Amnesty International India on Tuesday said the government had frozen all its bank accounts, leading to all of its work in the country coming to a halt.
“The complete freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the Government of India which it came to know on September 10, 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,” a statement by the human rights organisation said.
The freezing of accounts was the latest in the “witch-hunt” of human rights organisations, the statement said.
“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,” Amnesty International India executive director Avinash Kumar said.
Amnesty added that it had complied with all applicable international and Indian laws. For its work in India, it said it raised funds domestically and around 1 lakh Indians had contributed financially in the past eight years.
“These contributions evidently cannot have any relation with the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. The fact that the Government is now 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,” the statement said.
The release further said that Amnesty International India stood in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws and for human rights work in India, it operates through a “distinct model of raising funds domestically”.
The release further states that “attacks” on Amnesty International India and other human rights organisations, 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.”
“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 Mr. Kumar. ( The Hindu )