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HomeReviews & Fact checkingHindu Extremism vs. Secular Thought: India's Think Tank Dilemma

Hindu Extremism vs. Secular Thought: India’s Think Tank Dilemma


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In recent years, India has witnessed a troubling trend: the systematic dismantling of independent think tanks that have long played a crucial role in fostering diversity of thought and promoting informed public discourse.

Under the agenda of mainstreaming Hindu extremism, the Modi government has initiated a campaign to stifle liberal think tanks. The primary aim of this operation appears to be the suppression of independent ideas and the identity of religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians, and other marginalized communities, all in the name of promoting Hindu nationalism. This article delves into the concerning developments surrounding this issue, highlighting the impact on both established and emerging think tanks in India.


The Crushing of Independent Think Tanks


Since the rise of Hindu nationalists to power, India has seen a wave of think tank closures. While official figures might suggest around 105 think tanks have been affected, it is widely believed that the actual number is considerably higher due to underreporting in local newspapers and the absence of transparent government records.


The Center for Policy Research (CPR), one of India’s premier public policy think tanks, provides a stark example of this crackdown. The CPR, also known as CPR, had its foreign funding license suspended in February and subsequently had its tax exemption status revoked, resulting in frozen bank accounts and a crippling financial crisis. The CPR, whose primary focus was conducting research on religious freedom and justice-based freedom of opinion, claims that it has faced these measures for its work in exposing the rise of Hindu religious extremism in India. It alleges that the government is surreptitiously promoting Hindu extremism with the dual objective of establishing supremacy and excluding minorities from the political system.


The Impact on CPR and the Ongoing Legal Battle


The CPR has taken a determined stance against the government’s actions and is challenging them in a New Delhi court. However, the consequences have been dire. It has been unable to pay salaries for six months, leading to the departure of at least 80 scientists and other employees, and a halt in its research activities. Arvind Datar, the CPR’s lawyer, contends that the organization is paying the price for “dissent,” highlighting the government’s intolerance towards critical voices.


The CPR, founded in 1973, describes itself as a “non-partisan, independent institution” contributing to public discourse in India. Its current president and chief executive, Yamini Aiyar, is the daughter of senior opposition party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, underscoring the importance of think tanks as spaces for diverse viewpoints.


Oxfam India, the Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF), and other organizations have also faced scrutiny and raids by Indian tax authorities, illustrating the broad reach of the government’s actions.


Suppression of Free Press and Journalists


The crackdown is not limited to think tanks; it extends to journalists and media organizations. In September 2022, Indian authorities raided the homes of several journalists and commentators associated with NewsClick, an independent, progressive news website. This action was carried out under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, ostensibly targeting “terrorist organizations,” but criticized for stifling press freedom. Laptops and phones were confiscated, and a new case “related to terror links” was registered against NewsClick.


Many journalists and media outlets have faced allegations of receiving illegal funding from foreign entities, further compromising their ability to operate independently.


The Role of Foreign Funding and FCRA


Many think tanks in India rely on foreign funding to sustain their research and operations. The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) regulates the receipt and use of foreign funding by non-profits in India. However, successive governments have faced accusations of misusing this law to exert pressure on civil society organizations.


Data indicates a rise in FCRA suspensions over the past decade, with as many as 1,811 organizations having their certificates canceled between 2019 and 2021. These include international NGOs like Oxfam, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International, as well as Indian civil rights organizations like Lawyers Collective, Sabrang Trust, and Anhad.


Aakar Patel, Chairman of the board of Amnesty International in India, contends that the Modi government is weaponizing the FCRA to suppress non-profits and civil society organizations, thereby stifling dissent and opposition voices.


Affiliation with Far-Right Organizations


Another concerning aspect of this situation is the affiliation of some think tanks with far-right, Hindu nationalist organizations. For instance, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) has ties to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a prominent Hindu nationalist group. Prime Minister Modi himself is a member of both the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).


The VIF, whose founding director was Ajit Doval, Modi’s national security advisor, and the India Foundation, founded by Shaurya Doval, Doval’s son, and RSS leader Ram Madhav, have close ties to the RSS. While these think tanks claim independence, their alignment with the ruling government’s ideology raises questions about their objectivity.




The suppression of independent think tanks, journalists, and civil society organizations in India is a matter of grave concern. It threatens the vibrant democratic traditions and diversity of thought that India has long cherished. The impact extends beyond borders, affecting international NGOs and drawing attention to the broader issue of government overreach and suppression of dissent.


As India grapples with these challenges, it raises important questions about the future of intellectual freedom, democracy, and the role of independent voices in shaping the nation’s trajectory. The ongoing battle for the preservation of think tanks as platforms for diverse perspectives underscores the importance of defending freedom of thought and expression in any democratic society.

News Desk, where most of the News Item edit for THE THINK TANK JOURNAL

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