People’s Union for Civil Liberties condemns the attempt, in the guise of an Intelligence Bureau (IB) report submitted to the Prime Minister of India, to intimidate, slander, throttle and terrorise the voice of various citizens’ groups, NGOs and individuals, who raise people’s issues relating to the violations of their fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution, concerns over violations of rights relating to their life, livelihood and well being and the life – threatening impact of `destructive development’ programmes adopted all across India. The groups – individuals, citizens groups, funded NGOs and non-funded mass movements – questioning the displacement of large populations and destruction of environment by mega projects and risk to human life and survival posed by nuclear reactors, mining of radio active minerals like uranium, the indiscriminate use of dirty sources of energy like coal and other hydro carbons and GMO have been tarred in the so called intelligence report as being a threat the `national economic security’ of India.
The dark irony and convoluted logic underlying the aforesaid IB report is that the Government wants citizens to blindly place trust and belief in the development paradigm advocated, particularly corporate led industrial expansionism, rapid urbanisation and rampant consumerism; this is notwithstanding the reality that the poor, excluded and marginalised sections are already facing immense hardships, exploitation and threat to their lives and well being because of the same policies. In actuality, the economic growth process has already resulted in increasing economic vulnerability, social marginalisation and insecurity of the common citizen threatened by the loss of their lives and livelihood, displacement from their habitats, their resultant pauperisation and the destruction of their environment.
The IB report also alleges that citizens opposing development projects are agents of western powers. This is based on a cruel and perverse logic! A government which is inviting foreign corporate investment from rich western countries wants Indian citizens to ignore the fact that these same corporate powers, supported by their countries, are seeking to climb out their own crippling, economic stagnation by investing through their corporate capital in all kinds of mega projects in India irrespective of their harmful consequences to Indians. The IB, and by extension the Government of India, is not just agreeable but supportive of looting and plundering of the nation’s wealth in common resources, but is ready and willing to use the might of state power to repress and suppress people’s voices when they oppose such destructive development projects.
It is dark irony that those who repatriate profits earned in India by looting and plundering the nation’s wealth are feted as `patriots’ and those citizens who assert India’s and Indians’ rights over our vast common resources and protest against destructive development are dubbed `anti-national-economic interest’. Its a short distance from such typecasting to being arrested as `anti-national’ and seditious.
Environmental degradation is a real concern and the poor of this country bear the brunt of its ill effects – rising temperatures, poor rains, lack of safe drinking water and exposure to pollution resulting in not only chronic illnesses among the living but also affecting the unborn. All that NGOs are doing is reminding the government of its commitments under the Rio Convention, Agenda 21 and other UN Declarations. The organizations and the individuals who oppose indiscriminate plundering and destruction of natural resources are only fulfilling their fundamental duties under Article 51 A of the constitution which mandates that “it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures”.
The bogey of “foreign funding” is raised more to smear individual and groups challenging unfair, unjust inequitable and unsustainable state and corporate projects. The IB and the PMO know that all NGOs who receive funds from foreign sources are subjected to the strict provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 where clearances are given by the Home Department and subjected to periodic stringent audits by the central government agencies.
It is neither PUCL’s nor anybody’s case that the NGOs receiving foreign or for that matter, even domestic funding, should not be transparent and accountable for the funds they receive and subject to the laws of the land. Any, and all, organisations are duty bound to be held accountable under the law if they violate laws and regulations governing their funding. Instead of initiating prosecutions against organisations found to be breaking the law, hurling the kind of scurrilous insinuation resorted to by the government as made in the leaked intelligence report, is nothing but an attempt to throttle dissent from the dominant discourse on development. Much more sinister is the aim to silence people from their fundamental right to express dissent through words, non violent action, mobilisation, and forming associations to further their views.
While slandering them as foreign agents is the weapon of choice to intimidate NGOs receiving foreign funds, it was difficult to use against citizens’ organisations not receiving any foreign or domestic institutional funding like the PUCL, which too has been targeted by the so called IB report. It is shocking that a criticism of the so called Gujarat model of development and its ill effect on the poor and the marginalised people, and the participation in a seminar on this topic, by the Gujarat PUCL and some other organisations, including Gandhian and Sarvodaya ones is alleged by the Intelligence Bureau to be anti national.
We only hope that this intelligence report is not a precursor to a more sinister anti democratic and repressive crackdown by the new government on dissent and other human and democratic rights of the people to further a corporate led economic agenda.
We would like to remind the new Central government, as also all the states, what the Supreme Court of India pointed out in `S. Rangarajan vs P. Jagjivan Ram’ (1994):
“ “When men differ in opinion, both sides ought equally to have the advantage of being heard by the public.” (Benjamin Franklin). If one is allowed to say that policy of the Government is good, another is with equal freedom entitled to say that it is bad. If one is allowed to support the governmental scheme, the other could as well say, that he will not support it. The different views are allowed to be expressed by proponents and opponent not because they are correct, or valid but because there is freedom in this country for expressing even differing views on any issue”.
PUCL has therefore called upon the new BJP-led government to respect people’s right to articulate their views, including their fundamental right to dissent and protest peaceably and in democratic manner.