Amnesty International India halts India operations: Alleges witch-hunt by govt

Amnesty International India halts India operations: Alleges witch-hunt by govt”

The human rights NGO on Tuesday said it was halting all its activities in India due to freezing of its accounts and claimed that it is being subjected to an "incessant witch-hunt" over unfounded and motivated allegations.

It blamed "reprisal" from the government for winding down its operations, adding, "This is latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations".

"More than four million Indians have supported Amnesty International India's work in the last eight years and around 1 lakh Indians have made financial contributions". Amnesty said it had highlighted rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and riots in Delhi in recent days and the government had sought to punish it for that.

Indian authorities did not immediately confirm whether Amnesty India's bank accounts had been frozen.

The raids were ostensibly conducted to investigate alleged violation of the Foreign Exchange Act.

Amnesty India's executive director, Avinash Kumar, said the accounts were frozen as a result of the group's "unequivocal calls for transparency in the government" and accountability of New Delhi police and the Indian government regarding "grave human rights violations in Delhi riots" and Indian-administered Kashmir.

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"It's a direct attempt by the Indian government to tell global human rights group that if you document rights violations by the Indian state we won't let you continue to function in India", said Krishnan, who is also the secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA).

The fact that the government is now portraying this lawful fundraising model as money-laundering, the NGO said, was evidence that the overbroad legal framework is maliciously activated when human rights activists and groups challenge the government's grave inactions and excesses. "These contributions evidently can not have any relation with the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010", the statement added.

In early 2019, over 30 regular donors received investigative letters from the Income Tax department. The residence of its then head Patel was also raided on that day.

On August 28 this year, 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 alleged complicity of Delhi Police in the riots which claimed the lives of at least 53 people.The ED had in July last year served a show-cause notice to Amnesty for alleged contravention of funding worth Rs 51.72 Crore. "On 15 April 2020, the Cyber Crime Police Station, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh notified Twitter to furnish information about Amnesty International India's Twitter account @AIIndia which the organization uses to monitor and analyse developments in international human rights law and Indian constitutional and criminal law related to human rights issues".

Amnesty International said the only other country where it ceased operations was Russian Federation, in 2016.

In a statement, the organisation called the government's decision to its bank accounts a witch-hunt "over unfounded and motivated allegations".

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