A number of civil society organisations and activists, under the banner of Support Cell for Civil Organisations, protested Centre’s move to reject the Foreign Contribution Regulation Licence renewal applications of 25 organisations. A statement issued by the group of signatories said that the government has yet to release an official list of organisations whose foreign funding licences were rejected by the Ministry of Home Affairs, and this highlights the need for transparency in the process.

The signatories include Amnesty International, historian Ramchandra Guha and activists Aruna Roy, Fr Cedric Prakash, Shanta Sinha and Harsh Mander. The statement said the government was using the FCRA to “suppress dissenting voices” which could undermine India’s reputation as an upholder of human rights.

The statement said, “We would like to express our solidarity with Lawyers Collective and the other 24 organisations who have had their FCRA cancelled. We call upon the government to focus on facts being provided to them by these organisations instead of resorting to allegations that have no legal or factual basis.”

The signatories said allegations that some of the organisations, whose applications have been rejected, were working against national interest would make them susceptible “to all manner of abuse”. It said the right to dissent was being “haunted by this spectre of anti-nationalism, creating a political climate where dissent warrants swift retribution”.

The statement also expressed solidarity with the Lawyers’ Collective, which had its foreign funding licence revoked by the Ministry of Home Affairs recently.

On November 16, the National Human Rights Commission had issued a notice to the Centre on its non-renewal of NGOs’ licences to receive foreign funding. On November 11, the Home Ministry had barred 1,736 NGOs from receiving foreign funds after they failed to renew their licence under the FCRA by November 8. A fortnight before that, more than 11,000 NGOs had lost their FCRA licences. Currently, fewer than 19,000 NGOs are permitted to receive foreign funds. Two years ago, there were around 42,500 FCRA-registered NGOs.