Viewpoint: India’s Chilling Crackdown on Charitable Organizations “Smacks of Political Payback”
Friday, May 8, 2015
The Ford Foundation is among the world’s best-known charitable organizations, dispensing billions of dollars globally for projects aimed at reducing poverty, fighting injustice, improving education and advancing democracy.
So it was alarming when India’s Ministry of Home Affairs last month placed the foundation, which has made $500 million in grants to organizations in India since 1952, on a national security watch list. That means it cannot give money to Indian groups without permission from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The move shook the donor community and triggered fears of a broader crackdown on civic activism — fears quickly realized when the government canceled the registration of nearly 9,000 foreign-funded civic and nongovernmental groups.
The Ford case smacks of political payback. The listing stems from a complaint by the Gujurat State government about the Sabrang Trust, a private group that has received grants from Ford. The trust, its founder, Teesta Setalvad, and her husband have worked on behalf of victims of sectarian riots in Gujarat in 2002, when Mr. Modi was chief minister. They have also sought to bring charges against Mr. Modi for enabling the violence, which left more than 1,000 people dead.