Eminent human rights activist responds to the CBI raid on her residence and office arguing the premier intelligence agency is being used by the government to target her and her husband
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s I write this, the search is still not concluded. It is shocking that while over a dozen members of the Central Bureau of Investigation are still in our premises conducting the search, their Delhi spokesperson is misleading the public and our vast supporters by a series of misinformation and official tweets.
In our view, and we repeat, no laws have been broken by us. This is a continuation of the persecution and witch hunt first launched by the Gujarat police in 2014 then under the dispensation that rules Delhi. The CBI has taken the same documents that we had voluntarily on inspection given the Ministry of Home Affairs (FCRA Department).
Over 25,000 pages of documentary evidence has been given to the Gujarat Police. When they could not succeed with the bizarre and desperate attempts to gain custody (February 2015), it was the Gujarat Government’s Home Department that wrote to the MHA and the current round of the persecutions began.
This is nothing but shameful political vendetta. The Zakia Jafri case begins its final hearing on July 27 2015. The Naroda Patiya appeals (Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi) are being heard in the Gujarat High Court tomorrow (July 15). This is nothing but a bid to subvert the cause of public justice and ensure that no justice happens in these cases.
We had written to the CBI offering our full cooperation. The so-called offences relate to documentary evidence. This search is nothing but an attempt to intimidate and humiliate us. India should be ashamed that when scams like Vyapam are unfolding with over 50 persons dying, witnesses in the Asaram Bapu case are dying; CBI is not appealing in critical cases related to crimes by politicians; the agency is being unleashed on human rights defenders standing up for the rights of Survivors of Mass Violence. It is worse than the British Raj. Pathetic!
I repeat Sabrang Communications has broken no law(s).
One: Section 3 of FCRA, 2010 bars certain ‘persons’ (political parties and its office bearers, government servants and those associated with registered newspapers and those involved in the production and broadcast of news) from receiving foreign donations.
However, the very next section, Section 4 which is subtitled ‘Persons to whom section 3 shall not apply’ states: “Nothing contained in section 3 shall apply to the acceptance, by any person specified 3 in that section, of any foreign contribution where such contribution is accepted by him, subject to the provisions of section 10- (a) by way of salary, wages or other remuneration due to him or to any group of persons working under him, from any foreign source or by way of payment in the ordinary course of business transacted in India by such foreign source;”
Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt. Ltd Co. which published the monthly ‘Communalism Combat’ signed a Consultancy Agreement with Ford Foundation in 2004 and 2006 “to address the issues of caste and communalism” through a clearly defined set of activities which had nothing whatsoever to do with Communalism Combat or remuneration to Javed Anand or Teesta Setalvad towards discharging editorial/managerial functions.
The Consultancy was signed by Sabrang Communications only after advice from eminent legal counsel that such an agreement was covered under the exclusion stipulated under Section 4 of the Act and therefore the consultancy fees (not grant or donation) received would not be in violation of FCRA 2010. Ford Foundation in fact deducted TDS with every installment of consultancy fees it paid to Sabrang Communications. The activities undertaken and the expenses incurred were in accordance with the agreement. Activities and Financial Reports were submitted annually to the satisfaction of Ford Foundation.
Two, Sabrang has kept records and provided copies of the same to the FCRA during the inspection visit of FCRA team in Mumbai on June 9 and 10, 2015, Additional documents as required were also posted to FCRA department.
Three: Deliberately or otherwise, the FCRA team is confusing the well- known lobbying that is part of the political process in the USA with advocacy initiatives whereby NGOs, civil society activists engage with the government of the day to draw their attention towards the legitimate issues of women, children, Dalits, religious or linguistic or sexual minorities, differently-abled persons etc. It is ridiculous to equate such advocacy initiatives with lobbying. Sabrang Communications therefore denies all the allegations.
Four: While believing in the rule of law and due process, we believe that the State has innumerable devices at its disposal to simply throttle dissent, intimidate and through these crass techniques try to ensure coercive compliance.
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