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India's Chauvinist Crusade

For decades, India was seen as a rare democratic success story in the developing world. But, by barring NGOs, including Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, from receiving foreign funding, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has once again demonstrated that it has a very different vision of India.

NEW DELHI – The restrictive, illiberal trend that has come to characterize India over the last five years has a new data point. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government decided that Christmas Day was a good time to deny renewal of a license for the Missionaries of Charity to receive foreign funding.

Founded by Mother Teresa, whom the Catholic Church canonized in 2016, this order of Christian nuns has been operating in the country since 1950. But because Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swear by a “Hindutva” ideology – committing them to a vision of India as a “Hindu Rashtra,” or Hindu nation – the government has been conducting a sweeping campaign against organizations that its bigotry will not abide.

Because all NGOs in India need official permission to receive foreign funds for their operations in accordance with the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) of 2010, the government can wield significant power over civil society. And Modi’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, has made clear that the government intends to use that power. In a recent speech that stunned the country, Doval singled out NGOs as “the new frontiers of war,” arguing that “it is the civil society that can be subverted, suborned, divided, manipulated to hurt the interests of a nation.”

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