Soon after Amnesty International India announced that it is compelled to shut operations and let go of staff in India because of the freezing of its bank accounts by the Narendra Modi government, Twitter users pointed out that Russia was the other country where the organisation’s offices were sealed (see here and here).
Amnesty International also told the BBC that the only other country where they’ve been forced to suspend operations was Russia.
Rajat Khosla, Senior Director of Research and Advocacy, told BBC, “We operate in over 70 countries, and the only other country previously that we had been forced to shut operations in was Russia in 2016.”
“I hope people around the world sit up and take notice. We are doing this with a very heavy heart, and a deep sense of anguish and grief,” he said.
The Washington Post also pointed out that Amnesty International India’s announcement on Tuesday puts “India in the same category as authoritarian regimes such as Russia, the only other country where Amnesty International previously ceased operations when it shuttered its office in 2016.”
Amnesty said the freezing of its bank accounts in India is only the latest in the “incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.”
Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India, said that the continuing crackdown on the organisation 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,” Kumar added.
In a report released last month, Amnesty had said that Delhi Police was “complicit and an active participant” in the Delhi riots. The organisation, The Hindu reported, said it has documented several videos showing the Delhi police “pelting stones with the rioters, torturing people, dismantling protest sites and being mute bystanders”. The police termed the report “lopsided, biased against the police”.
On 5 August, 2020, one year after the abrogation of Article 370, Amnesty International India called for the release of all political leaders, journalists and activists from administrative detention, restoration of 4G mobile internet services, decongestion of prisons and a prompt and independent investigation into the attacks on journalists.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan and writer and activist Meena Kandasamy reacted to the announcement of Amnesty International India’s halting of operations.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted that “actions like this both undermine our reputation as a democracy and vitiate our soft power.”