NGOs: The fifth estate

The Asian Age published an article titled, “NGOs: The fifth estate.” The article reads in part as follows;

“It is impossible to exaggerate the role and significance of the NGO in a democratic society.

Populists in power tend to be harsh with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that criticise them. Again, harassing or even suppressing civil society is not a practice exclusive to populists. But for them opposition from within civil society creates a particular moral and symbolic problem: it potentially undermines their claim to exclusive moral representation of the people. Hence it becomes crucial to argue that civil society isn’t civil society at all, and that what can seem like popular opposition has nothing to do with the proper people.

Jan-Werner Müller’s observation in his much acclaimed work, What is Populism, is very true. The populist demagogue needs enemies in order to polarise society and capture the state. He does so by seeking to stifle the voice of civil society, which NGOs tend to represent. They are independent not only of the state and political parties, but also of big business, which tends to support the ones in power. The populist claims that he alone represents the people.

No sooner than he became Prime Minister in 2014, Narendra Modi began hounding every NGO that he felt posed a threat to his legitimacy.

The NGOs representing minorities attract particular attention. On February 8, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan body set up by statute, published a report on India that censures attempts at intimidation. Forced reconversions, and attacks on shrines and individuals have increased ‘following the victory of India’s right-wing BJP in May 2014’. It accused the government of a witch-hunt against NGOs that challenged Modi and his administration using the controversial Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act.

In 2015, the registration of 10,000 NGOs was cancelled. Even Greenpeace International lost its registration. Besides minorities, the Modi regime also frowns on independent research.”

Click here to read the entire article.

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