ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Attacking INSAF

We the undersigned are shocked and dismayed at the Government of India’s action against Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), a national coalition of 700 people’s movements, social action groups and progressive intellectuals with an active presence in 15 states of India. According to a communication from the home ministry dated 30 April 2013, the INSAF bank account has been frozen because its activities are “prejudicial to the public interest”.

Over the last few years, INSAF has established its identity as a platform where independent and autonomous secular and democratic groups can come together in pursuit of their common aims of “protecting democracy, resisting iniquitous forms of globalisation and combating communalism”. INSAF members have been in the forefront of democratic protests against religious fundamentalism and communal violence.

INSAF has made important interventions in public debates on issues of ­national concern including land grabs by Indian companies in Africa, violations of technical and statutory norms in respect of mining, deforestation and ­nuclear ­energy generation projects, in the deployment of “black laws” such as Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act against human rights defen­ders and with respect to state violence against dalits, adivasis and minority religious groups.

Recently, INSAF has petitioned the ­Supreme Court to knock down the new Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) rules that give the government unchecked powers to throttle the activities of organisations working for public causes by branding them “political” and blocking their access to foreign funds.

The INSAF petition highlights the draconian nature of Rule 3(vi) which debars non-governmental organisations from “political actions”. Under these rules, the government arrogates to itself the power to take action against any group that “habitually indulges in bandhs, hartals, rasta roko, rail roko, or jail bharo”. All of these are non-violent and democratic forms of protest and assertion that emerged from our freedom struggle and are now recognised around the world as legitimate forms of protest.

Ironically, action has been taken using powers under Section 13 of the new FCRA rules against the only organi­sation challenging the home ministry about it! 

The action against INSAF is yet another attempt by the state to undermine the democratic process and dismantle constitutional guarantees of rights and freedoms under the pretence of “national security” and “national interest”. We stand with ­INSAF in asserting the constitutional right of every citizen of India to participate in governance, which includes the right to question, challenge and oppose the policies of the state through peaceful, non-violent and democratic means.

Harsh Mander, L Ramdas, John Dayal,
Vasanth Kannabiran, S P Udaykumar, Dayamani Barla, Bezwada Wilson, Farah Naqvi, Ashish Kothari,
and 340 others.

 

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