Modi visit: Cameron should raise concerns over crackdown on critics in India

Teesta Setalvad

On the first day of a three-day visit to London from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amnesty International has said Prime Minister David Cameron needs to do more than unfurl the red carpet for yet another world leader.  

Allan Hogarth, Head of Policy at Amnesty UK, said:

“The UK needs to do more than unfurl the red carpet for yet another world leader, Mr Cameron must raise some red flags on human rights concerns too.

“It’s all the more important that Mr Cameron speaks out on human rights during the visit, as there’s not much space for criticism in Modi’s India.

“There’s a fevered crackdown on critics underway in India at the moment. NGOs and activists face multiple obstructions to carrying out their work, including being subjected to smear campaigns, having their funding cut off and being accused of being anti-national.

“Over 10,000 organisations have been ‘de-registered’ over the last year to prevent them from receiving foreign funding, and just last week Greenpeace had its license to operate cancelled.

“Mr Cameron should speak out for the people Mr Modi is so intent on silencing and make it clear that how a country treats its NGOs is a litmus test for their international standing.”

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act

India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) requires organisations that receive funding from overseas to seek prior approval from the government. The law is used to harass and target organisations. In 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs cancelled the FCRA registration of thousands of NGOs for allegedly violating provisions of the law. The government’s most prominent target has been Greenpeace India, but over 10000 other organisations have also been ‘de-registered’.

Greenpeace

In July 2014, the government restricted Greenpeace India’s international funding, claiming that its activities were “detrimental to the national interest”. In April the government ordered Greenpeace India’s bank accounts to be frozen and suspended its FCRA registration on the grounds that its activities had prejudicially affected the public interest and economic interest of the State. Last Friday, following a sustained attack on their operations, harassment of their staff and a string of obstructions to their work, Greenpeace’s license to operate in India was withdrawn. 

Journalist Santosh Yadav

Journalist Santosh Yadav is facing a charge of ‘sedition’, (encouraging disaffection towards the government) a charge which has been levelled against journalists and activists in India. He was arrested in September in the conflict-torn state of Chhattisgarh in central India, on what Amnesty International believes are fabricated charges. He was targeted because of his investigatory journalism exposing police brutality against Adivasis (indigenous communities). He has been charged under laws which the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders has called for the repeal of.

Gujarat activist Teesta Setalvad

Teesta Setalvad is a renowned rights activist and journalist. She is the secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), and her organisations have been seeking justice for the victims and survivors of violence in the state of Gujarat in 2002, when an outbreak of violence led to the killing of at least 1044 people, mostly Muslims. Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of the state at the time. Teesta’s organization had helped to successfully bring about over a hundred convictions in cases related to the killings and she has faced a barrage of attacks in recent years, been called a “threat to national security” and dragged through the courts.

Environmental activist Ramesh Agrawal

Ramesh Agrawal is an environmental activist and recipient of the Goldman Environment Prize known as the ‘Green Nobel’. He works in Chhattisgarh and was shot in his leg in 2012, allegedly by gunmen hired by a mining company, in response to his activism. He works with an organisation training grassroots activists, organising communities and fighting cases of human and environment rights violations in Raigarh in the courts. Environmental activists like him who encourage local communities to stand up to powerful corporates, have come in for particular targeting recently, accused of being ‘anti-national’. He is available for interview by phone, from India.

 

 

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