Human rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday that it would halt operations in India.
This is coming after the Group’s bank accounts were frozen and its executives faced interrogation by financial authorities. Amnesty said these are latest steps in a two-year campaign of harassment.
Amnesty added that it was in compliance with all Indian laws and had received no formal communication from the authorities regarding the freezing of its bank accounts earlier this month. No charges have been filed against the organization, it said.
Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, in a statement said
human rights are being severely diminished by the Indian government, saying it is “treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence. Its goal is to stoke a climate of fear.”
Amnesty has 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.
Backing the Indian Branch’s decision, Amnesty International tweeted:
“The continuing crackdown on @AIIndia over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental. This is not the end of Amnesty India’s commitment to human rights, we will not be silenced by the attacks of the government”.
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 closed 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.
A spokesman for the Enforcement Directorate — an investigative agency that enforces laws regarding money laundering and foreign exchange — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Human rights groups in India are constantly criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s adminstration, accusing him of stifling disagreement with his methods, and undermining the country’s secular founding ideals.
In turn, such groups have faced greater scrutiny from the government. Several prominent critics of the government are in jail awaiting trial. These include a well-known academic, lawyers and student leaders, all of whom were charged under a draconian anti-terror law.