Non-government organisations (NGOs) have become a critical constituent of the larger civil society, and their activities have been institutionalised into the development process. Under the title ‘NGO’, they are only a few decades old in the region, but they had an earlier life as ‘voluntary’ organisations. In the context of the Indian sub-continent, NGOs evolved from institutions of charity and welfare, mainly within the prerogative of kings and philanthropists, to become stakeholders in the development process and the self-appointed well-wishers of poor and marginalised communities. In their journey, they were sometimes partners and collaborators with the state, sometimes advocates and sometimes adversaries. The state–NGO relationship evolved through various political regimes and was marked by tensions—at times overt and at times hidden. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.