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Amnesty International halts India operations alleging “witch hunt” by govt

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Amnesty International, an NGO working in the domain of human rights, on Tuesday announced the closure of its India operations after a successful eight-year run. Amnesty International alleged that its bank accounts were frozen as part of the Union government’s “witch-hunt”.

The organisation has said that it was compelled to let go of its 150 employees in India. Amnesty International said the decision was taken following the freezing of its accounts by the Enforcement Directorate—a Union government agency that probes cases of money laundering.

Govt freezing dissent, says Amnesty International

The NGO issued a media statement explaining the situation. It said: “The complete freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the government of India, which it came to know on 10 September, brings all the work being done by the organization to a grinding halt.”

The organisation has alleged that its “lawful fundraising model” was being portrayed as money-laundering because it has challenged the “government’s grave inactions and excesses”.

Amnesty International India’s executive director Avinash Kumar said: “The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental.”

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“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 and Kashmir.”

“For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent,” Avinash Kumar said.

The statement also claimed that Amnesty India stands in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws.

NGO’s offices raided in 2019

Its offices in Bengaluru were raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in November last year in connection with accusations that the non-profit had received foreign funds in violation of the law.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) too had carried out investigations into charges that the rights group had attempted to bypass the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act by floating a commercial entity, Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd.

The government had declined permission to receive foreign funds to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust that has been critical of security agencies in several cases including the arrest of activists such as Sudha Bharadwaj, Rona Wilson and Varavara Rao, who was accused of being a Maoist ideologue.

Meanwhile, the government says the global rights watchdog never registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, which is required for any foreign funding.

 

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