Amnesty International India on Tuesday halted all their operations in India and lay off all its staff in the nation due to the freezing of its bank accounts altogether. The non-governmental organization, claims that it is being subjected to an “incessant witch-hunt” over unfounded and motivated allegations.
The total freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the Indian Government which they came to know on September 10, brings all the work being done by the organization and the ongoing campaigns and research works to a grinding halt, the statement said.
Amnesty had been subjected to several investigations in the past two years.
What Amnesty International India said?
Back on October 25, 2018, Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried a financial investigation at the headquarters of Amnesty International in Bangalore. The raid was followed by an alleged violation of the foreign exchange act.
Amnesty International India assert they have full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws, adding that for human rights work in the country, it operates through a distinct model of raising funds domestically.
Further, the statement read “more than four million Indians have supported the organizations work in the last eight years, and nearly 1 lakh Indians have made financial contributions.
They say these contributions apparently cannot have any relation with the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. The NGO alleged the fact that the Government is now describing this lawful fundraising model as money-laundering is an indication that the overbroad legal framework is maliciously activated when human rights activists and groups challenge the Government’s grave inactions and excesses.
Avinash Kumar, the executive director of Amnesty International India, said: “Treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible proof is a planned attempt by the ED and GOI to elicit fear and strike the critical voices in India.”
He said GOI is in fear of losing control also ignores the human cost to this crackdown, particularly during COVID-19, and violates people’s fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression, assembly granted by law.
He added Central should fearlessly welcome calls for accountability and justice as being one of global power and a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Avinash further alleges that continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India is due to its unequivocal calls for transparency in the Government, more lately for accountability of the Delhi police and the GOI regarding the grave human rights violations in the riot which happened in the national capital and Jammu & Kashmir.
He said: “for a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent.”
What Government said?
Meanwhile, the Government said that the organization has been accepting foreign funds illegally, and owing to these unlawful practices the previous Government had also rejected the repeated applications to receive funds from overseas.
On September 29, Home Ministry, in a statement, wrote that Human Rights could not be an excuse for defying the law of the land and that the remarks made by the organization are unfortunate, exaggerated, and far from the truth.
The statement said the NGO had received permission under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, FCRA only once and that too twenty years ago on December 19, 2000. However, since then repeated applications have been denied by FCRA, due to non-eligibility as per law.
The Ministry said, however, to circumvent the FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment, FDI. It said, a significant amount of foreign funds was also remitted to Amnesty India without the Home Ministry’s approval under FCRA. It said, this mala fide rerouting of funds was in contravention of extant legal provisions.
The Ministry said, this bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty by different Government clearly shows the entire fault is in the organization. The glossy statements are just a way to divert the investigation and cover-up irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years.
Furthermore, it said Amnesty is allowed to carry out its humanitarian work in India, but does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations, under law. As India is has a democratic culture with a free press, Amnesty has failed to comply with local regulations and is not entitled to make comments on the plural character of the nation.
Meanwhile, Amnesty India Tweeted that they will be approaching the Karnataka High Court and expect the case to go on for months, but believe the truth shall prevail at the end.