Amnesty International halts work in India, blaming government ‘witch hunt’

Amnesty International India employees at their headquarters in Bangalore in February 2019. <span class="copyright">(Aijaz Rahi / Associated Press)</span>
Amnesty International India employees at their headquarters in Bangalore in February 2019. (Aijaz Rahi / Associated Press)

Amnesty International has suspended its work in India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government froze the group’s bank accounts over alleged fundraising violations, the human rights organization said Tuesday.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning watchdog said it has been the target of an “incessant witch hunt” by the Indian government for its work, including campaigning for the rights of citizens in the disputed territory of Kashmir and documenting police abuses.

The group has been hounded by Indian investigators for the past two years, is regularly vilified in the government-friendly media and was finally forced to lay off staff members in what it described as a growing climate of repression.

“For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent,” Avinash Kumar, executive director

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Amnesty to halt work in India due to government ‘witch-hunt’

a car parked in front of a building: Photograph: Aijaz Rahi/AP

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Aijaz Rahi/AP

Amnesty International has been forced to shut down operations in India and lay off all staff there after the Indian government froze its bank accounts.

The Indian enforcement directorate, an agency that investigates economic crimes, froze the accounts of Amnesty’s Indian arm this month after the group published two reports highly critical of the government’s human rights record.

Amnesty said the move was the culmination of a two-year campaign of harassment by the home affairs ministry, and more broadly part of an “incessant witch-hunt” of human rights groups by the Hindu nationalist government of the prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Amnesty’s departure starkly illustrates the shrinking space for dissent in India, where critics of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party face investigation and detention, often under draconian terrorism laws. It also comes at a time when human rights violations, particularly against India’s 200 million Muslims,

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Amnesty International to cease work in India, citing government harassment

The government is “treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence,” said Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, in a statement. Its goal is to “stoke a climate of fear.”

Amnesty said it would lay off its staff and cease its human rights campaigns, which have included reports on the deadly inter-religious riots in Delhi earlier this year and India’s crackdown in the restive region of Kashmir.

Tuesday’s announcement puts India in the same category as authoritarian regimes such as Russia, the only other country where Amnesty International previously ceased operations when it shuttered its office in 2016. The director of its Turkey arm was arrested but its office in the country remains functional. The group does not have a presence in China.

 Amnesty said that it was in compliance with all Indian laws and had received no formal communication

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