NEW DELHI: Human rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday it is stopping its work in India because the far-right government has frozen its bank accounts in the latest action against it for exposing and speaking out about state-sanctioned human rights violations.
— Amnesty India (@AIIndia) September 29, 2020
“The organisation has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work,” the group said in a statement.
“This is [the] latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.”
It said its bank accounts were frozen on Sept 10. The accounts were frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, an agency that investigates economic crimes, after the group published two reports highly critical of the Hindu nationalist government’s human rights record.
The first report highlights rights violations by police during prolonged communal riots in New Delhi, and the other condemns the perpetual lockdown and communications blackout in occupied Jammu and Kashmir after its illegal annexation on Aug 5 last year.
“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 the agency.
“For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent.”
Julie Verhaar, Amnesty International’s acting secretary general, said: “This is an egregious and shameful act by the Indian government, which forces us to cease the crucial human rights work of Amnesty International India for now.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has sought to clamp down on rights organisations, particularly where those organisations are perceived to be funded from overseas, critical of his rights record.
Modi’s government this month tightened restrictions on foreign-funded charities and has previously frozen the bank accounts of Greenpeace and raided the offices of human rights lawyers.