Friday 16.12.2016 in Latest Developments in India Country Page
As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the Foreign Contributions and Regulations Act (FCRA) is distrupting the work of civic groups operating in India. With at least 25 human rights and community empowerment organisations already already having been denied their licences, many fear that space for activism is closing in India. Worryingly, the number of organisations denied licences continues to rise. On 15th December, a further 7 CSOs had their FCRA licenses revoked, after 'inadvertently' allowing their original licence to exceed five years. In a statement, Greenpeace India, who were one of the groups affected stated:
'As we have witnessed recently, the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) has been turned into an instrument of repression, one that the government has used to cut off vital funding to groups that may hold positions contrary to the government’s own.'
While the FCRA law – the regulation governing foreign funding to non-profit organisations - has enabled many CSOs to access foreign funding; there are an equivalent number of CSOs that are still waiting for their applications to be processed. Many have been left in limbo with their renewals categorised as ‘closed’ meaning the ministry is still processing their applications. With no official communication and a blanket refusal to redress this crisis, many organisations are not able to undertake legitimate work. Many are also unsure of whether they are the victims of selective targeting or simply administrative failures on the part of the Indian authorities.
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against India's ban on high value banknotes. Demonetisation has led to the overnight suspension of 85% of currency, has left businesses unable to pay workers, banks running out of money and day-long queues to get cash. The lack of foresight by the Indian authorities when implementing the ban has caused outrage and led many to question the strategy behind the ban. On 28th November, a national day of rage took place, with several thousand people protesting in several cities.
While the government put forward the premise that replacement of currency would be the death knell for terrorist financing, opposition parties have called into the question the way in which the decision was made; with many claiming that not enough consultation took place before it was implemented.
Freedom of expression has also been curtailed as a result of the unpopular demonentisation drive in India. On 12th November, Indian authorities in Madhya Pradesh, arrested 19-year-old engineering student Abhishek Mishra who had criticised Narendra Modi's government’s suspension of the legal tender of high currency notes on social media. Mishra, an avid social media user designates himself as a ‘Right To Information’ Activist with a Twitter account of 16,000 followers. While he was later granted bail, his social media posts were subsequently deleted and his website was blocked by authorities.
Abhishek Mishra, a 19-year-old student was arrested for his posts against demonetisation on social media https://t.co/SDm9xVoMCO— The Wire (@thewire_in) November 29, 2016
In a separate incident, after spending 76 days in incarceration, Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Activist Khurram Parvez was released on 25th November. Despite the High Court terming his detention illegal and ordering his immediate release, Mr. Parvez was held under the Public Safety Act after he was detained from boarding a flight to Geneva from New Delhi for the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting.