Amnesty International India Halts Operations, Blames Modi Government For ‘Witch-Hunt’

Amnesty International (AI) India on Tuesday announced that it has decided to halt operations and blamed the Narendra Modi government for a “witch-hunt of human rights organizations over unfounded and motivated allegations.” 

The organization said that it was compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work after the complete freezing of its bank accounts by the government.

The Enforcement Directorate had initiated a probe last year, according to The Wire, after an information report filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Nov. 5, 2019. The directorate has frozen Amnesty International India’s bank accounts and invoked the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. 

In a statement on Tuesday, Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, said that the continuing crackdown on the organization in 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 and Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent,” Kumar said. 

Amnesty International India reiterated 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 4 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 organization said in a statement. 

Amnesty said the Indian government was “portraying this lawful fundraising model as money-laundering” and called it evidence of “overbroad legal framework” that is “maliciously activated when human rights activists and groups challenge the government’s grave inactions and excesses.”

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 was recently passed in the Parliament in the absence of the opposition.

Amnesty International India added that the attacks on it and other outspoken human rights organizations, activists and human rights defenders are only an extension of the various repressive policies and sustained assault by the government on those who speak truth to power.

Kumar said that treating human rights organizations 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.”

Amnesty International India demanded a probe in August into the allegations of human rights violations by the police during the Delhi riots. The organization, The Hindu reported, said it has documented several videos showing the Delhi police “pelting stones with the rioters, torturing people, dismantling protest sites and being mute bystanders.”

Amnesty report pointed to a video in which it said “Delhi police officers could be seen kicking and hitting a group of five wounded men” and asking them to sing the national anthem in February.

HuffPost India had also reported on the death of 23-year-old Faizan after he was violently assaulted by uniformed policemen and forced to sing the national anthem (see here and here).

The police termed the report “lopsided, biased against the police” and said that Amnesty was reportedly found violating provisions of the FCRA and that the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are conducting investigations against it.

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