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Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.
“Government authorities are increasingly treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises”, said Aakar Patel, Amnesty India director. “As an organization committed to the rule of law, our operations in India have always conformed with our national regulations. The principles of transparency and accountability are at the heart of our work.”
Around 1:30 pm on October 25, a group of officers from the Enforcement Directorate entered Amnesty premises and locked the gates behind them. They ordered the Amnesty India staff to remain in office, shut their laptops, and not use their mobile phones.
The focus of the Enforcement Directorate’s questioning was the relationship between two entities: Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd and Amnesty International India Foundation.
Most of the documents asked for during the search were available in the public domain or were already filed with the relevant authorities. Details of Amnesty's current structure, which was the focus of much of the questioning, have been available on its website since 2014.
However, ahead of the raids, the Indian authorities leaked a cache of their internal documents marked “secret” that appear to cast Amnesty India’s operations as a dark web of intrigue.
“Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance and dissent,” said Aakar Patel.
“We could not agree more with the Prime Minister when he says that periods of repression, like during the Emergency, have left a stain on India’s history. Sadly, those dark days are now casting a shadow over India again. Instead of protecting human rights, as it vowed to do, the government is now targeting the people who fight for them”, said Aakar Patel.
Over 40 lakh Indians have supported Amnesty India’s work over the last six years and around one lakh Indians have made a financial contribution.
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*With Amnesty India

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