Please join Amitabh Behar, director of the National Foundation for India, for a critical discussion of the Indian government’s increasing regulation of NGOs and general suspicion of foreign funding.
In recent weeks, Greenpeace has had its foreign funding permit revoked and may shutter its Indian operations. The Ford Foundation has been placed on a national security watch list following complaints about its support for a vocal activist and critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While this crackdown is not unique to the Modi era—India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act was tightened in 2010 under the previous Manmohan Singh government—civil society is feeling increasingly under siege. The Economic Times newspaper reported that “the (Modi) government has cancelled the registration of 10,117 NGOs, frozen the accounts of 34 associations, prohibited 69 more from receiving foreign contribution and placed 16 foreign donor agencies including Ford Foundation under the ‘Prior Permission’ category.”
Many civil society activists fear the crackdown is narrowing the space for free expression in India. America’s ambassador in Delhi has said it is having a “chilling effect” on democracy. Are these fears and suspicions justified, or might they represent the prologue to a more complicated dialogue around the public sphere?
- Amitabh Behar is a longtime activist with a focus on governance accountability and social action. He is the co-chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, the convener of National Social Watch Coalition, and sits on organizational boards including the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability and Navsarjan.
- Prashant Sharma (discussant) is an Open Society Fellow studying social accountability in public–private partnerships in the BRICS countries, with a focus on India.