Alleging ‘witch-hunt’ by government, Amnesty International halts Indian operations

Non-governmental organization, Amnesty International that focuses on human rights halt its India operations due to “reprisals” from the government.

Amnesty International has also accused the Indian government of indulging in a “witch-hunt of human rights organisations”.

The watchdog says it bank accounts were frozen and it’s been forced to lay off staff in the country, and suspend all its campaign and research work.

“This is all down to the human rights work that we were doing and the government not wanting to answer questions we raised, whether it’s in terms of our investigations into the Delhi riots, or the silencing of voices in Jammu and Kashmir,” Rajat Khosla, the group’s senior director of research, advocacy and policy said.

In a report released last month, the group said police in the Indian capital, Delhi, committed human rights violations during deadly religious riots between Hindus and Muslims in February.

Rebutting the claims, the Delhi police told The Hindu newspaper that Amnesty’s report was “lopsided, biased and malicious”.

Earlier in August, on the first anniversary of the revocation of Indian-administered Kashmir’s special status, Amnesty had called for the release of all detained political leaders, activists and journalists, and for the resumption of high-speed internet services in the region.

In 2019, the watchdog testified before the US Foreign Affairs Committee during a hearing on human rights in South Asia, where it highlighted its findings on arbitrary detentions, and the use of excessive force and torture in Kashmir.

Amnesty has also repeatedly condemned what it says is a crackdown on dissent in India.

The group, which has faced scrutiny by different government agencies over the past few years, says the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month was the final straw.

In August 2016, a case of sedition was filed against Amnesty India over allegations that anti-India slogans were raised at one of its events. Three years later, a court ordered the charges to be dropped.

In October 2018, the group’s offices were raided by the Enforcement Directorate, which investigates financial crimes.

In early 2019, the group says dozens of its small donors were sent letters by the country’s income tax department. And later in the same year, Amnesty’s offices were raided again, this time by the Central Bureau of Investigation, based on a case registered by India’s home affairs ministry.

The current government had earlier stated Amnesty was being investigated over suspicions that the group was violating Indian laws surrounding foreign funding.

The group’s announcement comes amid a growing concern over the state of free speech in India.