Amnesty International halts operations in India

New Delhi, Sep 29 (UNI) Amnesty International on Tuesday announced suspension of operations and lay off staff in India over freezing of its bank accounts by the government.

According to the human rights watchdog, the bank accounts were frozen on September 10. “This is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations”, Amnesty International India alleged in a statement.

The BJP refuted allegations by Amnesty International that it had to wind up its operations in India because of a witch hunt by the government and said the organisation was receiving funds from abroad in contravention of the Indian laws.

In a press conference here, party national spokesperson Rajyavardhan Rathore said ‘All these things are far from the truth, any organisation working in India, whether Indian or foreign, if money is to be taken from abroad, then laws of India have to be followed.'”

Mr Rathore said, ‘How is that Amnesty is receiving foreign funds without having permission for it? Any other organisation, Indian or International, has to follow certain rules and laws.’

He said any organisation can function in India, but it has to be within their legal ambit. ‘Wearing a veil of honesty and acting in bad faith is not something we will permit to Indian or foreign organisations,’ he said.

He said Amnesty International, which has alleged that it was targeted by the government for working on issues of human rights, has not clarified why money was coming into the bank accounts from abroad.

‘To find a via media, to circumvent the rules of the country in which you’re working, is violating the very norm and rules of the land.”

‘If you’re doing illegal operations, you will not be allowed to continue,’ he maintained.

In 2009, Amnesty International’s license had been rejected by the UPA government for receiving foreign funds and their operations were suspended, he said.

As many as 10 out of 13 office bearers of Amnesty International in Nepal resigned because of provoking separatism in Nepal in 2015, he said, adding that in Morocco, two of Amnesty’s people were arrested because they were plotting against the state.

Referring to the recent stand and statements made by Amnesty International as unfortunate, exaggerated and far from truth, the MHA said this institution had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too, 20 years ago on December 19, 2000.

Since then, Amnesty International, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per law, it is not eligible to get such an approval, the Ministry said.

According to a statement issued by the Home Ministry, the Amnesty UK, in order to circumvent the FCRA regulations, remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Reacting on the development, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor said that actions like this both undermine India’s reputation as a democracy & “vitiate our soft power”.

“India’s stature as a liberal democracy with free institutions, including media & civil society organisations, accounted for much of its soft power in the world”, the parliamentarian wrote on twitter.

Amnesty International was under the lens of various government agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), for violating the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act.

However, Watchdog’s Executive director Avinash Kumar said that the continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental. “The constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent”, he said.


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