Amnesty International India Latest Target Of Government Crackdown On Civil Society Groups And NGOs

Targeted by the government due to its broadcasting of human rights violations by the Indian government, Amnesty International India joins the list of civil society non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to be raided by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) agency. On Thursday, the 25th of October, the office of Amnesty International in Bengaluru, located in the southern Karnataka state, had been raided by the ED agency.

The raid of Amnesty International follows a long-list of searches which have been conducted by the Indian government on prominent NGOs, including Greenpeace India, which had been raided by the ED back in early in October. Similarly, to the raids conducted on other civil society NGOs, Amnesty India’s bank accounts were frozen, as the ED agency claimed that the group were violating foreign funding regulations.

The ED agency, which is responsible for investigating financial crime across the nation, conducted a raid in Amnesty’s Bengaluru office in southern India. The raid lasted for 10 hours, ignited by the government’s suspicion that the NGO focusing on human rights had been violating foreign direct investment guidelines, as reported by Huffington Post India.

Amnesty India has denied all charges, stating that its “structure is compliant with Indian laws” and that the raids were unjustified, Al Jazeera reports. Aaker Patel, executive director of Amnesty India, declared that “Government authorities are increasingly treating human rights organizations like criminal enterprises,” reports Huffington Post India. Shortly after the incident occurred, Amnesty International released a statement condemning the Enforcement Directorate raid, claiming that it “shows a disturbing pattern of the government silencing organizations that question power.”

The raid follows Amnesty India campaigning for the government to prompt “effective, independent and impartial investigation” into the deaths of seven civilians in a blast in Kashmir on October 21, Al Jazeera reports. The ED office stated in a press release that it believed Amnesty India has received US $4.86 million without permission, therefore, breaking protocol. As part of the latest crackdown on international non-profit groups across the country, ever since Prime Minister Modi took power in 2014, over 19,000 civil society groups have been targeted by the ED and had their license to receive foreign donations revoked or suspended, the Guardian reports.

Since his induction in 2014, Prime Minister Modi has faced international pressures to address India’s human rights concerns and has been accused of involvement in war crimes and human rights violations. In 2014, Prime Minister Modi received a lawsuit filed against him by American Justice Center, which accused the nation’s leader of inaction in stopping the religious riots in Gujarat in 2002. Considered by some to be a genocide, at the time of the intercommunal violence, Modi served as chief minister. According to official sources, the religious-based violence saw approximately 800 Muslims and 250 Hindus killed. The most recent attack on civil society groups has greatly affected those dependent upon foreign funding. The Guardian reports that between 2014 and 2017, the Indian government has reduced foreign funds from US$2.05 billion to US$884.50 million.

Free speech is an integral component of democracy. Other NGOs that are focused on human rights across the nation have condemned the actions of the ED. Huffington Post India reports that an Indian spokeswoman for Greenpeace recognizes the raids to be “part of a larger design to muzzle democratic dissent in the country that began in 2014.” Though they are in possession of a growing major economy, India’s citizenry remains highly dependent upon foreign aid, with the Guardian reporting that approximately 10% of the population drink dirty water and 2 million children die before their fifth birthday. By blocking foreign funding and targeting civil society groups, the Indian government is denying its citizenry the funding it desperately relies upon for everyday life. India must recognize the harm of its actions and work alongside civil society NGOs to offer its citizenry the best care and provision of human rights possible.

Zoe Knight