but it is acting against the unification of resistance which is globally vibrant gives meaning to democracy.
Shabnam Hashmi sought immediate withdrawal of the suspension order else we will demonstrate before the residence of the Home Minister.
Freezing of bank account cannot stifle democratic voice of dissent. Our right to resistance against right wing politics and economics is guaranteed by constitution. The policies of international financial institutions like World Bank Group remain a threat to democracy and we will resist it in public interest. How can being prejudicial to public interest be deemed a ground for suspension when the democratic practice is based on the prejudices about the public interest, asked Anil Chaudhary, a veteran social worker and a trainer of trainers.
At the conference a statement endorsed by more than 300 organisations, action groups and grassroots activists, journalists, writers etc. was also released. The statement expresses its solidarity with the stand of INSAF in asserting the constitutional right of every citizen of India to participate in governance, which includes the right to question, challenge and oppose the policies of the state through peaceful, non-violent and democratic means. Among signatories of the statement are Admiral Ramdas, Vasanth Kannabiran, Praful Bidwai, Ram Puniyani, Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, Sandeep Pandey, Kalyani Menon sen, Henri Tiphagne, Saheli, Ashok Chaoudhury, Subhash Gatade, Saeed Baloch (Pakistan), Saroop Dhruv, Asad Zaidi, Bejwada Wilson, Toni Leino (Finland), Antonio Villavicencio (Ecuador), Amanul Haq (Bangladesh) and other distinguished persons and organisations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Azerbaizan, Philippines, Thailand, Spain, Tajikistan, France, USA, Belgium, Canada, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Australia, Mangolia and kyrgystan.
It is noteworthy that INSAF has been demanding that International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like World Bank Group should be brought under rigorous legislative scrutiny. In this regard it organized a Peoples Front Against IFIs during the 46th Annual Board of Governors’ Meeting (AGM) of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Greater Noida, Delhi during May 2-5, 2013. Is it a coincidence that the letter of suspension was received while the meeting of Peoples Front Against IFIs was underway. At this meeting several Members of Parliament came and expressed their support for making IFIs subservient to legislative will. Providing the reason for the suspension of the bank account wherein contributions are received under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, the letter of April 30, 2013. The letter was received on May 4, 2013. In doing so it withheld the information on the basis of which the suspension order has been issued.
The Ministry’s letter is in reaction to INSAF’s case against the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010 in the Supreme Court and the new rules formulated under which all democratic action such as rallies, demonstrations, protests etc. are prohibited. The Ministry should have waited for Supreme Court’s verdict instead of curtailing the constitutional rights to resist and protest to defend rights within the constitutional framework. Such an impatient act of the Ministry through subordinate legislation and invoking of Section 13 curbs the right to freedom to protest and express dissenting voices.
Speaking in the conference, INSAF general secretary Chitranjan Singh said that to understand this governmental action, we need to visit the FCRA, 1976 and the amendments done to it in 2010 as well as the Rules formulated in 2011. A look at this will expose the real intent of the government as well as its repressive politics in the garb of stopping/curbing foreign funding. The new amendments to the FCRA done in 2010, especially its Rule 3, are highly controversial and are very relevant in understanding the current context and controversy. It says that activities of any organization which habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like Bandh or hartal (strike), Rasta Roko (stopping trafffic), Rail Roko (Stopping Trains) or Jail Bharo (fill up jails) in support of public causes will be deemed as political in nature even if it is not a political party. The government, of course, has reserved the right to define or designate those organizations which will fall in this category. Such organizations cannot be recipients of foreign funding.
He further said that INSAF had challenged these very legal provisions on 5th August 2011 in the Delhi High Court but its writ petition was rejected on 16 September 2011. Subsequently, INSAF filed the same writ in the Supreme Court of India which was admitted. The Supreme Court has asked the Government to file a reply which it has not filed till date. It is interesting and ironic that while INSAF challenged the provisions of the FCRA which curb funding of organizations by designating their activities as political in nature, INSAF itself has been made a very first example of such prosecution and its bank accounts sealed by the govt this month in the name of political activities.
Chitranjan said that the Government wants to rein in peoples struggles related to land, forests, water and for dignity going on all over India from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir. It also wants to curb all the basic facilities available to such organizations & individuals. INSAF has played an important role in such people oriented struggles. If giving support in getting posters, banners and booklets printed, their distribution, bearing expenses for their display and saying things in defence of democracy becomes a political activity because of which your livelihood can be snatched, then it raises a very serious question: Is there any democracy in this country or not? The fundamental right to free expression under Article 19 (A) that we keep reciting, does it have any meaning?
Social organizations and movements across the country and abroad are demanding review and withdrawal of the order of suspension of the FCRA account of INSAF. INSAF and its allies are always engaged in defending democratic rights of deprived communities and in strengthening secular spirit of the nation. It is incomprehensible as to how such work in genuine public interest is deemed to be against public interest. ………………………………………. For further information, please contact:
INSAF @ 011-65663958 Shree Prakash @ 09406614800, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org