New Delhi, Oct 29 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday greeted the nation on the…
New Delhi(PTI): US Ambassador Richard Verma further said citizens have a “inalienable right” in a democratic society to argue peacefully and ask questions or challenge laws.
The US today hit out at Modi government for the punitive action against scores of NGOs, saying those who act peacefully to seek change are not anti-government and not trying to weaken national security.
US Ambassador Richard Verma further said citizens have a “inalienable right” in a democratic society to argue peacefully and ask questions or challenge laws.
“I read with some concern the recent press reports on challenges faced by the NGOs operating in India. Because a vibrant civil society is so important to both of our democratic traditions, I do worry about the potentially chilling effects of these regulatory steps focused on NGOs,” Verma said.
He was delivering a lecture on “Foundation of the US-India Strategic-Plus Relationship” at Ananta Aspean Institute, a think-tank.
In a crackdown on NGOs allegedly receiving illegal foreign funds, the government last month had cancelled licences of nearly 9,000 such entities for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
The US-based Ford Foundation has also been put on the ‘watch list’ by the Home Ministry, which directed that funds coming from the international donor should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from it. The government had also barred Greenpeace India from receiving foreign funds with immediate effect.
Noting that it was natural to have areas of disagreement between the two countries, he said he was looking forward to some tough discussions with India on certain issues, indicating that action against NGOs may be one of them.
“I also know there will be times when we disagree, and I look forward to those conversations, too.
After the Ford Foundation was put on the watch list, the US State Department had protested and the issue was also reportedly raised by under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman during her meetings with senior Indian officials here last week.
The US Ambassador said, “I believe in the inalienable right of citizens in a democratic society to argue peacefully for a government they believe is more just, more moral, and more reflective of their individual beliefs.
“This is the same right that found a manifestation in Gandhiji’s satyagrahas in Africa and India,” he added.
Noting that it was natural to have areas of disagreement between the two countries, he said he was looking forward to some tough discussions with India on certain issues.
“I also know there will be times when we disagree, and I look forward to those conversations, too. Yes, I look forward to the tough discussions because my argument is not that our two sovereign countries must be exactly the same,” he said.
Talking about rights of the citizens and civil society groups, Verma also mentioned Jawaharlal Nehru, B R Ambedkar and Lokmanya Tilak.
“The American Revolution was steeped in the quest for liberty from tyranny. Our founding fathers sought a government that would be run by the people and for the people.
American founding father Patrick Henry expressed this when he exclaimed ‘give me liberty or give me death!’
“Over 100 years later, Lokmanya Tilak’s declaration that ‘Swaraj is my birth right and I shall have it’ was a siren call for all in India who sought to end British rule. And as India’s freedom came at midnight in 1947, Nehru reflected that her ‘soul, long suppressed’ had found ‘its utterance’,” Verma said.
The Ambassador said the “similar histories of our founding eras make it clear that our societies are two that reject totalitarianism or authoritarianism in favour of giving every part of society a voice in government.” Highlighting issues relating to various communities in the US, he said, “If we we seek to improve the fabric of our nation, we must be willing to engage
in a vigorous exchange about our values, their meaning, and the direction of our communities.”
Talking about bilateral ties, he said it was fair to say the it is “stronger and more vibrant than it has ever been.” “When our leaders first decided to cast off the chill of the cold war and improve our relations, it was mostly due to the many convergent strategic interests of India and US. The bet was that the democratic values and deep personal ties our nations shared would lead us naturally toward a strong economic and strategic partnership,” he said.
The envoy said the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US and President Obama to India in January have re-energized the partnership that has been growing steadily for at least the last 15 years or so even if for one reason or another, it was not always growing as fast as it could.