The human rights organization, Amnesty International has shut its operations in India subsequent to “reprisals” from the Indian government. The organisation has also accused the Indian government of indulging in a “witch-hunt of human rights organisations”. Amnesty says its bank accounts have been frozen and it’s been forced to lay off staff in the country, and suspend all its campaign and research work.
Amnesty International is a non-governmental organization with its headquarters in the United Kingdom focused on human rights. The organization says it has more than eight million members and supporters around the world.
The Government Crackdown
The Government of India has freezed all the bank accounts of Amnesty International India on the allegations of money laundering and suspected violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
Pursuant to this, the human rights organization has been compelled to halt its operations and let go of its staff in India.
Amnesty International’s statement
“The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental. The constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent,” said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty India.
The organization also claims that its premises have been raided twice in two years by the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI respectively, based on “unsubstantiated” allegations.
“On 25 October 2018, Amnesty International India endured a 10-hour-long raid as a group of officers from the Enforcement Directorate (ED), a financial investigation agency under the Ministry of Finance, entered its premises and locked the gates behind them. Most of the information and documents that were demanded during the search were already available in the public domain or filed with the relevant government authorities. The residence of a Director was also raided.
Amnesty has, in its statement mentioned its recent reports and campaigns against the government’s human rights violations have led to this ‘witch hunt’ by the government whereby they are being compelled to shut operations in India.
Recent Campaigns by Amnesty International India
On 5 August 2020, marking the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, Amnesty International India released an update on the situation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir.
On 28 August 2020, marking the six-month anniversary of the riots that took place in North-East Delhi in February 2020, Amnesty International India released an investigative brief on the complicity of Delhi police in the riots which claimed the lives of at least 53 people, mostly from the minority Muslim community.
It is claimed that the release of the two publications provided fresh impetus to the Indian establishment to harass and intimidate Amnesty International India through its investigative agencies which was already under the government’s scanner for many years due to Amnesty International’s past campaigns.
Amnesty International India claims that it stands in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws. It has claimed that all its funds are raised domestically and there is no scope for application of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
The organization has said,
“The attacks on Amnesty International India and other outspoken human rights organizations, activists and human rights defenders is only an extension of the various repressive policies and sustained assault by the government on those who speak truth to power.“
Read Amnesty International’s statement here