Hours after Amnesty International declared it would halt operations in India and alleged a witch-hunt over its recent reports raising questions on rights violations, the government said “human rights cannot be an excuse to defy the law of the land” and “glossy statements about humanitarian work” were an attempt to divert attention from their illegal activities.
“All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws. Such statements are also an attempt to extraneously influence the course of investigations by multiple agencies into the irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years,” the government said in a statement this evening, accusing the global rights watchdog of illegally receiving foreign funds for years.
“Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organisations. However, India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well.”
This morning, Amnesty alleged that its accounts were frozen earlier this month, so it was forced to let go of its staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.
“The complete freezing of Amnesty International India’s bank accounts by the government of India, which it came to know on 10 September, brings all the work being done by the organisation to a grinding halt,” said the organisation.
“This is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations,” said Amnesty, claiming that it had complied with all Indian and international laws.
Amnesty linked all government action to its criticism of the government; its recent reports had raised questions on alleged rights violations during the February Delhi riots and in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.
The government called Amnesty’s statements “unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth”.
“India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate. The people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government. Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India,” said the Home Ministry statement.
According to the home ministry, Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too, 20 years ago. Since then, Amnesty International had been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since it was not eligible, the ministry said.
But to circumvent the FCRA, Amnesty UK “sent large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI),” the statement said.
A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without the home ministry’s approval under FCRA.
The ministry said because of the illegal practices of Amnesty, the previous (Congress-led UPA) government had also rejected its repeated applications to receive funds from overseas. “This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well. This bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations,” said the government.