Teesta’s NGOs face probe over Ford funding

The Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled administration had last month dashed off a strongly-worded letter to the MHA, alleging that the NGOs had misused funds received from a foreign donor to create communal disharmony in Gujarat.



By Mahesh Trivedi

Published: Sat 18 Apr 2015, 12:26 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:38 PM

Ahmedabad  — Quickly responding to a Gujarat government letter, officials of the federal ministry of home affairs (MHA) have inspected the accounts of two non-government organisations (NGOs) run by social activist Teesta Setalvad for possible violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act.

Teesta Setalvad and other activists in Metropolitan Court in Ahmedabad. — PTI file

The Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled administration had last month dashed off a strongly-worded letter to the MHA, alleging that the NGOs had misused funds received from a foreign donor to create communal disharmony in Gujarat.

A state home department official told Khaleej Times that if the MHA team’s report revealed serious lapses, the Sabrang Trust and the Citizens for Justice & Peace would be delisted and all grants received by them would be cancelled.

According to junior home minister Rajni Patel, the MHA findings will be out soon and if the two NGOs are found to be guilty of misuse of funds, they will also be put on the ‘prior-approval’ list and an explanation will be sought from Setalvad.

In the letter dashed off last month to federal home minister Rajnath Singh, a senior state home department official had levelled serious charges not only against the two NGOs but also their main funding source, the US-based NGO, Ford Foundation.

Calling the NGOs as “proxy offices of Ford Foundation”, the letter has accused Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand, both former journalists in mainstream newspapers, of maligning India’s image abroad.

Taking a swipe at Ford Foundation, the letter said: “Sabrang Trust (ST) and Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Limited (SCPPL) received $540,000 from the Ford Foundation. How a grant was given to SCPPL, a private limited company, to address communalism, caste-based discrimination in India including media strategies is a matter of investigation. The Gujarat government also accused the Ford Foundation of supporting “an institution in India to be operating on the premise of stoking religious tensions with their social prejudice.”“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”, said the letter.

Referring to Sabrang’s analysis of thousands of mobile call records during the riots, the Anandi Patel administration also asked how and why Ford Foundation did not object to the use of granted funds for “such unauthorised and illegal activities”.

The Gujarat government and Setalvad, a vocal critic of former Gujarat CM (now Prime Minsiter) Narendra Modi after the 2002 communal riots, are already embroiled in legal battles.

While the gutsy activist has filed several cases against Modi and others, the state police have filed a case of embezzlement of funds worth Rs15 million against her.

The Gujarat high court had taken a very serious view of ‘corruption’ by voluntary organisations and refused anticipatory bail to Setalvad and Anand. Later, the two, however, got reprieve from the Supreme Court. The matter is pending with the apex court.


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