Amnesty International on September 29 announced suspension of operations and layoff of staffs in India over freezing of its bank accounts by the government.
According to the human rights watchdog, the bank accounts were frozen on September 10. “This is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations,” Amnesty International India alleged in a statement.
The ruling BJP refuted allegations by Amnesty International that it had to wind up its operations in India because of a witch hunt by the government and said the organisation was receiving funds from abroad in contravention of the Indian laws.
In a press conference in New Delhi, BJP national spokesperson Rajyavardhan Rathore said: “All these things are far from the truth. Any organisation working in India, whether Indian or foreign, if money is to be taken from abroad, then laws of India have to be followed.”
“How is that Amnesty is receiving foreign funds without having permission for it? Any other organisation, Indian or International, has to follow certain rules and laws,” he said.
Reacting on the development, Thiruvananthapuram MP and Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor, said that actions like this both undermine India’s reputation as a democracy & “vitiate our soft power”.
“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,” the parliamentarian tweeted.
Amnesty International was under the lens of various government agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), for violating the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act.
However, the watchdog’s executive director Avinash Kumar said that 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,” he said.