Post Mortem

Mha vs Ngos: Transparency or Crackdown

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/20/2019 11:53:29 AM IST

 The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its recent briefing reported that over Rs. 50,000 crores were received as foreign contribution by various NGOs and association in India over a period of three years, during the period from 2015-16 to 2017-18. While detailing or breaking down the figures it observed in the case of the foreign contributions that it increased in the year 2017-18 to Rs. 16, 894 crores from Rs. 15, 343 crores in 2016-17, even though the government said it had cancelled the registration of over 14,800 associations under the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FERA) in the last five years. 

Substantiating further, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai in reply to a written question in the Lok Sabha said that foreign donation received by FCRA-registered bodies in India went down drastically from Rs 17,803 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 15,343 crores in 2016-17 could be due to cancellation FCRA licenses of a large number of NGOs, but gradually had risen in 2017-18. However, it has been reported that registration of more than 14,800 associations were cancelled during the last five years due to the fact that these organizations had flouted the provisions laid out by the FCRA, 2010.

In addition to the prevailing clauses and regulations in FCRA, the Home Ministry has further tightened with additional clauses to those organizations receiving foreign funds such as that the office-bearers and the members will have submit proving that there have not been any criminal records and also organizations they represent not involved in any conversion or evangelistic activities as well as not engaged in any nefarious designs or activities against the state. In addition, it also clamped another clause that those going abroad for health-related trips should declare the reasons, channel and mode of payment of money. The additional clauses introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs are for reasons that the NGOs would become more accountable and transparent to the government as well as to its stake holders.

Nonetheless, the reasons cited by the Home Ministry are viewed with great concern as well as grave suspicion. Under these circumstances, introduction of additional provisions and clauses that the Ministry of Home Affairs evolved needs intense scrutiny. New rules further tighten the NGOs enforcing more accountability and transparency in the functioning of NGOs. Nevertheless, there is also a larger motive and bigger stakes in this entire exercise with which the Home Ministry under the aegis of Amit Shah need careful examination. We are aware of the fact that during Modi’s first term i.e. 2014-2019, the Government of India came down heavily on NGOs and cancelled the FCRA Nos. This time, in the second term, the BJP Government especially the Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah wants to consolidate the gains thus far achieved--especially against those NGOs engaged with the Tribal development initiatives.  

Behind this new move, RSS is very much involved. Though Home Ministry offers a number of explanations, there is another side to it. BJP-RSS wants to contain those Christian and Human Rights NGOs working amongst the tribals in the tribal belts in North-east and in other parts of the country. BJP-RSS is of the view that those NGOs particularly being run by the Christian minorities engaged in conversion, evangelism and other Christianizing activities through luring the tribals by offering incentives. RSS and other Hindutuva outfits are aghast that the tribals were originally “Hindus” and they have converted to Christianity or other religion due to allurements   and other material benefits. Their arguments and assumptions are wrong. Tribals have their own customary laws, belief systems, traditions, culture and way of life and world view. However, RSS and Hindutva outfits think that they were originally Hindus and now involved in garwapsi (home coming). This is why, the Home Ministry has added ‘no conversion’ clause in the Act. 

In the year 1976, the Congress Party did introduce primarily to curtail NGOs’ getting into political actions or activities of political nature, so that, the foreign governments would not get indulged in internal politics. Again in 2010, Congress further strengthened the Act and anti-conversion laws became widely prevalent in most of the states. Certainly everyone would agree that that the money received from abroad should not be used for any personal, communal, divisive or anti-government or actions that involve violent activities against the government/state. Those who think and assume that foreign money is involved in alluring the tribals is not right because the population of the Christians remains static in the last five decades. 

North-east region where the indigenous communities live have their own customary and traditional ways of life and world view. BJP-RSS notion of ‘induced-conversion’ by all means be rejected because most of the NGOs run by Christians are involved in literacy, skill-development and economic initiatives amongst the weak and the vulnerable. And so, the entire exercise is vote bank-majoritarian politics. RSS in particular is all out to hinduize the Indian society. It cannot tolerate the cultural and religious diversity. BJP-RSS is determined to curb and in due course of time wants to eliminate the Christian and minorities-run NGOs involved in educational, cultural and health initiatives. It’s vindictive action by the Home Ministry clamping numerous bottlenecks, so that the minority-run NGOs would gradually vanish. There is clearly a double-standard wherein RSS claims that it is a cultural organization, but yet to be registered. There are far-right Hindu outfits involved in all sorts of things receiving funds, but free from scanner.  

The Government of India of day should acknowledge the contributions of the minorities who did play a laudable role in the nation-building and even now engaged in a number of fields. Isolating and targeting minorities with stringent punitive regulations assuming that they are involved in conversion, evangelism and host of others tantamount to subjectivity and prejudiced mind-set. Any government irrespective of ideological persuasions and political differences once in power should act bi-partisan manner and impartial in its governance. The current dispensation seems to be showing duplicity and callousness on many things against the minorities, and FCRA happens to be one among them.  

NGOs that receive money within or outside ought to be accountable and transparent with regard to the money they receive, how they spend and there is absolutely no qualm about it. Nevertheless, based on a few instances punishing NGOs run by minorities show slanted political objectives that subverts the essence of good governance. In a parliamentary democracy there should be room of dissent and accommodation of diverse views. If the purpose is to bring transparency, responsibility and accountability it should be for all—whether majority or minority, because all are equal before the law. Constitution guarantees right to profess and adhere to any religion and if luring is employed to convert individuals and communities take action as per the law and similar situation also exists where the far-right outfits and Hindutva organizations involved. The government should take note of it and act appropriately. 

Why not similar law be implemented or initiated concerning the political parties. Everyone knows that political parties receive huge sums of money. We have been witnessing in recent times how money is being used to lure MPs and MLAs to defect their political parties on which they got elect to form governments or to destabilize the others. Those elected representative who sit in the parliament and legislative assemblies think that they are the ones who formulate and implement laws and so above the law. This type of thought process undermines the constitutional democracy. The recent one is nothing but vindictive action targeting particular types of NGOs. It is anti-democratic, unilateral, partisan and authoritarian. 

Let the Home Ministry invite some representatives and have open discussions on the proposed move and bring in consensus and then implement whatever may be the clause or addition.  The current government has brute majority and should not be afraid of democratic voices. Democracy is all about dissent and consensus-building. Already most of the BJP-ruled states and others have anti-conversion laws and by adding one more tantamount to inflicting fear and control. The government should also be transparent and accountable in its policy-making and decision-taking processes. Government at the Centre is democratically elected one and if it is so, “it is of the people, by the people and for the people”. Citizens are always at the centre of democracy and citizens are the ones that make democracy to work.

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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