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Amnesty India accuses Modi's government of treating human rights groups like criminals

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Amnesty International India has accused the government of Prime Minister Narendar Modi of treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises..

The reaction from the human rights group has come a day after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out searches at two locations of Amnesty International India in connection with the contravention of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

In a statement, Amnesty International India executive director Aakar Patel said that government authorities were increasingly treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises.

The ED officials had said that after Ministry of Home Affairs denied permission to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) under FCRA, the organization resorted to bypassing the FCRA and floated commercial entity in the name of Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd (AIIPL).

The commercial entity of Amnesty International India allegedly received foreign funds through commercial route to the extent of Rs 36 crore till date. Rs 10 crore out of the total Rs 36 crore was received as long-term loan and fixed deposits while another entity -- Indians for Amnesty International Trust -- established an overdraft facility for Rs 14.25 crore with Rs 10 crore as collateral, according to the ED statement. The remaining Rs 26 crore was received in two separate bank accounts of AIIPL as consultancy services, the ED further stated.

Amnesty India on its part said that most documents the ED asked for during the search were either available in the public domain or were already filed with relevant authorities.

Amnesty wrote on Twitter, "ED raid on Amnesty India shows a disturbing pattern of the government silencing organizations that question power and it is clear that the government wants to instil fear among Civil Society Organizations."

While agreeing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement that periods of repression, like during the Emergency, have left a stain on India's history, Patel said: "Sadly, those dark days are now casting a shadow over India again." He said that instead of protecting human rights, as it vowed to do, the government is now targeting the people who fight for them. Amnesty added that more than 40 lakh Indians have supported its work over the past six years, and around one lakh Indians have made financial contributions.

This year in April, the government informed that it has cancelled the registration of more than 14,000 NGOs in the last four years for allegedly violating Foreign contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.

The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

Later in July, the government informed the Parliament that 806 applications for renewal were pending for want of reports from security agencies and clarifications from the applicants. Earlier, the agency had frozen over a dozen bank accounts of environmental NGO Greenpeace on charges of alleged forex violations.

The Indian authorities have used allegations of financial "irregularities" to obstruct the work of other human rights organizations including Lawyers Collective, Sabrang Trust, Navsarjan Trust, and People's Watch.

In August last, Indian police launched a nationwide crackdown, arresting a number of activists, including communist poet Varavara Rao, human rights lawyer Vernon Gonsalves, writer and lawyer Arun Ferreira, journalist and activist Gautam Navlakha, and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj.

More than 20 civil society groups took to the streets to protest the arrest of activists. The Associated Press reported that police rounded up around two dozen protesters in Hyderabad city, the capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states.

Following the arrests, Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, accused PM Modi's government of seeking to silence its opponents.

"There is only place for one NGO in India and it is called the RSS," Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to the BJP's ideological Hindu nationalist backer, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). "Jail all activists and shoot those that complain."

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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