On September 29, 2020, Amnesty International released some disheartening news that its operations in India would be ending. This update comes after the Indian government entirely froze Amnesty International India’s bank accounts, rendering all of its funding, campaigns, and research projects defunct. Amnesty International has been conducting necessary and groundbreaking research and advocacy on the ground for eight years. Such essential and extensive work informs numerous international agencies, and its work is indispensable for human rights and religious freedom advocates worldwide.
“The staff of Amnesty India have shown great dignity in the face of a concerted and vicious smear campaign of spurious allegations, raids by various investigative agencies, malicious media leaks, and intimidation without an iota of credible evidence of wrongdoing. No laws have been broken.”
On the contrary, rather. Amnesty International India, despite acting according to all Indian and international norms and regulations, has been targeted for its public criticism of the Indian government as well as humanitarian and religious freedom activism. Most recently were its calls on the government to end its campaign of human rights violations in Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir. An act such as freezing Amnesty International India’s accounts is an attempt to silence dissent and eradicate humanitarian work in the nation, and it is unacceptable in the world’s largest democracy.
Also questionable and arbitrary is the reasoning behind this crackdown on Amnesty International India: because Amnesty receives the majority of its donations and support from Indians throughout the world, the government has chosen to portray this donation intake as a form of money laundering, showing that “the overbroad legal framework is maliciously activated when human rights activists and groups challenge the government’s grave inactions and excesses.”
Evidence that these claims of money laundering are primarily applied as a silencing and crackdown method rather than legitimate legal recourse is the fact that the government has been making obtrusive violations on Amnesty throughout the past two years- in late 2018, officials from the Enforcement Directorate confiscated documents that were already posted on the public domain; in early 2019, the Department of Income Tax sent “investigative” and questioning letters to Amnesty’s small donors; and more. To read the full extent of the Indian government’s actions against Amnesty International India, click here.
Read below some more statements regarding the closure of Amnesty International India:
“It is a dismal day when a country of India’s stature, a rising global power and a member of the UN Human Rights Council, with a constitution which commits to human rights and whose national human rights movements have influenced the word, so brazenly seeks to silence those who pursue accountability and justice.”
“Treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence is a deliberate attempt by the Enforcement Directorate and Government of India to stoke a climate of fear and dismantle the critical voices in India. It reeks of fear and repression, ignores the human cost to this crackdown particularly during a pandemic and violates people’s basic rights to freedom of speech and expression, assembly, and association guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and international human rights law.”- Avinash Kumar
“Sadly, this enormously important work standing up for victims has been met with the heavy-handed tactics that Indian civil society has become increasingly familiar with- part of the government’s drive to silence critical voices and stoke a climate of fear.” – Jule Verhaar, Acting Secretary General, Amnesty International
The harassment and badgering of such an organization with a shining reputation and dedication to advocacy only presents thousands of concerns for other Indian grassroots, human rights, non-profit, and advocacy organizations and NGOs- there is no telling who will be next, or to what extent India will turn its back on the values of liberty and freedom that it was founded upon.