NEW DELHI: Amnesty International India, operating in India for over five decades as a branch of a non-government organisation (NGO) having offices in 150 countries, on Tuesday announced that it is winding up its operations in the country because of the continuing government crackdown and complete freeze on its bank accounts.
It has relieved all its staff across India and paused all its ongoing campaigns and research work. It perceives itself to be a victim of "incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the Modi government over unfounded and motivated allegations."
Its executive director Avinash Kumar further said the organisation stands in full compliance with all applicable Indian and International laws. After the government stopped it’s funding from abroad under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, it had kept afloat with funds funnelled by no less than one lakh Indians; but this is now being misrepresented as money laundering, thus making it impossible to carry on its work without funds.
"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," he said.
Amnesty has published two reports critical of the Indian authorities in recent months: One on the rights violations by police during communal riots in East Delhi, and another condemning restrictions on civil liberties in Jammu and Kashmir, a year after New Delhi revoked the region’s political autonomy by abrogating Article 370.
"The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental," Amnesty International India said in a statement.
‘Humanitarian work is a mask’
Hours after Amnesty called it quits, the Union government went into an overdrive and declared that "human rights cannot be an excuse to defy the law of the land." Also, "glossy statements about humanitarian work" were an attempt to divert attention from their illegal activities.
"All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws. Such statements are also an attempt to extraneously influence the course of investigations by multiple agencies into the irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years," the government said in a statement, accusing the global rights watchdog of illegally receiving foreign funds for years.
"Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organisations. However, India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well."
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