The annoying threat

NGOs’ role as fifth estate under sharp focus


Yogesh Rajput | January 30, 2015

The high-handedness of the government, often coming to light when it restricts movement, speech or action of the common man as suited by subjectivity, now finds a serious challenge in holding a firm ground. The spoilsport for the government has off late been the judiciary, which has (much to the public’s delight) involuntarily been performing the role of a big brother.
The Delhi high court while hearing the plea of Priya Pillai, a human rights activist, issued notices to various government bodies asking them to explain the grounds on which she was recently offloaded from a London-bound flight at Delhi airport. Pillai, a campaigner with Greenpeace, was scheduled to visit the UK to make a presentation before British MPs on alleged human rights violation in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh.
The government’s act, which would have well surprised the activist, should however not be considered as coming out of the blue as its instigations had been forming a concrete shape for quite some time. In the much-talked about report of the Intelligence Bureau that came out last year accusing several foreign-funded NGOs (including Greenpeace) of stalling important government projects and “threatening national economic security”, the centre in bold letters had expressed its discomfort with the consistent ‘screech in the ear’ criticism thrown towards it from the NGOs - a collective which with its loud voice, quietly works to form the unnoticed fifth estate.
Unlike journalists, NGOs have never been much feared by the government, not much attention has been given to what opinion they make of the government and its activities. It has only been in the recent past that the government now sees these pressure groups as a potential threat in exposing its shortcomings …ummm… national economic security.     
The central government is already pushing to attain greater influence for ruling in matters of freedom of expression after it recently supported the validity of Section 66-A of the IT Act in front of the supreme court (the section has been criticised by many of being unconstitutional and violating one’s freedom of speech). Under such circumstances, the judiciary is all the more expected and required to draw a more legible line separating expressions that pose threat to national security and those in national interest.   




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