Since Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, his Hindu Nationalist government has revoked the licenses of 15,000 foreign NGOs who provide services to India’s poor and marginalised, as well as to the country’s 28 million Christians and other minority groups.
Modi’s actions are based on the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which was originally passed in 1976 but underwent modifications in 2010 under the government of his predecessor, Manmohan Singh. The Act restricts foreign financial contributions, including the freezing of bank accounts and the termination of operating licenses, when the government decides that the money is being used for purposes that go against the country’s national interests.
Specific NGOs that have had their licenses revoked include Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian organisation sponsoring children, and Greenpeace India. According to John Dayal, Secretary-General of the All India Christian Council, these closures have less to do with protecting the national interest and more to do with protecting the government from scrutiny, saying that “the government fears that NGOs report the many human rights cases of abuse.”
If true, this would be consistent with India’s refusal to allow United Nations special envoys to investigate human rights abuses.
The actions against the NGOs and other suppressive actions are thought to be motivated by the Hindu nationalist beliefs harboured by Modi’s government and his political party, the BJP.
Targeting the poor and religious minorities has become part of a pattern of religious discrimination carried out or encouraged by the Modi government. Cow protection laws, renaming Muslim cities with Hindu names, and appointing Hindu extremists such as Yogi Adityanath – a man who, in 2005, was involved in a campaign to turn India’s Uttar Pradesh region into a ‘purely Hindu’ state – are a few examples of the overtly discriminatory acts carried out by the Modi in recent years.
Violence against non-Hindus, including the large Sikhs and Christian minorities, as well as Muslims, India’s second-largest religious community with more than 200 million people, has followed with very little response by the government.