By Mubasshir Mushtaq
The United States criticized India’s recent crackdown on NGOs, saying those who seek change are not “anti-government” and their efforts are not aimed at weakening “national security.”
“I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by NGOs operating in India,” Richard Verma, U.S. ambassador to India, said on Wednesday while delivering a lecture at Ananta Aspen Center in New Delhi. “Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs.”
Verma spoke at a forum discussing bilateral relations between the United States and India.
India has recently canceled the licenses of more than 9,000 NGOs that allegedly did not reveal foreign donations as regulated by the country.
“With so many voices engaged in the debate, there are sure to be some whose views others find objectionable. That is part of the beauty of the vibrant, thriving democracies we have chosen,” Verma said.
India canceled the license of Greenpeace India last month by freezing its bank accounts. The environmental NGO, which has championed environmental causes in India for 14 years, is on the verge of being closed.
“We have one month left to save Greenpeace India from complete shutdown, and to fight the home ministry’s indefensible decision to block our domestic accounts,” Samit Aich, executive director of Greenpeace India, told staff on Tuesday.
Aich termed the government’s move “strangulation by stealth,” saying an outright ban of the NGO would be unconditional.
Ford Foundation, one of the world’s largest charity organizations, has been put on the Indian government’s “watch-list,” a move which has not gone well with the U.S. administration.
Bill and Melinda Gates
Meanwhile, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has reportedly come under the government’s scanner for discrepancies in financial transactions.
Verma said democracy is about more much than elections.
“It is also about constantly pushing our governments toward a better, more just, more enlightened expression of our values. To get there, free societies must engage in a constant and deliberate debate on topics of public concern,” he said.
Verma added that the U.S. today is engaged in a conversation about “race, law enforcement, and the socio-economic conditions.” (Anadolu Ajansi)