Amnesty International (AI) has shut down its operations in India, alleging that its bank accounts were frozen earlier this month by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) as part of a "witch-hunt" by the government. The winding down of the India operations is expected to result in close to 150 employees losing their jobs.
However, the government has denied the allegations and said that global rights watchdog has been receiving foreign funds illegally. The government also said that the organisation never registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.
In 2019, the ED had initiated an investigation against AI on charges of alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
"On 10 September 2020, Amnesty International India came to know that all its bank accounts were completely frozen by the Enforcement Directorate bringing most of the work of the human rights organisation to a grinding halt," AI's India office said in a statement.
The organisation blamed 'reprisal'from the government for closing down its operations in India. "This is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations
by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations," it added.
The recent reports by AI had been critical of the government. In its recent report, AI had raised questions on alleged rights violations during the February Delhi riots. Another report had raised concerns on Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.
"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 and Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent," said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.
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