This chapter explores government–civil society relations in contemporary India. First it argues that though this relationship is often conceptualised in dichotomous terms, as either collaborative or competitive, the picture in India is far more complex. The state operates at multiple spheres (local, provincial, national, international) which then provides numerous points of contacts for civil society organisations. Added to these are the distinctions in the objectives, ideology and interests of CSOs. We thereby find wide variations in CSOs’ relationships with the government. For instance, some CSOs may choose to simultaneously collaborate with the local government but may compete withprovincial or national government. Others may totally collaborate. Yet others may adopt an oppositional approach, while there can be CSOs who may build a pragmatic partnership with the state while keeping a critical distance from it. Second, civil society is often framed in positive terms where existence of dense associational life per se is correlated with the fostering of democracy. However, the cases presented here speak of the darker ‘antidemocratic’ side of civil society alongside struggles of CSOs to expand democratic space. The chapter thereby advances the argument that such a correlation is not necessarily there. Rather, we contend that the vagueness in defining civil society as value neutral has turned it into a conceptual ‘rubber band’ that can be stretched in any direction to accommodate the more emancipatory as well as the xenophobic tendencies of civil society. However, the value of civil society lies in its ability to guard against threats to civility, justice and a democratic way of life. Hence the argument here stresses the need to do away with the ambiguity in the civil society ethos and evaluate CSOs by the values and political vision they promote for strengthening democracy.