Memorandum to the President of India
At a meeting in Mumbai, attended by some prominent citizens and representatives of women’s groups, human rights groups, trade unions and secular activists, it was decided to address a memorandum to the President of India to protest against the Union Home Ministry’s attempt to stifle all dissent. Currently signatures are being collected in Mumbai. Copies of the memorandum are also being sent to the Prime Minister, Home Minister and all MPs.
Readers of Combat are urged to join the campaign by launching a similar initiative in their own state, city, district, locality. Please keep us posted to help us coordinate our efforts.
His Excellency, The President of
We are concerned citizens, organisations and associations who uphold and have worked for civil liberties and people’s rights, secularism and democracy, gender equality and social justice.
We understand that several NGOs across the country, fourteen of them, according to the statement of ex-minister of the state for Home, Mr. Ram Naik as reported in the press, have been served ‘show –cause’ notices by the Foreigners Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, threatening to penalise them. The provocation to this action is said to be their association with ‘certain advertisements and documents’ in the run up to the recent elections.
These are NGOs who were registered under 6(I) of the FCRA fifteen years ago or even earlier. They are now sought to be shifted to section 5(I) of the Act and to have section 10(B) applied to them. This move is aimed at bringing secular NGOs under the arbitrary decision and control of the bureaucracy in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The NGOs served with these notices have been working on social issues such as the empowerment of women, socio-economic development of the dalits, tribals and other marginalised groups, literacy, education, human rights, health, violence against women, environment, income generation and rural development.
The tenor and timing of these notices gives rise to the suspicion that they were motivated by a desire to silence all secular and democratic voices, particularly those critical of the policies of the parties in power, as exemplified by the 14 targeted NGOs. The Home Ministry with this action has shown an intolerance of even highlighting in the media the reprehensible attitude of the associates of the ruling party towards women. The Home Ministry is expected to be objective in the exercise of powers vested in it and not act in such a partisan and vindictive manner.
We would like to bring to your notice the fact that this is not the first time that women’s organisations, for example, have taken strong and assertive positions on gender issues even at the time of elections. We are aware of specific actions, during election period by the women’s group on issues of violence against women where associates of the other political parties were involved. The instances of the Mukti Datta case in Delhi and the response to the Jalgaon sex scandal in Maharashtra come to mind. It is significant that only in this instance, when the right wing’s attitude towards women was sought to be exposed that the reactions have been authoritarian and therefore questionable.
As individuals and groups committed to the propagation and protection of social justice, gender equality, and human rights in society we communicate our strong objection and opposition to this barely veiled attempt to throttle the right of civil society action and freedom of expression in favour of these values.
Sir, We urge you as the President of India, to ensure
Øthat the letter and spirit of the Constitution are upheld in this instance
Øthat no ministry in your government acts in an arbitrary, capricious, vindictive or unconstitutional manner
Øthat the fundamental rights of the citizens to democratic dissent and freedom of expression are upheld, and
ØThat through your good offices, these notices are immediately withdrawn.
We Sir anticipate prompt justice from you.