NHRC issued notice to the Home Secretary, MHA, Govt. of India, New Delhi over Amnesty International winding up its operations in the country because of “witch-hunt” by the government. (30.09.2020)
Dated: 30th September, 2020
National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India takes suo motu cognizance of the matter and directs issuance of the notice to the Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi, calling for their comments on the allegations levelled by the Amnesty International as mentioned in the news report.
According to media reports that the complete freezing of its India bank accounts the Amnesty International Organization in India has reportedly halted all the work in which it has been engaged in the country. In a statement the organization has stated that it has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work. It is alleged that this is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Govt. of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.
The news report gives more details stating that on 22.10.19, Amnesty International testified at the US Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia, with specific focus on Jammu & Kashmir after the Indian Parliament on 5th August pushed through constitutional changes that divested Jammu & Kashmir of its special status and reorganized it into two Union Territories. On August, 28 the rights groups released an investigative brief on the complicity of the Delhi Police in the month of February, 2020. The Amnesty International had claimed that 53 people had died in the riot while Delhi Police rebutted the claim saying that the report was lopsided, biased and malicious. The Amnesty International has reportedly accused the government of suppressing the speech and demanded the release of activists Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling and others who were arrested in connection with the January, 2018 caste clashes in Bhima-Koregaon near Pune in Maharashtra. It is also mentioned in the news report that this is the fifth time when the Amnesty International is closing down its office in India.
The Union Home Ministry has reportedly mentioned in their statement that the stand taken by the Amnesty International is unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth. The organization has been accused of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violations, and “interference in domestic police debates” despite being funded by foreign donations. The rights group has reportedly denied the financial violations charges and has stated that they have been in full compliance with all laws.
It is further mentioned in the news report that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been investigating the rights group since October, 2018 when they raided its office in Bengaluru and the accounts of the organization were freezed. In the year 2019 the Income Tax Department wrote to the office bearers of the organization seeking their clarifications on the subject. It is also mentioned that in November, 2019, CBI has filed a case against the Amnesty International alleging that it has received Rs. 36 crore in funding without the mandatory permission required under the FCRA. The Investigative Agencies have also reportedly alleged that the fund raising model of Amnesty International India was in violation of FCRA that amounts to money laundering. The organization has also been blamed for their activities which are in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws. The organization has reportedly stated that their harassment by the government is a result of their 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 in Jammu & Kashmir. The charges of the organization have however been denied by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging that the organization was raising funds from abroad in contravention of the Indian laws. They have also stated that there has been shifting money transfer to the companies and there is suspected flow of money into the trust of Amnesty International.
The Commission has carefully examined the contents of the news report. The Amnesty International is a reputed non-governmental organization raising its voice globally whenever there is an incident of violation of human rights of the people. The allegations levelled by the organization are serious in nature and have been strongly answered by the government agency. Any kind of difference of opinion may be a subject of investigation and decision by the competent court. The Commission finds it necessary to go through the matter, analyse the facts and reach a conclusion in the interest of human rights friendly environment in the country.
The response is expected within six weeks.