Flip Flop on Ford Foundation

As recently as April 2015, it was deemed that the activities of the Ford Foundation were a threat to national security, fomenting communalism, and a host of other crimes. This, on the testimony of no less than the government of Gujarat: (Emphasis mine)

…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 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”.

Gujarat Minister Rajnikant Patel added the unfailingly effective charge of “anti-national activities” to the slate. The national home ministry responded by putting the agency on its watch-list and directed the RBI to seek the ministry’s prior permission before any Foundation funding was credited to recipients.

US Ambassador to India Richard Verma said at the time the action would have a “chilling effect” on civil society and democratic traditions; a spokesperson of the US State Department said the GoI’s move was against debate and dissent:

“We are concerned that this recent ruling limits the necessary and critical debate within Indian society and we are seeking a clarification on this issue with the appropriate Indian authorities,” Harf said.


The stated concerns in and of itself became “proof” that the Foundation was interfering in internal affairs. And the home ministry resorted to chest-thumping proclamations of its independence, vide home ministry bureaucrat BK Prasad:

“This attitude that nobody can question influential foreign donors must be put to an end.”

On March 16 — 11 months almost to the day after that national chest-thumping — the Home Ministry has told the RBI to remove the Ford Foundation from its watch-list, and restored carte blanche. Which, presumably, means the Foundation can revert to its practice of interfering in India’s domestic affairs, fomenting communal disharmony, defaming the military and otherwise aiding and abetting anti-national activities.

No reason for rescinding the earlier order has been assigned. Any connection with the Prime Minister’s upcoming trip to the United States is purely coincidental.