Amnesty International India, which has been a watchdog of human rights in India, has announced that it is halting its operations in the country "due to reprisal from the government of India".
In a statement released Tuesday, 29 September, Amnesty International India said: “The complete freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the Government of India which it came to know on 10 September 2020, brings all the work being done by the organisation to a grinding halt. The organisation has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.”
Calling the freezing of their accounts, the “latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the Government of India,” Amnesty said the charges levelled against it are unfounded and motivated.
Later on Tuesday, Amnesty took to Twitter to announce that it would be approaching the Karnataka High Court against the freezing of accounts saying, “The truth will prevail in due time.”
“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,” Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India had said earlier on Tuesday.
‘We are in Full Compliance with Law’: Amnesty India
Amnesty International India said that it stands in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws. For human rights work in India, it operates through a distinct model of raising funds domestically.
“More than four million Indians have supported Amnesty International India’s work in the last eight years and around 100,000 Indians have made financial contributions. These contributions evidently cannot have any relation with the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010,” the statement read.
The statement added that the government portraying this lawful fundraising model as money-laundering is evidence that the “overbroad legal framework is maliciously activated when human rights activists and groups challenge the government’s grave inactions and excesses.”
‘Attack on Amnesty an Extention of Regressive Policies’
The attacks on Amnesty International India and other outspoken human rights organisations, 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, the statement said.
“Treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence is a deliberate attempt by the Enforcement Directorate and Government of India to stoke a climate of fear and dismantle the critical voices in India. It reeks of fear and repression, ignores the human cost to this crackdown particularly during a pandemic and violates people’s basic rights to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, and association guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international human rights law,” said Avinash Kumar.
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