‘Witch-hunt’: Amnesty International halts India operations, blames Centre

‘Witch-hunt’: Amnesty International halts India operations, blames Centre

Amnesty International Tuesday halted its India operations and let go of its staff members, alleging “witch-hunt” by the Centre. In a statement, the human rights organisation claimed its bank accounts have been completely frozen, bringing its ongoing work to a grinding halt.

“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,” said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.

It is unclear what specific violations Amnesty’s Indian arm committed, but the rights group said it is in full compliance of all the laws, and criticised the government for allegedly portraying its fundraising model as a money laundering operation.

Recently, several civil society organisations urged President Ram Nath Kovind not to sign the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 which, they say, “demonises” NGOs.

The Voluntary Action Network India (VANI), an apex body of Indian NGOs, maintained that the Bill was passed “without proper deliberation and consultation”, while Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the Population Foundation of India (PFI), said it creates a negative perception of the NGO sector, which fears that once it becomes law, no government, irrespective of party, is likely to repeal it.

While the Bill “demonises NGOs’’, Muttreja said, “when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, NGOs were the first port of call for many, including the government”.

The government says the proposed legislation is aimed at transparency, and not against NGOs.

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