Amnesty International India has stopped operating after alleging the Indian Government froze its bank accounts for continuing to speak out against human rights violations.
The human rights watchdog said its finances were frozen on September 10 following a two year “witch-hunt” by the Indian authorities, which included raids on its offices in 2018.
This resulted in Amnesty International India having to lay off its staff and pause its ongoing campaigns and research work due to funding restraints.
The only other nation where the human rights watchdog has been forced to halt its work is Russia.
The Indian Government alleges financial wrongdoing at Amnesty International India, which the organisation denies, but is yet to respond to claims it has frozen the organisation’s accounts.
“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 [the] Delhi Riots and Jammu and Kashmir,” said Avinash Kumar, the Executive Director of Amnesty International India.
“For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent.”
Last month, Amnesty International India released a 20 page report detailing abuses allegedly carried out by the Delhi Police during February’s inter-religious riots that resulted in at least 53 fatalities.
The human rights watchdog claimed police assaulted peaceful protesters, tortured Muslim detainees and in some instances, joined Hindu nationalist mobs in rioting.
The Delhi Police reacted furiously to the claims, telling The Hindu newspaper they were “lopsided, biased and malicious.”
Amnesty International India has also regularly accused the authorities of carrying out violations in Indian-administered Kashmir and in 2019 testified before the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee on the use of excessive force and torture.
Julie Verhaar, Amnesty International’s acting secretary general, called the freezing of the bank accounts an “egregious and shameful act” by the Indian Government.
“It is a dismal day when a country of India’s stature, a rising global power and a member of the UN Human Rights Council, with a constitution which commits to human rights and whose national human rights movements have influenced the world, so brazenly seeks to silence those who pursue accountability and justice,” said Ms. Verhaar.
Human rights groups and opposition politicians say there has been a major crackdown on civil society under Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, who was first elected in 2014.
Mr Modi has introduced Hindu nationalist policies and intellectuals, students and journalists have all been arrested and some held for months without charge.