After targeting social activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Gujarat government has trained its guns on her main funding source, the US-based NGO, Ford Foundation, for “direct interference … in the internal affairs of the country and also of abetting communal disharmony in India”.
The Gujarat government has written to the Union home ministry to investigate possible violations under Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema) by Setalvad’s NGOs, Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice & Peace (CJP). The government has called these “proxy offices of Ford Foundation” for a long-term plan. The letter also states that Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand have maligned India’s image abroad.
Acting on the letter from the Gujarat government, the Union home ministry last week sent its team to inspect the accounts of Setalvad’s two NGOs. It has completed the inspection and will submit its findings soon.
The state home department has also accused the Ford Foundation of interfering with the judicial system, defaming the Indian military, and acting against the stated goal of promoting communal harmony. It has accused the funding agency of encouraging Setalvad’s NGOs to advocate “a religion specific and Muslim supportive criminal code and also keep the 2002 riots incident alive”.
“We wrote to MHA a month ago. We are awaiting response,” said additional chief secretary (home), GR Aloria.
“In case violations of the FCRA (Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, 2010) are noticed, we will seek an explanation from the NGO before initiating further action. However, if the FCRA violation is of serious nature, we can also send an immediate notice to the errant NGO asking why it should not be put on prior approval list,” a senior home ministry official told TOI on condition of anonymity.
Earlier, the Ahmedabad crime branch had registered a case against Setalvad and Anand for allegedly embezzling funds meant for riot victims. The Gujarat high court had taken a very serious view of “corruption” by voluntary organisation and refused anticipatory bail to Setalvad and Anand. Later, the two got reprieve from the Supreme Court. The matter is pending with the apex court.
Key charges made by Gujarat govt:
- Sabrang Trust (ST) and Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Limited (SCPPL) received $5.4 lakh from Ford Foundation. How a grant of $2.9 lakh was given to SCPPL, a private limited company, to “address communalism, caste-based discrimination in India including media strategies” is a matter of investigation.
- Out of a project grant of US $ 2.5 lakh grant to ST–80% used for office expenses and not any clear objectives. Out of $2.9 lakh grant to SCPPL, 75% is used for office expenses.
- Ford Foundation has supported an institution in India to be operating on the premise of stoking religious tensions with their social prejudice.
- By allowing SCPPL to declare that serving and retired naval and army officers are engaged in terror generation, Ford Foundation allowed defamation of Indian military.
- By allowing through its grant visit of Pakistani human rights activist to India, foundation exceeded its brief in India and blatantly broadcasted an exaggerated point of view on communal situation in the country.
- FF by allowing to quote the annual report of US Congressional committee on religious freedom and suggesting to SC of India the FF attempted to promote voice of a foreign government over and above voice of impartial Indian judiciary.
- Under heading mobile “call records” Teesta Setalwad mentioned “Sabrang analyses over 5 lakh mobile call records pertaining to days of Gujarat carnage 2002.” How and why Ford Foundation not object to the use of grant fund for such unauthorised and illegal activities should be investigated.