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Amnesty International suspends operations in India



By Yogita Limaye
BBC News, Mumbai

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image captionThe watchdog says he has had to suspend his campaign and research work in India

Amnesty International says it was forced to suspend its operations in India due to government “reprisals”.

The watchdog also accused the government of indulging in a “witch hunt by human rights organizations”.

Amnesty says her bank accounts have been frozen and she has been forced to lay off staff in the country and to suspend all of her campaign and research work.

The government has yet to respond to the allegations.

“We are facing a rather unprecedented situation in India. Amnesty International India has faced an onslaught of government attacks, bullying and harassment in a very systematic way,” said Rajat Khosla, senior director of research, advocacy and policy. of the group. the BBC.

“It all depends on the human rights work we were doing and the government unwilling to answer the questions we raised, whether it be our investigation into the Delhi riots, or the silence of voices in Jammu and Kashmir.”

In a report published 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.

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

In early August, on the first anniversary of the lifting of India-administered Kashmir’s special status, Amnesty called for the release of all detained political leaders, activists and journalists and the resumption of high-speed Internet services in the region.

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

multimedia captionDelhi riots: ‘No one who saw the photo thought I would survive’

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

The group, which has come under scrutiny by several government agencies in recent years, says the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month was the last straw.

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

In October 2018, the group’s offices in the southern city of Bangalore were raided by the Directorate of Law Enforcement, which investigates financial crimes. Even then, his accounts were frozen, but Amnesty claims he was able to access them after seeking court intervention.

In early 2019, the group says letters from the country’s income tax department were sent to dozens of its small donors. And later in the same year, Amnesty’s offices were searched again, this time by the Central Bureau of Investigation, based on a case registered by the Indian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

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image captionIndia has had a difficult relationship with Kashmir for decades

Successive governments in India have been wary of foreign-funded nonprofits, especially human rights organizations.

Amnesty had previously suspended its operations in India in 2009, due to what the group said was the repeated refusal of their license to receive funds from abroad. India was then ruled by a government led by Congress, which now sits in the opposition.

Over the years, the rules relating to receiving foreign funds have been tightened and thousands of non-profit groups have been banned from receiving money from abroad.

The current government previously said that Amnesty was being investigated on suspicions that the group was violating India’s foreign funding laws.

“This is a blatant lie. Amnesty India fully complies with all national legal requirements as well as international legal requirements,” Khosla told the BBC.

The group’s announcement comes amid growing concerns over the state of free speech in India. The development, activists say, could dent India’s longstanding reputation as a thriving democracy.

“India is not in good company with these moves it is making. We operate in over 70 countries and the only other country where we have previously been forced to close operations was Russia in 2016,” Khosla says. “I hope that people all over the world will sit down and notice. We are doing this with a very heavy heart and a deep sense of anguish and pain.”

The group says it will continue to fight its legal cases in India.

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  • India

  • Asia
  • Amnesty International

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