The government “treats human rights organizations as criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence,” Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement. Its goal is “to feed a climate of fear”.
Amnesty said it will lay off its staff and cease its human rights campaigns, which included reports of deadly interfaith riots in Delhi earlier this year and India’s repression in the troubled Kashmir region.
Amnesty said it complies with all Indian laws and has received no formal communication from the authorities regarding the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month. No charges have been filed against the organization, he said.
A spokesperson for the Enforcement Directorate – a detective agency that enforces money laundering and foreign exchange laws – did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Human rights groups in India have harshly criticized the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which they accuse of stifling dissent and undermining the country’s secular founding ideals.
In turn, such groups have faced greater government scrutiny. Several prominent government critics are in jail awaiting trial. These include a well-known academic, attorneys and student leaders, all charged under a draconian counter-terrorism law.
Rajat Khosla, senior director of Amnesty International’s London office, said the group’s executives in India were repeatedly summoned for questioning and subjected to “all sorts of threats and intimidation”.
Khosla said Amnesty’s work investigation is part of a “systematic model” of government conduct towards civil society groups.
“What worries me enormously,” Khosla said, “is what is happening to fundamental democratic values in a country like India.”
Joanna Slater contributed to the report.