News broke out on the morning of 29th September, 2020 that Amnesty International has halted all its operations and work in India. After a good eight-year run in India, Amnesty International took to crucial human rights violations amid growing unrest and the growing autocratic nature of the Government; it has decided to shut its operations in the country. The decision, which will see close to 150 employees lose their jobs, came after the recent move by the Enforcement Directorate to freeze the organisation’s accounts.
“The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental,” said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, in a statement on Tuesday.
Amnesty International has remarked that the federal financial crimes investigation agency, the Enforcement Directorate has targeted it. The complete freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the Government of India came to be on 10 September 2020, bringing all the work being done by the organization to a grinding halt. The organisation has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its on-going campaign and research work. This is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations. (Source: Amnesty International India) The organisation released a statement clearing its stance.
In November 2019, the Bengaluru Office of Amnesty International was raided by the CBI. It was in connection with the over alleged irregularities in foreign funding in connection with violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). Entrusting the case to CBI, MHA in its order had said that in order to evade FCRA, Amnesty (UK) remitted Rs 10 crore to Amnesty’s Indian entities classified as FDI, without MHA’s approval. In a statement given by AI, it said, "The Central Bureau of Investigation today conducted searches at the offices of Amnesty International India Private Limited and Indians for Amnesty International Trust in Bengaluru. Over the past year, a pattern of harassment has emerged every time Amnesty International India stands up and speaks out against human rights violations in India." The 2019 raid took place a year after, the ED raided two premises of AI over alleged violation of India’s foreign exchange laws.
Amnesty International has outrightly spoken against the Delhi Riots and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. It has also pointed out the curbing of Human Rights and clamp down of students and activists speaking up against the government. The right-wing BJP government has had an attitude of shutting down those who actively revolt against its working as witnessed in the recent past. It is no surprise that an International Non-Governmental Organisation has to pack up its established base in India. Very recently, ex-JNU student and Activist, Umar Khalid has been arrested under the UAPA in relation to the Delhi Riots. Even during the Anti-CAA protests at the beginning of the year, dissenters were detained and threatened.
“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. It reeks of fear and repression, ignores the human cost to this crackdown particularly during a pandemic and violates people’s basic rights to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, and association guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international human rights law. Instead, as a global power and a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, India must fearlessly welcome calls for accountability and justice,” said Avinash Kumar.
Amnesty International has upheld both domestic and international laws during its time in India. As an organisation, the aim was to preserve human rights and protect and follow the ideals of the Indian Constitution. So far, the Government of India has not made any claims or comments regarding this. The attacks on Amnesty International India and other outspoken human rights organizations, activists and human rights defenders is only an extension of the various repressive policies and sustained assault by the government on those who speak truth to power.