New York Times: Narendra Modi's crackdown on civil society in India

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New York Times: Narendra Modi's crackdown on civil society in India

Post by Rashmun on Mon Jan 09, 2017 2:25 pm

Among their common traits, illiberal strongmen share a virulent mistrust of civil society. From Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, illiberal governments regularly use imprisonment, threats and nationalist language to repress nongovernmental organizations. Here in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is going after their money.

The Lawyers Collective, an advocacy group in New Delhi run by the prominent lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, has for three decades provided legal assistance to women, nonunion workers, activists and other marginalized groups, often without charge. In December, the Modi government barred it from receiving foreign grants. The political reasons were obvious: The Collective had represented critics of Mr. Modi’s sectarian record and environmental vision...

It’s not just the Collective that has been punished. The Home Affairs Ministry recently revoked the licenses of around 10,000 other nongovernmental organizations. Even groups whose funding licenses were renewed are worried about the future. “It is activism on thinning ice from now on,” an education activist told me...

The Collective also represented Teesta Setalvad, who has been campaigning for justice for the victims of sectarian riots in Gujarat in 2002, when Mr. Modi was the chief minister of the state. Ms. Setalvad has sought to put Mr. Modi and other Hindu nationalist politicians on trial for allegedly overseeing or participating in the violence. After Mr. Modi’s elevation to national office, Ms. Setalvad was accused of stealing donations meant for riot victims. In July, her home in Mumbai was raided by federal agents, and a few months later, Ms. Setalvad’s organizations lost their foreign funding licenses.

Since Mr. Modi rose to power, emboldened hard-line Hindu activists have assaulted cow traders and people suspected of eating beef, claiming to defend Hindu beliefs. In July, vigilantes stripped and flogged four Dalit, or lower-caste, men in Gujarat for skinning a cow. Many Dalits earn their livelihood from skinning dead animals and selling their hides to leather traders.

The assault prompted protests by Dalits and damaged Mr. Modi’s image among the group, about a sixth of the country’s population.


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