Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came in for sharp criticism on Monday when a group of leading individuals, among them a former navy chief and a historian, wrote a terse letter to him, calling his recent views on anti-nuclear protests "inappropriate" and misleading.
The letter was sent collectively by VR Krishna Iyer, a former Supreme Court judge, A Gopalakrishnan, former Atomic Energy Regulatory Board chief, EAS. Sarma, former power secretary, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, former navy chief, Pushpa Mitra Bhargava, who served at the National Knowledge Commission and Romila Thapar, professor emeritus of history, among others.
"You choose to resurrect the old bogeyman of a 'foreign hand', this time pointing to external funding of NGOs to oppose Indian development, as if they are some sort of a 5th columnist operating to undermine the nation's interest," they wrote, addressing Singh as "Dear Mr Prime Minister".
Singh had, in a recent interview to a US-based magazine, blamed US NGOs for funding protests that hold back nuclear plants India is building to meet rising energy needs, although he did not suggest anything sinister about home-grown NGOs. He had suggested that these NGOs were also opposed to genetically modified crops. Battle-lines have since been drawn between the government and India's crowded voluntary sector.
"...what we are all fighting against is indeed a foreign-hand operating at the behest of and from within your government, supported by Indian and foreign commercial entities, to corporatise Indian agriculture & farming practices and the energy sector, without in-depth and impartial analyses which prioritise the country's security and safety," the letter stated, taking a dig at PM's blaming of foreign entities.