Amitabh Behar

Indian CEO

Amitabh Behar is the CEO of Oxfam India, and former executive director of the National Foundation for India.

Quotes edit

Why India’s NGOs don’t question politics and power any more, 2020 edit

Why India’s NGOs don’t question politics and power any more (June 01, 2020),
  • The Supreme Court of India’s verdict in the case of Indian Social Action Forum or challenging the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2011 on March 6, was one of the most decisive affirmations of civil society’s role as a political actor in India. The judgement reaffirmed the legitimate and critical role civil society has to play to ensure that democracy in India thrives, including through political action. With far-reaching consequences, the judgement upholds the right of civil society to undertake political work and action. At the heart of this is the distinction between political action for political power on the one hand; and political action for furthering rights, development, human dignity, constitutional values, and democracy, on the other. The court has clearly pronounced that political work as defined for democracy and rights is legitimate.
  • There will always be a large segment of civil society doing charitable work. They are much needed in a country like India which continues to see endemic and extreme poverty, diseases, and large populations without basic human needs. However, another large part of civil society is, by definition, engaged in political processes for building just, peaceful, humane, and sustainable futures. In great measure, their primary engagement is with the question of uneven and unjust distribution of power, and its consequences on individuals and societies. These might be seen as different paths, but the central theme of democratising "power" remains fundamental to the varied, diverse concepts of civil society.
  • Despite such strong ideological rationale for civil society's political work, we have moved to a space where our aspirations and rhetoric are political, but praxis and practice are apolitical. [...] By definition, civil society has to work within a framework of non-violence, but it does not mean that we cannot offer radical responses to injustice and indignity. Our inability to deal with chaos and engage real power has made us a marginal actor in the central discussions of the public domain shaping our polity, society, and economy. The process of this disengagement with politics is paving the road towards civil society's marginalisation.
  • Contesting power [...] is inevitable in the pursuit of justice and dignity for the marginalised and excluded.

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