A group of international researchers and academicians has written an open letter urging the Union government to reconsider its decision to suspend the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act licence of influential Centre for Policy Research think tank.

“...This action is clearly aimed at undermining a leading research institution and jeopardising its existence,” the letter said. “It also sets a dangerous precedent that will impair the pursuit of research and independent judgment in the country.”

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act licence of the think tank for 180 days on February 27. The suspension means the Delhi-based think tank will not be able to get fresh donations from abroad or use the existing foreign donations without the home ministry’s clearance

Among those who have voiced their support for the Centre for Policy Research are Ashutosh Varshney from the Brown University, Karuna Mantena and Adam Tooze from the Columbia University, Milan Vaishnav from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Rina Agarwala from the Johns Hopkins University.

Other signatories include Christophe Jaffrelot from London’s King’s College, Gyan Prakash from the Princeton University, Nayanika Mathur from Oxford University and Sunil Amrith from Yale University.

The government had claimed that there was prima facie evidence that the organisation had not followed certain provisions of the Act. The Centre for Policy Research, however, had said that it was completely in compliance with the law.

Read the full text of the letter below:

Letter from concerned international faculty and researchers

“As researchers and scholars with a deep interest in India, we are shocked and dismayed to learn that the Government of India has suspended Centre for Policy Research’s registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act.

Coming on the heels of the Income Tax survey conducted on CPR last year, this action is clearly aimed at undermining a leading research institution and jeopardising its existence. It also sets a dangerous precedent that will impair the pursuit of research and independent judgment in the country.

Established in 1973, CPR is one of India’s oldest and most esteemed policy research institutions. Over the past the five decades, it has served as a vital and resolutely non-partisan centre of knowledge and research on key public policy questions and challenges confronting India and the world. 

The excellent scholarship produced by CPR has also consistently illuminated and informed Indian public debates. CPR has the rare distinction of working with successive central and state governments as well as a range of other institutions across the country. 

The governing board of CPR, comprising eminent Indians committed to public service, has held the organisation to the highest standards of intellectual rigour and institutional probity.

Precisely because it is an Indian institution steeped in the Indian policy milieu, CPR has been a close and indispensable interlocutor to academics and researchers working on India across the world. Through its rigorous research and active engagement, CPR has earned a reputation for excellence that is second to none among international scholars. It has also facilitated the engagement of a large number of scholars with India over the years and has mentored some of the finest young researchers in India. 

In turn, CPR’s commitment to rigorous academic inquiry has made it the partner of choice for many universities, research institutions and philanthropic foundations outside India. CPR is a highly valued member of the international research community – one that has considerably enhanced the reputation of Indian academic and research work on the global stage.

The recent moves against CPR by the Indian government amount to an abrogation of the institutional independence that is crucial to the production and dissemination of knowledge. In so doing, they also strike a blow at intellectual freedom and public reason that are cornerstones of Indian democracy.

We respectfully urge the Indian government to reconsider its decision. We affirm our full support to the president of Centre for Policy Research and her colleagues.”