Human rights organization Amnesty International India on Tuesday announced that it has been “compelled to let go of staff in India” and stop all its work as its bank accounts have been frozen. In a statement, the organization called the government’s move to freeze its bank accounts a witch-hunt “over unfounded and motivated allegations”.
“The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts are not accidental,” said Amnesty International India Executive Director Avinash Kumar. “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 raises its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent.” It alleged that it's “lawful fundraising model” was being portrayed as money-laundering because it has challenged the “government’s grave inactions and excesses”. “Amnesty International India stands in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws,” it said. “For human rights work in India, it operates through a distinct model of raising funds domestically. More than four million Indians have supported Amnesty International India’s work in the last eight years and around 100,000 Indians have made financial contributions. These contributions evidently cannot have any relation with the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.”
Amnesty International India said it came to know that all its bank accounts were completely frozen by the Enforcement Directorate on September 10. It recounted the multiple raids by various agencies before freezing the bank accounts. “On 25 October 2018, the ED raided the Amnesty International India’s office for 10 hours.” “Most of the information and documents that were demanded during the search were already available in the public domain or filed with the relevant government authorities,” said the organization. “Immediately after the raid, the bank accounts were also frozen by the ED. As a result, Amnesty International India was forced to let go of a number of its staff, adversely affecting its work in India including with the marginalized communities.” The organization also alleged a media trial against it after the government leaked selective documents to government-aligned media outlets. The human rights organization said the attacks on it and “other outspoken human rights organizations, activists and human rights defenders” is a testimony of the government’s repressive policies. Amnesty International has been present in India for the last eight years. The decision to shut down will see almost 150 employees lose their jobs.