'This latest attack is akin to freezing dissent': Why Amnesty India has halted its operations?

India's arm of the global human rights movement Amnesty International has been pushed to halt its national operations as the sequel after its bank accounts were frozen on September 10 and the sudden hampering of the operations and campaigns had let the employees attached to the organization lose their jobs amid the pandemic. 

The organization has on Tuesday released the statement concerning the latest and aberrant development in which it has said that it was compelled to let go of people and pause all ongoing campaigns and research work. With leaving to halt the operations, the human rights watchdog attacked the government and said, "This is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations". 

The organization underlined that "the complete freezing of Amnesty International India's bank accounts by the government of India, which it came to know on September 10, brings all the work being done by the organization to a grinding halt". Recently, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had frozen the bank accounts of the organization over the allegations connected to the violation of FCRA, which pushed the watchdog to halt the operations, which would directly impact over 150 of its employees. 


According to reports close to the developments, Amnesty International India has been mulling to launch a legal fight against what it called the incessant witch-hunt. The organization is looking to approach the court to retain the operations. However, the organization is bracing up the uncertainty of court proceedings amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Amnesty India was established in 2012 and at the time when it has halted the operations, the organization has been carrying out five campaigns against the various spectrum of human rights violations in the country. 

It has been carrying out campaigns like Gender-based violence, Human rights education, Coal mining and Adivasi Rights, Individuals at risks, and Access to Justice in Jammu and Kashmir. The government had said that the human rights movement never registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), as the registration under the act is mandatory to receive funds and contributions from overseas. 

The organization has alleged that its lawful fundraising model was being portrayed as money-laundering because it has challenged the government's grave inactions and excesses and said that it is in compliance with all Indian and international laws which are applicable and that for India. As the movement said it raises the funds domestically, it had asserted that it cannot have anything to do with the FCRA. 

It wasn't the first episode that its bank accounts were frozen as in 2018, there was a similar incident. However, the reports say the current episode had pushed to halt the operations as it was worse than they were in 2018. According to reports, the employees attached to the organization were asked to tender their resignations by Tuesday. 

Though the watchdog had launched a number of publications on the human rights violations, the organization said its recent publications about an update on the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir a year after the abrogation of Article 370 and a report on the Delhi riots on its six month anniversary had irked the government and it had harassed and intimidated the organization through its investigative agencies. 

In the statement, Avinash Kumar, the Executive Director of Amnesty International India said, "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 the 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".

Avinash Kumar stated that over four million Indians had supported Amnesty's work in the last eight years and about 1,00,000 Indians had contributed for its works against the human rights violations. Following the development, several opposition leaders and activists had criticized the government for chocking and suppressing the voices. Notable Supreme court advocate Prashant Bhushan took to Twitter and said, "This govt wants to destroy every Institution for protecting Human Rights: NHRC, Judiciary & now Amnesty International" and activist Harsh Mander wrote, "Amnesty, honoured with Nobel Prize, is the latest to be persecuted by govt. One lakh Indians donated to it. Reeking of fear & repression, what is the govt seeking to hide? Part of the official project of treating human rights defenders as criminals & trying to silence conscience".