Amnesty International Stops India Operations Over Government’s Witch-Hunt

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International stated on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, the organization was forced to shut its operation in India due to alleged reprisals from the Government of India (GOI). The watchdog claimed that the government has been indulging in a “witch-hunt of human rights organizations” over the years and has recently seized its bank account over the issues concerning for speaking out about rights violations.

Based on the headquartered in the United Kingdom (UK), the international non-governmental organization (NGOs) has more than eight million members across the globe, working on human rights violation issues. The organization said it had cut off staff over the past two years due to the alleged government crackdown over allegations of financial wrongdoing despite Amnesty repeatedly denied it as baseless.

The human rights NGO stated today that GOI targeted because the organization had exposed a series of human rights violations that happened over the years especially during the revocation of the special right provision of the disputed Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) in August last year and riots in Delhi in February.

Amnesty Accused GOI’s Witch Hunt

Amnesty International India has accused the Modi Government in India for its crackdown on and intolerance towards the voice of dissent and violation of rights of minority Muslim communities in both events of J&K in August and recent Delhi riots. The watchdog criticized that the government undermined the secular foundation of India’s democracy by pushing its effort to create a Hindu-nation and raised fears among its 170 million Muslim minority. However, the government had denied the claims of being divisive against any community.

Reflecting on the event of freezing the bank accounts of the organization on September 10, Amnesty said in a statement, “This is latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.”

Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said, “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 & Kashmir.”

Critics of the GOI’s Crackdown

One opposition leader, Shashi Tharoor said Amnesty’s exit was a blow. He wrote on Twitter, “India’s stature as a liberal democracy with free institutions, including media & civil society organisations, accounted for much of its soft power in the world. Actions like this both undermine our reputation as a democracy & vitiate our soft power.”

The executive director of Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading international human rights organizations, Kenneth Roth tweeted today, “Indian authorities have frozen the bank accounts of Amnesty International’s India office, forcing it to halt operations. This crackdown on @AIIndia is yet more evidence that PM Modi’s government is failing to uphold freedom of speech and association.”

Last week, the Modi Government has enacted laws that brought changes in the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, which was aimed to tighten the oversight of foreign non-governmental groups (NGOs) working in the country. The watchdog claimed that the organization has been working in compliance with the laws that are applicable in both Indian and international regulations. Meanwhile, some NGOs said that these measures aimed at gripping the INGOs in control of the government.