Reducing Spaces of Critical Voices And Clampdown on Human Rights Organisations


In recent times, the suppression, attempts of arm twisting and cancellation of FCRA of NGOs have been a subject of debate among various circles in India. Most of these NGOs have been either organisations belonging to minority communities or organisations critical of the Government’s policies on development or those involved with human rights issues. The recent clampdown on the human rights NGO SICHREM in Bangalore has to be seen in this context.

While organisations like Greenpeace, Insaf, People’s Watch decided to take the actions of the Government to court, many organisations are still wondering on the ways of sustaining their activities. There is a clear violation of the right to association laid down by the Indian Constitution in all such cases. It is also to be noted that many organisations that are targeted are human rights defenders in this country.

SICHREM in Bangalore has been playing a role as human rights defender for more than two decades. SICREM’s involvement in human rights issues like capital punishment, torture, custodial deaths, communal violence, violations on Dalits, women and children has been recognised not just in Bangalore or Karnataka, but by various national bodies. Of late, SICHREM has also been actively involved in the issues of human rights violations on the human rights defenders.

We are giving below a letter issued by SICHREM recently to the Police Commissioner of Bangalore city, citing the harassment on the organisation. We at feel that this needs much wider discussion and stronger expressions of solidarity, so that human rights organisations and human rights defenders in India can express their freedom of expression without authoritarian controls, as being growingly exercised in India today.

  • Counter Currents Team

Letter to the Police Commissioner


The Police commissioner
Bangalore City.


Dear Sir,

Subject : Complaint regarding harassment by Banaswadi police.

I am Margaret Sampath, Deputy Director of Human Rights Education Programme, with South India cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring – SICHREM. Sichrem is a project/programme of Manasa center for development and social action, a charitable society, also having registered under FCRA.

Manasa has been implementing this programme called SICHREM since 1995. We are involved in implementing Human rights education programme in 400 schools in Karnataka and also extend legal aid and counseling for victims of human rights violations.

Mr. Mathews Philip who is the secretary of Manasa and the Executive Director of SICHREM is a member of the NGO core team of NHRC. He also represented NCPCR in the state of Karnataka during the year 2012-2013 for monitoring the implementation of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act.

On 21st April 2017 at 1.15 p.m two police men from Banaswadi Police station visited our office at Lingarajapuram. One of the officers name is Mr M. Manjunath. The other officer refused to reveal his name. Since our Executive Director is out of station, I met with these gentlemen. They told me that the head of the organization has to come to the Banaswadi police station and meet the Inspector immediately. I told them that the ED is not available today and also requested them to tell me the purpose. They didn’t take my request kindly and started talking to me in a very harsh manner saying that “ All that inspector will tell you, if you are asked to come you just come “ After a lot of pleading Mr. Manjunath showed me a letter. That letter is written by the Bangalore city commission to the Banaswadi Police Inspector, instructing him to investigate Manasa center for Development and Social Action, for misuse of foreign funds, based on a letter from the DGP state Intelligence! They didn’t permit me to take a copy of the letter. I was also not given sufficient time to read the letter carefully to understand the content fully. There is a reference to an attachment and I asked them for showing me the same. They refused to show me the attachment saying that “it is not for you”. I called the Executive Director and informed him about this. He suggested that we have no problems with giving any information provided the information asked by a letter addressing the organization. He advised me to inform the same to the visiting police men. Even after I told them this they were insisting that there is no need for them to give any letter. We are not told clearly, whether we are accused of any crime, if there is a complaint or a FIR against us.

We are an organization working in Karnataka for the past 22 years. We have complied with all the laws that are applied to the NGO’s, regularly filing our returns with Registrar of Society, Income Tax and the FCRA section of MHA. We used to have officials of the state and Central vigilance visiting us and asking for information and we never refused any such requests.

But now police men coming into our office and talking in impolite and arrogant language, without giving any correct information amounts to harassment. Calling us to the police station without giving any proper grounds is an effort to intimidate an organization working for protection and promotion of Human Rights.

Once again I humbly submit that we are an organization active in public life and the functioning of the organization is transparent. We are willing to furnish any information asked for by any authority provided the process does not happened to be a process of harassment.

Yours Sincerely,
Margaret Sampath
Deputy Director – HRE


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